NEWS GLEAMS | Sawant Proposes Legislation Against Caste Discrimination; Spokane Street Low Bridge Reopens but Delays Remain

A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

✨Gleaming This Week✨

Photo depicting Kshama Sawant wearing a black-and-white check patterned blazer with red paisley accents addressing a crowd of protestors.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks about legislation making Seattle a sanctuary city for abortion rights in 2022. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)

Councilmember Sawant Proposes Legislation Against Caste Discrimination

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Seattle City Council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, has proposed City legislation aimed at fighting caste discrimination. The bill — which is the first of its kind in the nation — is primarily focused on the 167,000 people from South Asia who live in Washington State, especially those located in the Seattle area and focused around the tech sector.

According to a press release by the Seattle City Council, “Caste is a system of rigid social stratification characterized by hereditary status, endogamy (completely closed categories), and social barriers based on birth and descent. Caste discrimination occurs in the form of social segregation, economic deprivation, physical and psychological abuse, and violence. Caste discrimination is also manifested in employment, education, and housing.”

One organizer shared with Real Change News that “ideas of purity and pollution which originate from caste are commonplace” and that “slowness in adopting anti-casteism provisions reveals the biases of many U.S. South Asian communities, which tend to be overrepresented by caste-privileged people.”

This bill follows a 2020 case where the state of California sued Cisco Systems Inc. for discrimination against a Indian American employee who was of a lower Indian caste than his managers. Since then, other incidents of caste discrimination have surfaced around Silicon Valley as well, and it has been identified as a prevalent problem.

Data from Equality Labs shows that “1 in 4 caste-oppressed people faced physical and verbal assault, 1 in 3 faced education discrimination, and 2 in 3 (67% percent) faced workplace discrimination,” according to the Seattle City Council’s press release.

Authors like Isabel Wilkerson of the book Caste: The Origins of our Discontents holds an expanded view of caste, which she extends to other races, including Black Americans. She notes to NPR, “Caste focuses in on the infrastructure of our divisions and the rankings, whereas race is the metric that’s used to determine one’s place in that … [it] is the term that is more precise [than race]; it is more comprehensive, and it gets at the underlying infrastructure that often we cannot see, but that is there undergirding much of the inequality and injustices and disparities that we live with in this country.”

Graphic depicting the Spokane Street Swing Bridge. Informational boxes detail the different mechanical parts (lift cylinder, which lifts and rotates the bridge; hydraulic pumps, which pump the fluid that lifts and turns the cylinders; and turn cylinders, which push and pull on the lift cylinders to rotate the bridge span allowing it to open and close).
Diagram of the Spokane Street Low Bridge. (Source: “Spokane St Swing Bridge (Low Bridge) Emergency Closure: Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee Briefing, Jan. 17, 2022” by Seattle Department of Transportation.)

Spokane Street Low Bridge Reopens but Delays Remain

Last week, the Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee hosted a presentation on the Spokane Street (Low) Bridge, which experienced a power outage during December 2022 ice storms and was further impacted with recent King Tides. The bridge reopened to traffic on Jan. 13 with only one hydraulic turn cylinder functioning. Though it is operational, those traveling to and from West Seattle should anticipate for 10–15 minutes of additional travel time — because the amount of time it takes for the bridge to open and close has increased with the limited functionality.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) outlined the bridge’s upcoming construction timeline as follows:

  • Feb. 11–14: Replacement of pump arrays
  • Spring 2023: Rehabilitation of the east side lift cylinder, which does the heavy lifting to open and close the bridge
  • 2023: Upgrades to the control and communications system which opens and closes the bridge (2023)

Those who are traveling by bicycle will note temporary new bike lanes, which have been installed on W. Marginal Way SW, while conversations continue about a protected bike lane. 

Previously, SDOT had offered free water taxi rides to accommodate for the broken bridge; those have since ended with the reopening of the low bridge on Jan. 13.

View the Seattle Channel video of the presentation online.

The Cleveland High School Drumline perform for a crowd at the 30th Annual Beacon Hill Festival, June 1, 2019, at Jefferson Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Beacon Arts Seeks Artist Proposals for Funding

The City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) has partnered with Beacon Arts to help support activations and events around Beacon Hill and Mount Baker, which can assist in arts and culture recovery efforts. Applicants may request funds in the range of $5,000 to $15,000, out of a total of $68,000 allocated for these neighborhoods. 

Potential public activations or events include performances, temporary public art installations, festivals, fairs, public events, arts exhibits, or workshops. Eligible parties include nonprofit organizations with a history of working within the designated neighborhood or community, small businesses with a City of Seattle business license that can collaborate with other individual artists on a project, and applicants who are place-based in the designated neighborhoods.

The one-time request for proposals and full description of requirements can be seen on Beacon Arts’ website. Submissions are due Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. Events must take place between February and September 2023.

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