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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Black Academics Call for a Citywide Plan to Make Everyone, Including the Black Community, a Part of Seattle's Success

Posted by on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 2:30 PM

CRISIS African-American professors say black people in Seattle have been in a permanent recession.
  • AH
  • CRISIS Black folks have been in a "permanent recession" in Seattle, says a local group of professors.

While the city council debated the minimum wage this morning, where was Mayor Ed Murray? He'd stopped by Seattle Central Community College to attend a presentation on "The Crisis in Black Seattle" by several African-American professors.

You can read their new report in full here (PDF). Mostly, it's a litany of yawning wealth, employment, educational, and incarceration gaps between African Americans and whites in Seattle. Some examples:

  • "Black wealth in Seattle is only 6% of White wealth"
  • "An estimated 20% of Black households experienced some form of food hardship during the year"
  • Declines in home values and foreclosures disproportionately affect blacks
  • Black students are suspended and expelled at roughly triple the rates of whites
  • "The unemployment rate for African American men in Seattle today matches the unemployment rate across the country during the Great Depression."
  • "Seattle, King County and Washington State independently incarcerate Blacks at a higher percentage relative to their population than does the state of Mississippi! Seattle incarcerates Black juveniles at a rate that is at least four times higher at which White juveniles are incarcerated."

"We've been in a permanent recession," said Thad Spratlen, a University of Washington marketing professor. "We have communities that cannot be part of the glitter and success of Seattle."

The authors of the report emphasized—and this might be disappointing to some—that they don't have a solution-oriented plan for the crisis, although the report suggests a "stimulus" of some kind. They are simply calling on the city to come up with one. The implication of this is that the city's Race and Social Justice Initiative, the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, CareerBridge, and similar programs either need to be drastically expanded or combined with other, stronger measures to combat racial injustice. What currently exists isn't cutting it.

Carl Livingston, one of the co-authors and a political science professor at Seattle Central, thanked the mayor for following through on a commitment to show up. Then he called out to the crowd in the packed lecture hall: "Any legislative aides for Kshama Sawant here?" Bruce Harrell? Nick Licata? That was awkward, because none of them were there.

Murray talks a wonderful talk on these issues, and it's great to see him using the bully pulpit to draw attention to a largely forgotten, marginalized community (blacks make up only about 10 percent of the city population). "Are we doing enough? The answer is no," Murray admitted.

"Do I have the solutions? No. But I believe we can find them," he said. He urged the crowd to come back to him annually and gauge his progress, then joked that this might hurt his reelection chances.

Among the few specifics Murray discussed: He reiterated his support for renaming the Central District to "Africatown" and doing more (e.g. creating landmarks) to "tell the history of that neighborhood" and "preserve the ability of people to live in their neighborhood." He also talked about starting a Mayor's Summer Employment Program, where the mayor goes out and knocks on doors to get at-risk youngsters jobs—something many other cities have.

Murray said folks should ignore stuff in "newspapers" about how he's placing too many taxes on the November ballot, touting the impact universal preschool will have on African-American kids.

But at the end of his remarks, Murray did a weird thing, suggestive of the discrepancies that sometimes emerge between his policies and his high-minded rhetoric: he praised the interim Seattle police chief who bungled misconduct complaints and under whom SPD reforms stalled ("I want to thank Harry Bailey. He has not gotten the credit he deserves," Murray said). In the next sentence, he declared that he's got a message for the dozens of police officers who sued him and the feds yesterday to block new rules designed to stop their use of excessive force: "They don't want us to follow through on police reform...But this is not the 60s and this not the South."

"We are going to work with the federal justice department's civil rights division," not fight it, he repeated. That earned him a hearty round of applause.


Comments (13) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment

The only way for that to happen would be for South Seattle to secede and form a new city -- something I have long advocated.

This way, a Mayor and Council who truly represents some of the most diverse districts in the US could rule.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 29, 2014 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
You wonder where your money went?

Bank fees, tax exclusions for the Rich & Corporations, and rising housing prices

That and you still drive cars and get felonies for "crimes" that whites never go to jail for and then can't get jobs

Best thing the President could do is pardon everyone in the US for MJ possession - total amnesty
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
It's time to close jails. It's clear we enforce an unjust and racist misuse of the law. The only way to stop it is to close down jails.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on May 29, 2014 at 3:31 PM · Report this
@1 How would that help black people?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 29, 2014 at 3:51 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 5
Change in communities from within is the best, most sustainable change there is, regardless of color. Cheers to these folks!
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on May 29, 2014 at 5:06 PM · Report this
sprflycat 6
Thank you for continuing to refer to it as Seattle Central Community College.
Posted by sprflycat on May 29, 2014 at 5:43 PM · Report this
"He reiterated his support for renaming the Central District to "Africatown"

Wasn't the Central District originally immigrations of European decent, esp Jews? Nice way to wipe out the history just like Harlem whose roots were not black.
Posted by hayden c on May 29, 2014 at 8:36 PM · Report this
".. for renaming the Central District to "Africatown"

And how will that help, really? It seems like a toss-away kind of thing to do.

(Also, @7 is right; the Central District history, which is online, shows a wonderfully diverse place with the largest group being African-American.)
Posted by westello on May 29, 2014 at 9:01 PM · Report this
seandr 9
renaming the Central District to "Africatown"

Kudos to these guys for calling attention to the disparities, but Africatown? Seriously? That's just, umm, no.

I could get behind "Hendrixville", though.
Posted by seandr on May 29, 2014 at 9:38 PM · Report this
Does anyone take these vaporous accusations/complaints seriously any more? I mean apart from cub reporters like Master Herz? This refrain is unchanged for decades, I've heard the same empty, undirected, unexamined litany in three major US cities from black "leaders."

Do people seriously believe that nefarious whites are plotting to keep the black man down? Not unprovable BS about structural racism: I mean actual, intentional racism, not some nebulous excuse that could just as well be ascribed to black incompetence or fecklessness.
Posted by Billy Chav on May 29, 2014 at 11:30 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 11
I worked with a black woman who grew up in the CD, and she would pointedly tell you that she was NOT African-American (her family was from somewhere down in Central America). I wonder what she thinks of the Africatown idea.

Personally, I think it's corny, inaccurate, and sort of condescending. Neighborhoods name themselves. Having a name assigned to them smacks of suburbia.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on May 30, 2014 at 6:40 AM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 12
"The unemployment rate for African American men in Seattle today matches the unemployment rate across the country during the Great Depression."
Okay, and if the cost of hiring African Americans go up thanks to a higher minimum wage, is that figure going to get better, or worse?
If an applicant has a choice between a white high school graduate, who goes to a better school, or a black one, who comes from a failing public school, and he has to pay them at least 15/hour, who is he going to hire?
This 15Now crap is a giant step backwards for the African Americans in this city. Why would they allow a policy that is well known as being a tool of state-sanctioned white supremacy pass?…

Posted by collectivism_sucks on May 30, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
^ Statistically, in America a black college grad has = to lesser of a change getting hired than a white ex con.

Ive found this even more true in Greater Seattle. Particularly for black males. I managed to luck out, but every other college educated black male I know that grew up in or moved to Seattle has mentioned how employers refuse to hire them. Most just recommend looking for jobs down in Tacoma, but even that area has gotten bad with discrimination as of late. I know more than one african americans with graduate degrees working part time at the mall or safeway.

That no city council reps were at this meeting shows how much the city government cares. They see african americans in the same lens that your typical purse clenching, street crossing, eye dodging, profiling white seattle "Im not racist, I have gay/asian friends" local does. Even the 'liberal, progressive, open minded' Seattlites see blacks (especially black men) through a-racist stereotypical lens. I remember having a discussion in graduate school about Seattles white populations racial habits, that they dont seem to think are racist; specifically the "what do you play" question that people ask when you tell them you are in college or have a college degree.

Posted by araucania on June 18, 2014 at 7:04 AM · Report this

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