Seattle’s Inability to Address Its Whiteness Problem Made Me Say Goodbye for Good

by Sonya Green

In Seattle, I was always acutely aware of my blackness. I felt like the small black font on an all-white page of the newspaper.  No matter how many black typeface words filled the page, the background is all white. Always. White.

Whiteness surrounds you in Seattle. Even more so now than when I left in 2016. My husband and I departed for a fellowship but decided in 2017 not to return. There are myriad reasons we decided to permanently leave, but the one at the top of my list: whiteness. Overwhelming whiteness. Unchecked whiteness. Ally whiteness. Solidarity whiteness. Everything IS about us, nothing without us, whiteness.

After 12 years, meeting my needle in a haystack black husband and some of the most amazing friends who are now members of my tribe, I had to bid adieu to Seattle.

Most people hear this and ask questions something like this, why leave such a beautiful, progressive, liberal utopian city the rest of the country strives to be like?

It’s simple. Seattle is not that city.

Seattle enjoys a reputation as a liberal bastion. I resent this unearned notoriety. It makes me roll my eyes when I mention living in Seattle and people start swooning about how great it is. Truth be told. It is great. For white people. For most black people, it’s a different experience.

Seattle never showed me what it claimed to be, but what it really is: a city that enjoys the mystique of openness and a reputation of being woke, but that, in my tenure, never lived up to this bold statement.

Seattle showed me quite the opposite.

I’ll never forget one of my first experiences of racism in Seattle. I lived in West Seattle when I had “the nigger moment”, a moment all too familiar for black people and defined by sociologist Elijah Anderson as acute, racially biased disrespect. I had moved from Colorado state. It was time for me to switch my license plates to Washington state. I did so on a quick break from work one day. On my way home, I stopped at the Metropolitan Market for a few things. As I got out of the car, I looked at my expired Denver tabs. I decided to change my tabs right then and there for fear of getting a ticket or worse being pulled over by the police.

I grabbed the license plate and tabs out of my vehicle. In my black suit and heels, I proceeded to unscrew the license plate. As I was struggling to loosen the screw, I noticed a white woman looking at me suspiciously.  I ignored her and continued working. I glanced over a few minutes later and she was still looking my way but this time she was on the phone. While taking this in, I notice the store manager and two employees come outside, look in my direction and turn away. I felt uncomfortable especially because I thought surely the store manager recognizes one of the few black customers to patronize the grocer. Then I thought even if he didn’t recognize me surely one of the cashiers whose line I frequent will recognize me. Whether they acknowledged recognizing me or not, no one walked in my direction.

Moments later and after I directly asked the woman if she needed to ask me something, two police cars swarmed into the parking lot and boxed me in on both sides of my car. I was standing by the rear end of my car trying to remain calm, holding the paper that would justify what I was doing with MY car. When the first police officer approached me, I handed him the motor vehicle registration before he could open his mouth. “This is why you were called here,” I say between clenched teeth. He looked at it and immediately registered what happened. To his credit, he told the other officer to leave and then graciously changed my license plates for me. I was grateful for the save but beyond pissed at the humiliation and aggravation I suffered because this soccer mom white woman decided to mind my business and not hers.

This is how whiteness works. A white person feels uncomfortable or threatened by black people’s mere existence in a space perceived as white only and they call the police. No matter the consequence for the black person who more often than not isn’t breaking the law or committing a crime. Look no further than the many examples of living life while Black whether at a BBQ in Oakland, inspecting property for investment or sitting in Starbucks waiting for a friend.

I wish I could tell you these incidents were uncommon or better yet that my situation in Seattle was an isolated incident. But it’s not. This was the first of many such experiences where the liberal whiteness façade was unmasked to reveal the ugly truth.

I’m from the south. I choose to go back to the south. Why would you do that many proclaim? Isn’t it a step back in time?

Maybe. Or maybe it’s a reminder of the time we as a nation/society have never gotten past. To live anywhere in the U.S. and think you have found some section of the country that has “made it” as opposed to others is naïve at best but mainly just wrong.

I am a proud North Carolinian. I grew up in the tiny town of Randleman, home of Nascar great Richard Petty. Overt racism was normal. Expected even. White people are honest with their racist attitudes. And black people are honest with their have zero fucks to give attitudes. Black people don’t have to try and decipher code to determine how white people feel in the south because it’s in your face. Not like in Seattle, where there is so much emphasis on being anti-racist that actually deconstructing what it is or looks like to be racist falls by the wayside. The desire to be seen as a “good” white person outweighs honesty about how problematic whiteness can be. Honestly, I found being black in Seattle exhausting and fatiguing. Once away from it, I realized how deep my physical, spiritual and mental health had been impacted. For me, leaving created an opportunity for me to come back home to the south. For all of its ills, I find some peace here.

Macon, Georgia is our new home. It is deep south. It’s honest, sometimes uncomfortable south. I’m not claiming it to be better or worse than the Pacific Northwest. It’s different. White people and their whiteness still surrounds me but it doesn’t threaten to suffocate me with a persistent need to be validated, included or stamped for approval.

On a recent return visit to Seattle, in one day alone, every white person that greeted me said the same thing, “Oh my God! I love your hair!”. Yes, my natural hair is fly. But does it warrant random strangers losing their minds over it, no. What I came to realize by the end of the day, other than I was back in Seattle, was the notice had more to do with white people looking for a way to give themselves a pat on the back for “seeing” me even if in the most superficial way.

Seattle, you have a whiteness problem. The ethos of solidarity is empty unless there is a real, honest examination of whiteness. Whiteness beyond privilege. Whiteness beyond fragility. You’ve had those conversations.

Now deal with whiteness as culture. Whiteness as supremacy. Whiteness as more than a background all around. Whiteness as visible and present danger when it goes unnoticed and unchecked.

Black folks can and should sit this one out. White folks this is on you. Deal with it. Figure it out. Do better. Be better.

Sonya Green is an Engagement Reporter at the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Green previously served at 91.3 KBCS as the Interim Assistant General Manager, News Director and the inside collaborator for Localore: Finding America. A series produced for the project earned the Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, a national award given by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Sonya left her position at 91.3 KBCS radio in Seattle in 2016 after being selected to the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan. While at the fellowship, Sonya researched how language, attitudes and approaches in journalism narratives can perpetuate stereotypes about race, class and identity. 


85 thoughts on “Seattle’s Inability to Address Its Whiteness Problem Made Me Say Goodbye for Good”

  1. I have a question, where will we go? Black, pink, brown, yellow, regular people can not afford this town anymore. There is hardly a city out there that is not undergoing a bidding frenzy. We are priced out, what next?

    1. A good question. The Midwest has a lot of really prime real estate at rock bottom pricing. And thats including housing, business and industrial areas as well as plenty of agricultural opportunities, both urban and rural. The infrastructure is there, its just unused and they are selling it off to anyone who will buy. With their population declining, the political and other systems are also open to our candidates and efforts as well.

      1. I’m old. I don’t think I can handle the frigid winters and torrid summers of the midwest. I’d move to Burien but it looks like it’s too late now, already too expensive.

      2. Public service announcement: You DO NOT want to come here to the [Koch Bros.] Midwest. It’s more evil here than the coasts, trust me.

    2. You can literally buy perfectly functioning, classically built houses in places there for $1. If you can get a few people to move there at that price, yall can A/C and heat it up at them prices! Plus probably have money to travel when you aint trying to be there. If you have just about ANY business idea, you are also much more likely to get it approved there as well as secure the funding for it.

      it aint perfect by any stretch, but at least the options are there for us.

      1. But Detroit is another example of a city, (like Seattle, New York, Oakland, even Baltimore), where the real estate bidding war sets in. Soon it will be only for the rich.

    3. There are hot spots in Detroit but there are still PLENTY of housing/commercial/office/industrial sites available there. They aint running out anytime soon. these deals can be found all throughout the Rust Belt states…… Ohio is another prime location for these types of property salvage opportunities.

    1. Easy for you to say BETH, many white people have discriminated against people of color for years. If the shoe was on your foot you would be forced to recognize the power of wrong teaching being handed down from generation to generation. The poison of social media, and the rejection of Jesus Christ! People have chosen to deprive themselves and children of what love, compassion, and most important integrity that fuels respect for self while fueling evil people with the antidote to self hate. People that want all power and control have a problem hidden within their heart that money can’t heal.
      Own the history your ancestors created and be a part of change, not the problem. Try God.

    2. That’s where you’re wrong! It is all about white people, and this pretense that racism isn’t solely a white man’s burden is the reason we remain in the mess this country is in. White comfort is all about keeping the status quo, all the while pretending that people of color had done fictitious role in creating the racial mess in which we now live. My responsibility is to my community, and I own that. The people responsible for the racial mess won’t clean it up, because they know they benefit every day from a system of white supremacy. Boo-hop all you want to, but blacks never asked for any of this. We didn’t ask to live with whites in the first place, nor are we the people who have used law, media, education, and every other system available to profit on a macro level at the expense of other groups. Accept it. This is white people’s mess, and therefore the responsibility to clean it up belongs to them.

    3. Maybe but probably not and any way we can only change ourselves. Until white people understand that we have been conditioned to expect white supremacy and that we are the problem things won’t change.

    4. It’s true, Beth, even if it’s not convenient. It’s well known that Africans captured people from other tribes and sold them into slavery as a way of making money. I am Native American and our history is full of the same behavior, as is much of White history if you go back far enough. Since the author lived in Seattle for 12 years I suspect her frustration is about more than the mistaken behavior of a particular woman, or the normal response of cops to a call for help.

      I work in Information Technology, skills I learned in the Navy that have helped me build a good life in Seattle. Still, I see few people of color pursuing technical fields, though I know our organization is actively recruiting for minorities across the country. It takes effort beyond high school, but Seattle’s community colleges offer everything you need, and affordably. Treating education like it’s somehow a “white thing” is not the answer, nor is blaming others. Writing about racism to others who read about racism doesn’t seem very useful. Maybe learning more marketable skills and moving away from the “Racism Industry” would improve the author’s outlook.

      By the way, I myself have thought twice about changing plates in public, some people are quick to judge and who needs to create a scene? Use some common sense and get that huge chip off your shoulder!

  2. Thanks for this, Sonya.

    I’m a big proponent of using accurate language to confront and disrupt damaging patterns of behavior.

    So, I don’t believe Seattle is unable to address its whiteness problem. I believe it’s been unwilling to address it’s whiteness problem. (There’s a grace that we automatically grant to inability, and it’s undeserved in this case.)

    Good for you about making the move. ‘Hoping to see a longer Seattle-Macon comparative essay from you.

  3. As a Chicano, I fully support your articles sentiments here. You stated, with more eloquence and patience than I can muster, my feelings on this situation.

  4. Despite the validity of this writer’s feelings, removing a license plate in a public lot is an action that provokes suspicion. Race almost certainly plays a role, leading someone to call the police rather than just approach the person directly. I’m sorry you were treated in this way. Also inspired by the officer who gave you a hand.

    1. Removing a license plate in a public lot is suspicious? How? What I have learned from my experiences and those of other black people is that anything any individual white person does not like WILL provoke suspicion and in their minds warrents a call to the police especially IF there is a person of color involved.

    2. Gross. Mind your own business. Calling the police when seeing someone black changing their license plates, means you want them humiliated and violated by police. You know that if shit goes wrong, they can get killed in front of your eyes.

      1. I wish all of Seattle could read your comment. Dont know if it would evoke a change in them, but at least they could no longer claim ignorance.

    3. Exactly. I was in Northgate, a northern suburb of Seattle, a couple years back and locked my keys in my car. A lady called the cops on me because it likely did look suspicious. The cops showed up and a little African American lady came out and explained why she called them on me. It was annoying but made sense. The author didn’t like Seattle for a “myriad of reasons”, I find Seattle to be very open as a Latino. It’s what you make it

    4. I agree, changing the plates in public will attract onlookers and they probably did not ask questions because in fear of being in danger. Let’s say you were truly trying to steal the license plate, I would never approach you and ask what your doing.

      You also need to walk in their shoes too. But instead of looking at the negative, you should look at the positive. That officer realized the truth and lend you a hand! But my question is, changing the license requires a tool to remove the license plate. Now I don’t know anyone to have the tool ready in the car to change license plate in public.

      I don’t know about other people, but to me, this is crying “wolf”.

      1. The difference is if she had been a white lady in heels and a suit no one would have given her a second thought, except maybe can I help you?. That is racism. If you think I’m wrong then right there is the problem.

      2. A) If you are “in fear” of folks changing their license plates, better not leave the house. Like at all.
        B) No, I dont have to “walk in their shoes”. I already understand their racism, ignorance and privelidge, its not my responsibility to coddle them even more. How about you go “walk in some KKK members shoes” so you can see where they are coming from?
        C) Its called a screwdriver and if you dont know anyone who has the tool in their car, you should consider expanding your circles lol
        D) If the responding officer hadnt have been professional and the author had been incarcerated, injured or killed over nothing illegal, you would likely still find an excuse to justify the unjustifiable…..

      3. So, it’s odd for someone to carry tools in there car? NO, NOT AT ALL. 1, her tags were out of state And Expired. 2, she picked up her plates during lunch. She was multitasking… You know because she has a limited about is time for lunch. 3, SHE WAS IN A SUIT. If she was really stealing plates in sure wearing a suit wouldn’t be a first choice. And a bonus, why doubt her experience? This woman is a professional and telling you only ONE of I’m sure many examples. I’m was born and raised in Seattle and I agree wholeheartedly where she’s coming from. The fake smile and fakes liberal mess while being stabbed in the back. One other think, why in the hell does she have to change her story to make you or any other white person feel comfortable with HER truth. Lay in the bed feel them nasty sheets and bread crumbs. If you don’t like it change your bed!

      1. I have seen people call the police just because a white person liked the interior of a car and was just peaking thru the window of the car for only 30 seconds. Then the person went into the grocery store and went about his business. Then when police arrived, they went into the store searching for him and questioned him. Mind you, I am not white nor black. But I was discriminated against by my black manager at T-Mobile. It just depends on every individual person whether your black, white or Asian.

  5. As a Mexican who went to graduate school at UW, I totally understand what you are saying. I left as soon as I finished.

    1. I dont know how to like your comment in return. But Im heartened to know even though you dipped out, you got your learn-on because a UW degree goes a long way from what I understand. Props to you.

  6. The writer is so on point with her commentary. Seattle is so sickening right now. Having lived in the CD for many years and trying to qualify to buy a house in 1999, with a new wife and family. But turned down by all the lenders for a loan was only the beginning of the racism that has been more overt over the years. The only comfortable place a Black person could coexist in was the CD. Now you get looked at like you a damn alien! Very depressing and frustrating place to be. Everywhere you go in this city you are looked at like suspect. I bought some property down south several years ago. I am waiting for my wife to retire and I’m out, that is if I can hold on that long.

  7. I’m a white male living in Seattle but originally from Texas (with a brief stint in Georgia as a child). You’re 100% on the mark about how Seattle doesn’t think it has a race problem. And you’re spot on about how Seattle is deluding itself—it’s progressive more in theory than in practice. Great article. Sorry you couldn’t stay in the PNW, but I hope you’re happy.

  8. Thank you for your closing sentence, I can not agree more wholly as so few people throw the ball in our court where it belongs.

    Two thoughts.

    1. That cop is like 5% of the mindful white people in Seattle. I know that person, he wanted to go over and scream at that lady but he knew his badge would be taken away.
    Seattle has a very strong core, but there is 40% of the town that tries to act as that 5%… those are the folks that love your hair. They want to be good people but they have lived in this white mono-culture that they simply just do not know how to live and rejoice in heterogeneity.

    2. It is the task of that 5% to really rake the 40%.

    Maybe a third thought… that 5%… there is a problem… they got that way because they did not have the privilege of the 40%… so this causes a discrete problem, they have similar if not as severe gate-keeping keeping them out of the leadership positions that could make Seattle change from the current position of wanting to be saviors to the actual position of grasping for the health of heterogeneity.

    It is a fucked up situation in Seattle. I cannot claim to say i have the answers….
    But I thank you for throwing the ball at our feet…. the people to tear down the power structure should be the ones who are part of it.
    We will keep trying.

    Thanks for your words, good article. Love to hear if you see any insight to what i said.

    p.s. the 55% I don’t mention are simple default racist. So even if the 5% move the 40%… the traditional struggle will still confront us…

      1. Ouch, you have a point… I’m sorry, I am using the numbers symbolically as they fall into place in basic stats.
        Can I clarify?

        5% a nearly insignificant minority (5% is the limit of significance in a gaussian distribution)

        45% a large constituency that could change the situation (nearly half, the tipping point)

        50%-55% the majority that is in opposition but could be changed.

        Valid point I was using numbers in a non-empirical way. I hope clarifying the map will show that i am 100% sympathetic of the writer.

  9. The last couple have years have really opened my eyes to the fact that the middle and upper income folks here truly pat themselves on the back for voting for Hilary and being a progressive state… as long as the progression doesn’t threaten their wealth or comfort.

    It’s been uncomfortable learning and realizing I’ve contributed to it as well and how I can change to do better.

  10. One Seattle has a huge issue with people stealing license plates: I would hope passersby’s would call the cops if they see someone removing license plates in a grocery store parking lot. It doesn’t matter what color your skin happens to be… it is an odd place to do that activity. (White people can and do steal drive license plates.) On top of that, the cop investigated the situation appropriately and then even helped you installed your license plate. What was racist in his interaction with you?

    The second example is that people complimented your hair. Is it rude for a person with a different skin color to compliment someone else with a different skin color? (Although being called racist in Seattle is a pretty big insult, so I can see some people really try hard to be inclusive and welcoming to all people. The intent is good, but maybe the execution is poor?)

    Like all places, racism exists in Seattle and in all different favors, but I don’t think your examples support this statement. Additional clarification and discussion on these examples would be great.

  11. I’m from Seattle and in 2014 began my quest to “Get Out!” Very well written piece, and completely accurate.

    I think Seatle’s claims make the racism even worse. It’s like being molested is bad, being molested by a priest takes the trauma to another level. The treatment Brown people receive in Seattle and the denial that accompanies it makes the liberal claims so much worse.

  12. I’m a white woman. I’ve changed my license plate in public with not a second thought. That is white privilege. The fact that someone saw that exact behavior as suspicious is definitely about race. The notion that “well it could be seen as suspicious behavior, and maybe it’s not about race” is exhausting and insulting, and seems to be exactly what Sonya is describing. So the white soccer mom can say, “oh it wasn’t because she was black I just wanted to be helpful If she was doing something illegal” is bs, and she’ll keep on believing she is not a racist. I dont have an end point here, and I’m not as elequont as Sonya. I wish Sonya the best of luck in Georgia, and we white people need to be better and more willing to call this out.

  13. I was born and raised in St. Louis and I also lived a short time in Virginia before moving here. I agree with your points so eloquently put but I am obligated to say we as black people must start dealing with these issues head on. Missouri is one of the most racist states in this country and so many black people want to move because of it. Virginia isn’t much different and the same result black people want to move. Seattle has the same issues and so many people want to move. Its time to stop running from these issues, addressing these issues and help these cities become more of the change we want to see. We are running out of places to run to because white people and their systems are in place nationwide. Too many strong black people have been rendered powerless so they give up. We must fight for restorative justice, equality, and our freedom to live and fight on level grounds.

  14. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to truly compare my experience, but when I weighed between 350 and 420, the so called liberal, spiritual, earthy-crunchy folks were shamelessly vicious about it. The illusion of these folk’ unconditional acceptance is nothing more than that.

    1. Yup, you got it. But dont let it get you down Big Mama, just do you and be the best person you can be….. their own insecurities and pettiness are theirs to “own” lol

  15. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to truly compare my experience, but when I weighed between 350 and 420, the so called liberal, spiritual, earthy-crunchy folks were shamelessly vicious about it. The illusion of these folks’ unconditional acceptance is nothing more than that.

  16. I’ve heard the author’s thoughts echoed many times in Seattle – that it’s much easier to deal with overt racism than with the kind of racism that’s hidden because people don’t want to appear racist or challenge their own stereotypes and racial fears. “Good morning Mr. Johnson, so nice to meet you, Mr. Johnson, oh, we JUST rented the apartment out to the person who stopped by 10 minutes ago….”

    I do think much of the “I love your hair” kind of behavior is cluelessness. Some may be trying to make themselves feel good for saying something “nice” (let’s not forget about the ever-present “Seattle nice,” shall we?) to a Black person. But I believe many are also trying, in their clueless way, to reach out, to include black people in their lives, yet honestly don’t know how, or are afraid to say or do the “wrong thing.” Having grown up in overwhelmingly white culture, they honestly don’t know how; maybe good intentions, but a very self-conscious or clueless execution.

    Some people are lost causes, but what would you say to white people who want to build those bridges and are afraid their cluelessness will be misinterpreted?

    1. I love Chris Crass (below) and his thoughts on awkward whypepo. I remind folks all the time that white people who talk about race are often awkward when doing it and we should help them along. I am NOT one of these people who say “White people need to do it themselves!” because I think it’s impossible to do that, and it’s missing an opportunity, so I forgive awkwardness like “I love your hair!” although sometimes it’s hard to tell if its a real and awkward reaching out or just condescension and filling a silence.

  17. “Not one drop of my self worth depends on your acceptance of me.”—Quincy Jones
    I think you blame Seattle for your misgivings, but your heart never left the South. I still miss the state I began my life in, but Western WA is fantastic. Just ask all those drivers with out-of-state licenses.

    1. Way to diminish everything she said. She described my experience exactly and I moved from LA and was fully committed to Seattle for the long haul. I left last year and i can’t tell you how much my life has improved. You can blame me and ignore our experiences or you can consider them and work to make seattle a more welcoming less uptight place.

      And don’t get me started on lame Seattle drivers.

    2. Thats a common (not so passive) passive-aggressive response I have heard personally whenever the situation gets to much and a person vents (either vocally or online)….. “It doesnt sound like its working out for you here, maybe you should try a different place for a better fit.” which roughly translates to “Your truth and willingness to express it inconveniences and exposes my facade of being a progressive, why dont you just go somewhere else if you arent content to suffer in silence.” That sentiment has been expressed by more than one poster here in this articles comments section.

  18. I am an infrequent visitor to Seattle and have never met as many whining people as I have here. Everyone needs to gtfu and learn how to get along. I cringe every time I read something pertaining to this issue. Glad I’m just an infrequent visitor here.

  19. Try a more cosmopolitan place such as New York City. It has it’s moments and own share of persisting racial issues (e.g. the faux concern of teachers and PTA parents about “fit,” whenever brown children enter segregated all-white schools), but over the centeries, the brute force of so many “others” (even Irish and Italian immigrants who were “others” in the past) have shaped a uniquely comfortable culture that welcomes people based upon character, skill, and tragically, whether they have the capital to enter more exclusive spaces. All in all, I’ve found it decisively different than the experiences you describe, and when such experiences occur (I’m typically the only black person in my work space – medicine – so it happens intermittently), they are easily navigated.

    1. The NYC region is historically segregated like chicago but what’s lost in the statistics are the fact that intermingling is practically the rule rather than the exception, unlike most American cities

      1. So like most places out here, people will associate and date outside their races in NYC, but generally dont live together in community. That does not help the situation.

  20. Seattle has always been this way. I moved here from Northern California in 1989 and worked downtown for a large bank institution. The looks and treatment I received from many whites were patronizing and comments uncalled for. It was their problem..not mine. I was also amazed how many mixed-race marriages I saw which was more than I had ever seen in Colorado, Missouri, California, Chicago, Detroit and New York. I agree with your comments 100% however as a single Mother raising 2 black male sons thought it was the best place to raise them to live to maturity rather than Oakland California which was dangerous. I am sad you felt you had to move. Further I would like to say that in this town blacks do not speak to each other or try to connect. It is the oddest feeling I have ever experienced. It is very hard to make friends in this town as it is very “clickish”. Another thing I notice is that when other immigrants move in to black communities they have a very low opinion of the black community and that includes Africans, Vietnamese, Indians (from India) and others. They set up businesses to sell to black residents with overcharged prices and rude attitudes. I have found Hispanics to be more friendly and open. I have been followed around in stores dressed as a professional until I call them on it. I even had the experience of a store clerk not wanting to sell me a $150 pair of shoes asking me if I could afford them. The bank I worked for turned me down for a home loan until my Senior VP boss got on their case. I lived in Mount Baker and was there when Columbia City was beginning to be occupied by white businesses and many young white couples were purchasing homes because Bellevue and Issaquah was too expensive. Soon after they got settled some would act like I was the newbie. Crazy. I now live on Beacon Hill and love it. Good luck to you and yours and have a glorious life.

    1. The “Seattle Freeze” is real. Back when I moved here they called “Seattitude.” I was fortunate because with music I found instant community, but I have friends who moved here from Pennsylvania, very open and welcoming people. It took them more than two years to find a circle of friends here. Four years ago they moved to Texas, and it took them about two months. Even back then, there was an enormous difference between Seattle and Portland just a few hours away, where people in bars would just come up and introduce themselves, for example. Now big money is changing that city as well but it still holds on to that openness. I’m not sure what it is about Seattle, but it’s at the center of the love-hate relationship I’ve had with this city for most of my time here.

    2. Thank you for saying that, that black people don’t connect and aren’t very open with each other. It was bizarre. I assume it’s a jealous guarding of their situation, because there are so few opportunities for real black engagement with the white community.

      I said more than once “There aren’t enough colored girls in this town for us to ignore each other!” and I got so tired of the cliques and unfriendliness, lack of acknowledgment. I challenged one young black woman who was heading up BLM in Seattle shortly after it started a few years back and I ran into her at the PCC and she looked right through me. Long story short, I said “You don’t remember me? We marched last week.” She looked annoyed and I said, “You should know who your allies are,” and then she got pissed and walked away. Too bad.

      I’m glad and grateful to have raised my black son in Seattle but when he turned 24 or so, I knew it was time for him to go, and he did. And then I followed.

      I think Hispanics are more friendly and lively and that helps make LA a welcoming place.

      1. Why should there be unfriendliness and cliques amoung the black community here in Seattle? What is the psychology?

      2. “You should know who your allies are,”
        Translation: “You shouldn’t call me out or challenge me in any way shape or form regardless of my actions…. nor should you call out the white/Jewish/whatever people who fund my endeavors which never seem to get their intended results.”
        I have dealt with plenty of that myself……..

  21. Whiteness as a culture is this: We’re at a political rally and the speaker is lively and inspiring and speaking loudly, and when I yell “THAT’S RIGHT!” or “HELL NO!” in support of what he or she is saying, I get looks from the crowd like “Do you MIND…?” That’s a fragile kind of entitlement that I ran into, less with politically active progressives but yes, even with them. It felt like a lack of a sense of humor, a complete lack of irreverence, and/or entitlement not to share the space with anybody making noise. At a political rally.

    I had to urge people to dance AT A CHRIS ISAAK CONCERT lol

    Often at my local PCC, I’d strike up a chat with a woman with a young child, a word of encouragement or an observation (because I well remember those days with a young child even though my son is now 32) and most responses were to ignore me or smile weakly and turn away. Try smiling at someone while walking around Green Lake? Ha. Now I smile at anyone walking through Koreatown in LA and I know I’m not alone anymore.

    There are many decent, honest, white progressives working hard to make this world a better place in Seattle and I feel like I know all of them haha And they are beautiful people.

    1. Yeah mayne, being at a hip-hop show and getting into it (dancing, call-and-response or etc.), its weird to hear the “Do you mind?” hiss from behind…… weird indeed!

  22. Hey Sonya,

    The exact same thing happened to me. I was in front of a Metropolitan Market, coincidentally, changing my tabs of my motorcycle when an older lady started asking what I was doing. I told her politely, but then she started telling people walking by that she thought I was stealing this motorcycle. Then, she called the police. I was long gone before they could arrive but not before showing that lady my two middle fingers.

    I’m a white male in my early 30s but even as tattooed “rocker”, I get shit all of the time. Security screenings at airports, stopped and/or followed by security guards, store clerks (illegally) asking what I had stolen, and just plain treated like dirt. Mostly by soccer moms in rich neighborhoods or dumb fucks in business suits (even though I’m an engineer and make more than most of them).

    I’m not trying to undermine what you have to go through. I can hide in a dress shirt if I could stomach it. I just want to make the point that people are idiots and no matter where you go, you can’t escape those pea-brained morons from staying the fuck out of your business and making your life more difficult. I am sorry this happened to you in Seattle. Hopefully, those idiots will die off and as we keep pushing towards equality, our city’s culture will bring us an even better tomorrow.

  23. I love my friends. Many have skin colors different from myself. There is certainly a cultural divide amongst different people with dark skin. From yt eyes a small minority choose not to integrate and their behavior is seen as self destructive and anti-social. Are all the successful, well spoken, educated people with African roots not considered black? Honestly, I see my friends as people and not a color. If I can’t understand what you are saying or if every other word is a curse word you will not be my friend. To yt it is about behavior, not color.

  24. I’m not racist.
    And I’m white.
    Maybe a lot of whites are idiots about how they treat people, but NOT ALL.
    ‘We’ are not all the same.
    For the record, during my life in Seattle for the last 3 years, the multiple threats and names and vitriol I have received has predominantly been from people of color. Yeah, I’ve also had my “faggot” calls from a variety of people. But the ones that told me to ‘gtfo’ or that I was in their hood, or given me the hateful stares as I simply tried to buy a chocolate milk and a donut in Rainier Beach, that was black men and women.
    I love meeting & talking to new people, I like to create random conversation whatever I go -but the ONLY times I’ve been outright told to “shut the fuck up” has been from people of color here in the Seattle area.

    Yeah, I get that racism is all over this country and I thinks it’s RIDICULOUS that it happens.
    But not ALL white people are to blame.

    There are stupid people from EVERY race, EVERY religion, and EVERY sex.
    Please kindly remember that a great number of people are not like the group that is being portrayed above and in these comments -and we should all recognize that otherwise when will anything change???

    If we constantly use “all of you hate is”, no one will ever feel like what they do is mattering.

    1. Welcome to the world of every ethnic, religious, and racial group in America. I hope you enjoy your journey of facing contemptuous scorn from passersby, verbally assaulted through daily microaggressions, physically assaulted by total strangers egged on by current though politic, socially and economically marginalized from enjoying the benefits of full employment, living wages, and healthcare benefits. My oh my, it is indeed one fantastic lifetime journey. Enjoy!

  25. Late 30’s Hispanic male and I want to say, thank you for putting the finger on exactly why I feel so uncomfortable in this city. Obviously I’m going to be treated differently as many of my people cook and garden here and in many U.S. cities, but I am treated differently the vast majority of the time.

    I don’t get sat as quickly as white people when I go out to a restaurant, I get pulled over for driving in white, rich neighborhoods, I get talked down to when I go to PCC or even downtown, and yes, I even get straight up stared at, complete with mouth agape at times, too.

    My ex-wife (who’s white, born and raised here and also comes from wealth) could never understand why at times I would want to leave a store or bar or why we would get pulled over for just driving down the street. Even more so when we would hold hands or take our mixed baby out for a walk. Worse yet, I have many visible tattoos.

    So for all the white people here who can’t understand what it’s like, let me tell you this story: Just 2 weeks ago my girlfriend and I went to my hometown in Corpus Christi, TX. I didn’t quite feel like going in to the supermarket so she went in without me. She came back out after about 15 minutes and said, “I have never been in any place where I was the only white person! That was the weirdest feeling I have ever had!”

    That’s just an aspect of what she’s talking about.

    Why do people in Seattle have to loudly proclaim that they’re “anti-racist”? Why can’t they just not be racist? Why do they have yo go out of their way to make a statement of it?

    One day, when I was still in the Navy, I stopped by the grocery store near our old apartment in upper Queen Anne, next to a very busy street. A mother wasn’t paying attention to her toddler son and was walking out to the street. I dropped everything in my hands (fruit, eggs, glass bottle of milk, flowers for the ex) and grabbed him out of the street. Then and only then did she turn around and start screaming at me. I shook my head and walked back into the store to buy the things I had dropped.

    Not every white person is the same, not every person is the same, yes that’s true. However, when you swim in the sea and there’s a bunch of trash wouldn’t you say, “damn the ocean is filthy, I don’t want to swim in that.”? Yes, yes you would.

    Pretentious, extremely passive aggressive, condoning, assuming, pat themselves on the back, bullshit is what I tend to get up here. Is it better than the shitty town I was so desperate to get away from? Like she said already, yes and no but at least back there I know where I stand. At least down there I know what to expect, at least down there they don’t claim enlightenment. At least down there I can feel comfortable.

    So to all the white people claiming “we aren’t all the same”, know that’s not what this is, this is just people who get judged solely on the color of our skin sick of that shit. It’s fucking 2018, come the fuck on already.

  26. This hit home for me, as a white woman who has lived in Seattle since my freshman year at Seattle University 52 years ago: “To live anywhere in the U.S. and think you have found some section of the country that has ‘made it’ as opposed to others is naïve at best but mainly just wrong.” And this: “White folks this is on you. Deal with it. Figure it out. Do better. Be better.” Through intensive study/personal reflection/healing in community (especially a sustained immersion in the ideas contained in Robin DiAngelo’s What Does It Mean to Be White?), I am learning that if I commit to sustained effort it is possible for me to begin to to know how deeply embedded white body supremacy and white skin privilege is in my body, my language, my habits, my assumptions, my unconscious biases. I am committed to the lifelong work of uprooting white supremacy in myself, my immediate community, and my city, in all the ways I am learning how to do. I love Seattle very much–it is my home–but its patterns of segregation and racism run very deep. The ways we white Seattle residents pat ourselves on the back for how progressive we are keep us in denial and get in the way of the inner and outer work we white people need to do.

  27. I like this honest perspective from someone who’s had enough of superficial and disingenuous interactions Seattle whites have with Blacks (or any other ethnic group). It does wear on your psyche and soul to have to bear with the false sense of entitlement from Whites who choose to cloak their racist bullshit behind their wealth, education, and perceived social standing.

    Having lived in two mostly white neighborhoods (Wallingford and Fremont), I know first hand how clueless and insensitive the whites in Seattle remain because they do not care and do not want to change their ways. Whites immediately uncomfortable when they meet any articulate, well educated, and poised Black professional who challenges their long-held stereotypes. Anytime a Black person comes into physical proximity of whites, the whites become triggered at the psychological violation of their sacred space. It happens everywhere in Seattle–on the job, in educational settings (especially at triggered places such as University of Washington), in restaurants, in houses of worship; basically anywhere and everywhere where whites have created their spaces to the exclusion of others.

    I, too, had that “nigger moment” over in Ballard back in the summer 2016. Some white, homeless female accosted me on the street right in front of the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library where there were dozens of silent witnesses. This white idiot had the audacity to yell, “Nigger go home. This is a white, Christian country.” I proceeded to tell her that I would never allow any poor, white trash walk up to my face and tell me that nonsense. Next thing that came from my mouth included fact checking her–That her ancestors stole the land from Native Americans and she had no business making claims on anything. Second, if she were a Christian, then why wasn’t she reading her Bible over at the nearby Church in the area? That’s because she was a sorry irredeemable wretch whom no one would even let inside their church because she was a waste of time. Then the female had the nerve to take swing and try punching me. I laughed while stepping aside because she didn’t even know how to throw a punch. Then the fool ran away because someone stood up to her pitiful ways. Did any of those so-called white progressives or allies step forward and get involved? Nope. Not a damn one.

    I called the Ballard police and reported the incident has a bias/hate crime in the area, after which I forwarded the complaint to the City Council representative of Ballard. Their office brushed off the complaint claiming they could do nothing about the incident even after filing with the police. I lambasted the office for their complicity in reinforcing race-based violence as part of the accepted status quo and normalizing fear within ethnic groups. After getting nowhere with the City Council person’s office, I contacted the FBI which launched its own investigation into the incident. Later the Seattle Police tracked down the homeless woman who now has a bench warrant for her arrest for assault and attempted battery as it relates to a hate crime. The Seattle Police tried ignoring their duty to protect and serve its citizens until I gave them the name and address of a civil rights attorney who later initiated a formal complaint against the City of Seattle.

    Now, I’m branded in Seattle as “that uppity nigger” because I stand up for my rights. Well, so what! At least I can look in the mirror and sleep at night!

  28. Good article. Thank you!
    My husband and I moved here to the Seattle area 15 years ago from SF Bay area. We are white hippy tech special ed types with a small farm of rescued animals. My daughter and her two mix race ( black) daughters moved up 10 years ago and live on our property. We live amongst many white liberals and though I feel we and our girls are “safe”, I know we will never be fully accepted. We live every day with much social anxiety and disappointment. At various times our girls have been labeled in very subtle but damaging ways ie behavior problem, slow learning,etc. With perseverance we have stood up and set straight these discrepancies and injustices to some degree. But I seriously never would have believed how truly clueless, insensitive, and well meaning while rascist white people can be!

    A few years ago we took the girls to SAM for the day for some cultural appreciation. Saw many extraordinary exhibits, had an organic lunch etc. Such a beautiful setting but the only other black person we saw all day was when we had to walk through the kitchen area and a black dishwasher came out pushing a huge cart of dirty dishes! Sad. Just horrifically sad for a major city like Seattle to exhibit such a degree of unapolegetic inequity!

    White people here live so comfortably with so much disconnect on a regular everyday basis. Its shocking what is not talked about and how frighteningly confident they are!!

  29. You sound racist. Whining because there weren’t enough black people. You found a “needle in the haystack” black man–making it sound likely that you specifically sought out a black husband. Doing something that is suspicious might get the cops called on you. You just assume it’s all about race. If your black you just attribute it to that entirely, not stopping to think it could very well be that people objectively find it suspicious. I once walked to cut a lock of my bike with bolt cutters as a white person and people were suspicious of me too.

  30. I had this same experience in my mid twenties. I moved to SEA from STL with a brand new ecology degree and was excited to be with green liberals who thought like me. One of my first jobs was campaign fundraising where I had to stand on the streets and interact with people. One day someone asked me if I was selling “real change” and I had no idea what that meant. I asked my coworkers about it and they told me it was how the homeless made money. I asked them if anyone had ever asked them that. The answer was “no.” Surprise, I was the only person of color on the team. I went home crying that day. I moved back to STL after two years for other reasons (one being money) and I do hope to move back to SEA one day… but I definitely see if differently now.