FUTURE GAZING: A Place Where Poverty Is No Longer Criminalized

With a challenging year soon to be behind us, we asked community members to share their vision of what they hope becomes of our city post-pandemic.  

by Xing Hey

My imagination for a post-COVID Seattle is one that is more BIPOC, less techy, and where poverty isn’t criminalized. As we are currently witnessing city administrators sweep and raid houseless encampments across the city, it should remind us that the poor, those who are Black, those who are Brown, those who are Indigenous to this stolen land, the mentally impaired are the ones often criminalized and living on the margins of our city. It highlights that in order to protect the privileges of one segment of Seattle, another segment of Seattle must suffer under the hands of discriminatory laws and policies.

When said and done, whether it’s COVID or the criminalization of poverty and trauma, poor communities of color are dying the most. All the while, city leaders will tout their progressive stances in opposition of the political right, and a charitable Seattle feels good about itself for doing all the “right things.” Yet underneath it all, Seattle’s most vulnerable communities continue to suffer. 

So a post-COVID Seattle is one where our mayor isn’t sanctioning houseless encampment raids all over the city weeks before Christmas and displacing already vulnerable populations in the middle of a worsening pandemic. It’s a place where the King County prosecutor isn’t prosecuting 13-year-olds as adults, and advocating to keep kids in prison for life. It’s a place where, ultimately, the label “progressive” cannot be claimed any longer until diseases, laws, and policies do not have a disparate impact on poor, vulnerable communities of color. 

Xing Hey is a community organizer, youth advocate, educator, student, abolitionist, and a member of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG). He’s called Tacoma/Seattle home his entire life.

Illustration by Vladimir Verano. 

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