White people in Seattle are more likely to own rather than rent. White people are more likely to have health insurance and a job. White people are more likely to live longer. White people are less likely to be homeless. White people are less likely to hit the poverty level. White people are less likely to be in jail. White kids are nine times less likely than African Americans to be suspended from elementary school (in high school, it’s four times higher; in middle school, it’s five times, according to the district’s data). Nonwhite high-school graduation rates in Seattle are significantly below white graduation rates—even if you’re Asian, regardless of income level.
And then there’s the white Seattle police officer beating “the Mexican piss” out of a guy. The white Seattle police officer punching a 17-year-old African American girl in the face. The Seattle Police Guild newspaper editorial that called race-and-social-justice training classes “the enemy,” “socialist,” and anti-American.
Not that racial experience is monolithic. It’s not black and white. But it’s real. And across all measurable strata, white people in Seattle have it better.
Yet nobody is racist.
The 2010 US Census data led to reports of Seattle being the fifth whitest city in the country—reinforcing the perception of this place as a white place. But if you look at the actual numbers, 66 percent of people in Seattle identify as white, which means that one in three people are not white. That’s not a white city. It only seems like a white city when you’re in, say, Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont. If you walk the street expecting every third person you see not to be white, well, then you’ll see how weird it is to be in Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont, where almost everyone is white. If you walk the street in Rainier Valley, the opposite is true.
“In Seattle, there’s really a small amount that you have to do to be labeled a hero of diversity,” says Eddie Moore Jr., the Bush School’s outgoing director of diversity, who describes Seattle as “a segregated pattern of existence.”
He adds, “It’s just that there’s really no real challenge to how the structure in Seattle continues to assist whiteness and white male dominance in particular. When you say ‘white supremacy’ or ‘white privilege’ in Seattle, people still think you’re talking about the Klan. There’s really no skills being developed to shift the conversation. How can we be acknowledged to be so progressive, yet be identified to be so white? I wish that’s the question more Seattleites were asking themselves.”
– From “Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race,” by Jen Graves