Tag Archives: Voices

OPINION: With the Right Transportation Policies, We Can Pivot to a New Climate Reality

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?  

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OPINION: Unsteadiness

by TQ Vu

(This piece was originally published as part of the Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

As part of the inaugural Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project, three local high school students, Jazmine Petty-Yeates, TQ Vu, and Tommy Mac, had the opportunity to participate in a workshop and develop stories connected to community while also exploring the complexities of their intersecting identities. The workshop was facilitated by journalists and community storytellers Bunthay Cheam and Jenna Hanchard to increase access to journalism for BIPOC and employ youth. The project was in collaboration with the Port Community Action Team and sponsored by the Port of Seattle. The workshop helped students become better listeners and storycatchers to continue passing down and honoring the stories of our communities using their medium of choice.

Words From TQ

For the 16 years I’ve been breathing, my dad has always been there for me. Maybe not exactly when he went into the house right before I fell off my bike and got the worst cut I could’ve imagined. But when I struggled with telling the time or having trouble with my brand new iPad not connecting to the Wi-Fi, my dad was always to the rescue. Bringing me home extra Safeway donuts or buying an extra hamburger when he stopped by Dick’s for lunch. My dad and I have always had a good relationship. But that’s because good father-daughter relationships only require a good father and not necessarily a good daughter. Because I thought I knew everything about my dad, from how he chewed his food to how long it took him to shower or drive to places. It wasn’t like he didn’t tell me stories, either. In fact, I heard many of them from his childhood. How he once chased a chicken onto a roof or how he played soccer barefoot in the streets.

What I never considered was how arduous his experiences might have been. The experiences that have put me where I am now. Although I try to not take everything I have for granted, hearing about his journey here made me realize that I continue to anyway. Because the way he described these experiences made me sound like I was being a complete crybaby over a boy not responding to one of my texts. Because when I finally processed the stories themselves, I could barely imagine myself in his shoes and persevering through these experiences. Because when I stepped into a new building, the only thing you could possibly compare to my dad stepping into a new country was the feeling we both felt.

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OPINION: Washingtonians Struggle to Acknowledge Sex Worker Agency and Labor Issues

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. 

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OPINION: Education, Mentorship Key Part of Getting Latinx Youth Excited About STEM

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. 

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OPINION: Racist Deeds Without Adequate Consequences

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.

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OPINION: Make Public Transit Accessible for All!

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.

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The Native History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

by Malinda Maynor Lowery

(This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.)

Increasingly, Columbus Day is giving people pause.

More and more towns and cities across the country are electing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to — or in addition to — the day intended to honor Columbus’ voyages.

Critics of the change see it as just another example of political correctness run amok — another flashpoint of the culture wars.

As a scholar of Native American history — and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina — I know the story is more complex than that.

The growing recognition and celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day actually represents the fruits of a concerted, decades-long effort to recognize the role of Indigenous people in the nation’s history.

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OPINION: Coalition Building to Fight Against Hate and Bias

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.

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OPINION: We Must Invest in Our Children’s Mental Health

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. 

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OPINION: Regardless of Our Vaccination Status, We’re All Scared

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.

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