While campaigning, Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders remarked how impressed he was with Seattle’s progressiveness. At first glance, his comment comes as no surprise: Seattle has been recognized as a champion of LGBTQ+ rights, has an openly gay mayor, and is the third most liberal city in America. But, to hail Seattle as a friendly and accepting utopia is ignoring the city’s many glaring errors. Despite what flagrant hipsters might tell you while downing their third cup of coffee before noon, Seattle’s diversity is appalling. While ranked 39th in diversity amongst United States cities, Seattle is 64% white. The 8% of African Americans in the city are largely focused in the South end of Seattle, along with other underprivileged minorities. This is due to the city’s long history of red lining, internment camps, and the continuous increase in living expenses. Seattle is a truly segregated city. Even if there are no longer laws in place barring those of color from the same facilities as whites, the segregation of the entire city is natural and seemingly unquestioned.
As a Roosevelt student, when I recently visited Rainier Beach, I couldn’t help but be shocked. Where Roosevelt is mainly comprised of white and Asian students, at Rainier Beach I didn’t see any. The school of 700 people has a 95% minority enrollment distribution. Out of the student body, 80.1% are on free or reduced lunch. Where at “the rich, white school” of Roosevelt you will be hard pressed to find a student not planning on going to college after graduating, posters at Rainier Beach displayed statistics like “50% of prisoners were high school drop outs”. Where students in a suburban North Seattle school are pressured into getting into the most prestigious of high schools, students in South Seattle are focused on graduating high school. The difference is not that North Seattle students are intellectually superior, but that they are blessed with a better-funded education. Roosevelt students don’t have to deal with an entire city judging them based on the school they attend. When students in Seattle are assigned a school by the district in which they live, how is it fair to allow one’s economic stature decide their future without giving students a fair chance?
Multiple studies have proved that a student’s home life and economic status negatively impact their academic success. In Seattle, many students are living in poverty and, as a result, their education is affected. The rising costs of housing is succeeding in pushing hard working, middle class citizens into the city’s outskirts. Much like in San Francisco, corporations like Amazon and Microsoft have inflated the cost of living to the point where more and more are becoming unable to live in their own city. Unless you just so happen to be Bill Gates, the price increase is a major issue that only further widens the wealth gap that stretches form America’s richest billionaire to those struggling just to feed their families.
These are important issues that can not be overlooked. Yet, Seattle is known as “the city of hipsters, coffee, the gays, and that weird white needle in the sky.” It is much easier to overlook the city’s most glaring issues when a city of tolerance holds just as much discrimination as the most conservative cities.
In Seattle, only a choice set of beliefs are accepted. At the very word “conservative” the entire population quakes. At the notion of a Republican, only the stereotype exists. This is due to Seattle being a bubble of a city full of people who say they are Seattlelites, but rarely travel outside of a mile’s distance from their normal hangouts. Seattle, a liberal city dominated by liberal citizens, and a liberal media, have set set views on every subject and instead of being open to hearing opposing views of a matter, look down upon them. In the eyes of many Seattleites, any citizen of the South is the personification of George Wallace and any republican, no matter how moderate of a republican, holds the same values and characteristics as Bill O’Reilly.
Just because you support a woman’s choice in abortion and regularly chant “Gay is okay!” doesn’t eliminate the discrimination, stereotypes, and ignorance cast upon others in the country as well as those in your own city. To be progressive is to be actively seeking equality, tolerance towards others (not just those possessing a flannel with the same belief system), and change.
If, with these problems, Bernie Sanders addresses Seattle as a progressive city, I fear for the rest of the country and the world that is deemed unprogressive. For Seattle to truly live up to the reputation, changes need to be made. Seattle needs to come together and be joined instead of existing as North Seattle and South Seattle; white and non-white; Democrat and Republican. To be progressive, Seattle’s citizens have to go to places and meet people from all backgrounds and statuses and break the bubble that is suffocating a fantastic city.
Seattle is my home and I love this city dearly, I just long for the day that Seattle can love all of its inhabitants in return, instead of just a lucky few.
Featured Picture: In spite of Seattle’s purported progressiveness, there are still shocking amounts of inequality. Picture by Xing Gilbert