The massif of gentrification in Columbia City.
  • Charles Mudede
  • The massif of gentrification in Columbia City.

Part One

It was cloudy. It began raining heavily. It suddenly stopped raining and at once the clouds cleared. The sun came out of the blue and shined with the madness of a man who begins laughing really loudly right after a torrent of yelling and cursing. For a moment, it looked like the day was going to turn out fine. But that moment of hope went with the clouds that came from nowhere and carried the sun away. It was cloudy again. It rained again.

These fast and dramatic changes in the weather happened while I was walking to meet a few friends for Tarik Abdullah’s brunch pop-up at La Isla del Mojito, a restaurant that recently opened between Columbia City and Hillman City on Rainier. I thought about how there had not been any snow this year, and February was near. I thought about climate change and how the sociobiologist and bad banker Matt Ridley had become "lukewarm" about climate change. The streets these thoughts followed were not busy at that time because the city was glued to the game at CenturyLink Field. I finally arrived, ordered what looked best to eat, and struck up a conversation with a woman who happened to sit across from me at a communal table—Sonya Green, who works at KBCS and originally came from the political capital of the world, "the District." Because I had spent some of my childhood in that city, we found ourselves exchanging impressions and experiences of its neighborhoods, streets, and buildings.

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Eventually, we began to compare the DC of the past with the DC of today (we both agreed that the keyword in this regard is gentrification). And also DC to Seattle—she felt that her hometown, like much of the East Coast, is more real when it comes down to matters of race. I could not disagree with this assessment, but she also had to admit that there's something very curious about Seattle, something that always complicates the basic picture of the city full of hypocritical white liberals: Seattle has never had a ghetto.

Even when the Central District was black, it was nothing like the ghettos back East. Not even close. Yes, there was poverty here, redlining, and all that. But there was no ghetto to speak of. We both agreed that was indeed unique and even a bit troubling for reasons that were not easy to explain or express. My food arrived in time, and outside the rain began falling without warning.