by Ingrid Elliott, Rich Stolz, Anna Zivarts
Less than three months ago, a heatwave like we’ve never seen before gripped the Pacific Northwest killing over 1,200 people in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Black, Brown, and poor people were hit first and worst — low-income neighborhoods recorded by far the highest temperatures — but everyone suffered in one of our region’s worst natural disasters.
Scientists called the heat dome “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” An August Seattle Times piece noted that extreme heat events in the Northwest become 14 times more likely with climate change. We made this reality. How can we pivot to a different one?
Continue reading OPINION: With the Right Transportation Policies, We Can Pivot to a New Climate Reality
by Savannah Sly and Lisa Taylor
Washingtonians are deeply concerned about sex trafficking but struggle with acknowledging the existence, let alone the needs, of sex workers. Legislators are reluctant to differentiate between sexual labor and commercial sexual exploitation, because many incorrectly view all prostitution as inherently violent. Phrases such as “prostituted people’’ are frequently used to describe all providers of sexual services, suggesting a lack of agency across the board. If sex workers are acknowledged at all in discussions about sex trafficking, they are typically presumed to be exceedingly rare or to be “not representative” of people who sell sex.
The sex trafficking narrative dominating Washington State policymaking is overly simplistic, and it creates an artificial divide between sex workers and survivors. All people in the sex trade are vulnerable to violence because of criminalization and the extreme stigma associated with the work. In addition, many face overlapping issues of discrimination related to race, gender, class, nationality, and disability. Left alone by society to fend for ourselves, many of us have encountered commercial abuse or violence at some point in our lives.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Continue reading OPINION: Washingtonians Struggle to Acknowledge Sex Worker Agency and Labor Issues
by Rafa Díaz
My story is one that isn’t often heard in the tech world. I grew up in Huayacocotla, a small Indigenous town in the mountains in Mexico. When I was 5, my mother — who was an elementary school teacher — moved me and my three sisters to La Guerrero, one of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Mexico City. Resources were scarce, and kids were easy targets for violence and many other social problems.
Thankfully, education was a force that shielded me from violence and, eventually, allowed me to flourish. Growing up, I was always interested in math, and my passion led me to multiple gold medals in Mathematical Olympiads in school.
Despite the barriers facing me, I was able to overcome challenges like racism, lack of knowledge about the opportunities available to me, and my own imposter syndrome. But I didn’t overcome these challenges alone. There are many factors that led me to where I am today — a software engineer at Google working on products like Google Meet — including mentors, access to a good education, and my love of math and problem-solving. I’m here today thanks to mi comunidad.
Continue reading OPINION: Education, Mentorship Key Part of Getting Latinx Youth Excited About STEM
by Glenn Nelson
I’m going to skip right to the punchline here: The King County Council failed last week when it asked Kathy Lambert to apologize for what six of them termed her “racist piece of political mail.” It also acted insufficiently on Tuesday when it voted to strip Lambert of her committee leadership positions. Nothing short of her resignation or removal is enough of a reckoning for what even in today’s divisive climate were absurdly blatant, public, and undeniably racist actions.
With a super-majority endorsing her opponent, Sarah Perry, the Council has only partly done a deed that they should have finished.
That is, unless they all can rationalize that, by following the research and advice of her political consultant, Lambert simply was representing her constituency. Even that is more problematic than it sounds.
Continue reading OPINION: Racist Deeds Without Adequate Consequences
by Anna A, Geyciel Ceja, Sarah Perez, Olivia Hicks, Evalynn Romano, Katherine Hoerster
There’s a charge in the air these days as people return to old rituals and routines. For us, we’re celebrating something simple but essential as Seattle reopens: free ORCA cards. They are our bridge to school, work, health, and freedom. But Seattle’s public transit isn’t accessible for everyone. And it should be.
We’re youth and adult members of the Participatory Active Transportation for Health in South Seattle (PATHSS) study. Centering often marginalized voices, dozens of youth and adult Beacon Hill community members told us what they need to get around Beacon Hill and beyond. Community wisdom yielded solutions ranging from calming traffic to increasing affordable housing. But one message came through loud and clear: Seattle needs fair, just transit access now. And that means making it free.
Continue reading OPINION: Make Public Transit Accessible for All!
by Sameth Mell
The invisibilization of Khmer and Southeast Asian communities poses harm to our collective community. At the same time, we are also working to address health disparities, food insecurity, inability to afford basic needs, rent insecurity, economic vulnerability, and violence against our most vulnerable elderly populations who are Asian/Southeast Asian Americans. The problem is a systemic and structural issue that spans centuries of invalidation, marginalization, and “othering” of Asian/Southeast Asian Americans.
We have seen a huge influx of hate and bias crimes, sentiments, and attitudes against Asian/Southeast Asian Americans in the past two years since the pinnacle of the Trump Administration’s failure to address the pandemic. So many of us have witnessed the deterioration of logic, rationale, and decency in American politics and civil society. When Trump termed COVID-19 the “kung flu” and the “China virus,” it led to an uptick of anti-Asian/Southeast Asian American hate and bias, primarily instigated by right-wing and hate groups.
What I am here to share with you is the harm that is caused by further alienating and hyper-marginalizing Southeast Asian Americans into terrorizing pandemic invisibility, and stories about what a few of our community coalitions and organizations have been working on to address this issue.
Continue reading OPINION: Coalition Building to Fight Against Hate and Bias
by Maeve O’Leary Sloan
Despite hopes we’d be closer to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all continuing to grapple with how to navigate an uncertain future. The delta variant is surging as Washington State’s kids return to school. Essential COVID-19 protections, like the eviction moratorium and expanded unemployment benefits, have lapsed just as local rent prices have again begun to rise.
These types of stress can cause huge strains on mental health — especially for kids. And for families who are grappling with how to pay for rent and essentials, or the daily impacts of systemic racism, these stressors are multiplied. As a psychologist-in-training working at a local children’s inpatient program, I see firsthand just how many families in our community are struggling to maintain baseline economic stability.
Fortunately, the monthly Child Tax Credits — implemented in July as part of the American Rescue Plan — are a game changer. These direct cash payments of up to $300 per child for nearly 9 in 10 U.S. families with kids are providing a new standard of support. Critically, the credit was expanded to be fully refundable, which essentially means that families with very low to no incomes — who were previously ineligible — finally qualify for the credit’s full support.
Continue reading OPINION: We Must Invest in Our Children’s Mental Health
by Julie Pham, Ph.D.
In King County, by now, nearly 85% of people aged 20–69 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m part of that majority. I’ve been fully vaccinated since March. Before I begin, I want to be clear: I am not arguing for or against vaccinations. I’m asking us in the vaccinated majority to recognize we have more in common with the unvaccinated minority than we realize.
The chances of you knowing someone who isn’t fully vaccinated in the most populous age groups is over 1 in 5. While ardent “anti-vaxxers” who defy COVID-19 protocols are the most vocal of this minority group, they don’t represent everyone who is unvaccinated. I have close ties to some in the minority. They quietly refrain from crowds to reduce risk to themselves and others. They wear masks. They are not belligerent. Many don’t voluntarily share their status because they don’t want to have to defend their choices. Or they want to avoid social ostracization.
With near certainty, you personally know adults in King County who are choosing not to get vaccinated. They probably even let you assume that they are vaccinated because they don’t want to be labeled as “uneducated,” “selfish,” or a “right-wing conspiracist.”
Because I’m part of the majority, I’ve been privy to many conversations in which generous and loving vaccinated people casually talk about the “stupid” unvaccinated as “deserving” of sickness or “asking” for death. I share many of the views of the vaccinated. I admit to feeling schadenfreude when President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 last year. Once vaccinations were widely available, I too read the news of a COVID-19 death looking to see if the deceased was vaccinated or not as a way to calibrate my compassion. I’ve heard many vaccinated people relish exchanging stories of pandemic repentance, when someone expresses remorse for remaining unvaccinated from their COVID-19 deathbed. It has become socially acceptable among the vaccinated to disparage the unvaccinated.
Continue reading OPINION: Regardless of Our Vaccination Status, We’re All Scared
by Amy L. Piñon
In the summer of 2019, I had a very public breakup with the arts nonprofit where I had worked for six years. Two staff had just been fired, seemingly out of nowhere. They had been leading the organization on internal restructuring and equitable practices. The work was going well and conversations were fruitful. The board and leadership were vocally supportive. Until they weren’t.
I and several other staff members responded to the firings by writing a public letter to the organization’s community of supporters, asking for their help in holding leadership accountable, reinstating staff, and conducting a transparent investigation. Unfortunately, this threw the organization into more turmoil and ultimately led to my departure.
It’s still painful to process everything that happened that summer, but what I gained was a more intimate understanding of how the nonprofit sector is failing on its equity promises.
Continue reading OPINION: I Won’t Be Quiet About Healing From Nonprofit Harm
by Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch
Earlier this year, multiple news outlets ran alarming headlines about Bill Gates’ status as the single largest private owner of farmland in the U.S. What has still remained fairly underreported is Gates’ outsized influence on agriculture globally — especially in Africa through his foundation’s support for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). African civil society organizations have spoken out against AGRA’s industrial agricultural model for over a decade, and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the largest civil society network on the continent, recently asked wealthy donors to “stop telling Africans what kind of agriculture Africans need.” So how does the Gates Foundation’s agricultural development still seem positive to so many in the U.S.?
First, Gates has spent millions of dollars financing media outlets. A 2019 analysis, along with our own examinations, suggest that AllAfrica.com, Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Le Monde, National Public Radio, and Public Radio International are among the outlets that have received large grants from the Gates Foundation to expand their coverage of development and public health issues. Some journalists at Gates-funded outlets have suggested that this “philanthro-journalism” stymies public criticism of the Foundation, encouraging reporters to cover development aid “success stories” rather than failures.
Second, the Gates Foundation claims that its interventions are backed by “science.” By extension, critics of their work are cast as “anti-science” — a serious charge in this era of “alternative truths” and disinformation campaigns. The Foundation only supports certain forms of science — namely, genetically modified seeds, increased use of chemical fertilizers, and other inputs that farmers have to purchase from large agribusiness corporations and their African subsidiaries. They have also funded programs, like the Cornell Alliance for Science, that train communications professionals to write convincing pro-biotech and anti-agroecology propaganda.
Continue reading OPINION: Bill Gates — Do Better, and Listen to African Civil Society