Photo depicting a young female-presenting Black/African individual wearing blue scrubs, a blue surgical mask, and blue surgical gloves with their arms crossed over their chest.

OPINION: A Threat or an Opportunity for Black Community?

by Dr. Ben Danielson

Timing is important. So it is significant that, on the precipice of Juneteenth, Seattle Children’s Hospital decided to close the Yesler location for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. This location, in the heart of Seattle’s Central District, had held on through years of gentrification as a Black community resource.

Coincidence can strain credulity. For all the years that the new clinic at Othello Station was being planned and developed, some of us have raised concerns that the hospital would try to close the Yesler location as soon as the new clinic’s doors opened. The hospital waited a scant couple of months after cutting the ribbon on Othello to lock the doors on Yesler.

Mendacity can be cloaked in rationale. The hospital explained the closure as due to new structural concerns regarding the building’s integrity. Odd, because some of us have been complaining about building issues for many years and they fell on relatively deaf ears at the hospital. Now, suddenly, after the new clinic has opened, the Yesler site is deemed unusable.

Mendacity can be cloaked in sincere-sounding words. The hospital’s CEO, Jeff Sperring, has reassured clinic staff that the Yesler location would not be abandoned. So many of the clinic staff have now been replaced that the shared memory may have been diluted just enough that people might think he is sincere.

Outrage does not have to come with surprise. Without a true reckoning, the continuing compulsion for dominance-seeking white privilege to seek further domination is deplorable but not surprising. We have allowed — by misguided protection or complacency or short memory or complicity — to allow transgressions against Black community to continue. 

Threat can lead to opportunity. Without forgiving the hospital’s inoperable deafness to anti-racism, it is possible that this insulting maneuvering by Seattle Children’s Hospital might be an opening for community to seek reparation from the hospital — for all the damage it has done — by restoring the Yesler building to full resplendence and transferring it to the Black community. Remembering that both Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center are in that building, the opportunity for reparation is doubled.

Offensive timing, incredulous coincidence, mendacity multiplied, and unsurprising outrage. These are the ingredients of dominance-seeking white privilege in this country. It is in the four centuries B.C. (“before COVID,” as a friend recently quipped), it is right here with us today, and it is clearly the recipe oppressive forces wish to bake into our future. Juneteenth is actually an expressed recognition that this is what Black community is up against. Juneteenth is a rejection of that construct and a loud-and-proud joyous articulation of power and love — Black power and Black love, that remains un-enslaved and overcomes oppression. Princes of dominance-seeking white privilege will keep trying to do what they’ve always tried to do, especially while our society vests and then protects their positions. But an undaunted and brilliant Black ecosystem will turn threat into opportunity, denigration into Black joy, and will be the most powerful piston in the engine that drives out the proposition — the very idea — that one group needs to harm another group in order to shine.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

📸 Featured Image: Photo by insta_photos/

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