Saturday, December 13, 2008

Racism in the Pacific Northwest--by liberal Seattleites

Seattle, the utopia, well not as utopistic as Portland bills itself but still considered a pretty damn good place to live. And it is if you realize that it has some major flaws. One of them, partially due to its overwhelming whiteness, is racism and prejudice by people who are nominally against it.

People have faulted liberals up here for being very into their causes and yet not actually living by or associating with minorities, and while that may be true it's unfortunately something that's common among people as a whole across the U.S., and so isn't something particular to the Northwest or the West Coast. It also isn't something that would really merit comment by me. Instead, it's the presence of active racism against minorities by these same liberals that gives them the label of hypocrite.

There's a great example of this false tolerance that came out of the very trendy neighborhood known as Ballard in Seattle. Ballard has lots of coffee shops, cool stores, kind of a bohemian feel although not as much as either Capitol Hill or Fremont. It's also home to a large Scandinavian population, large enough that there's a Nordic Heritage museum there. Predictably, it's really white too. People sometimes talk about the 'safety' of Ballard, which is code for white. Anyways, in either 2004 or early 2005 a professional photographer was taking pictures of the Ballard Locks, which connect Lake Union to Puget Sound proper, when he was confronted by police and arrested on the suspicion of domestic terrorism. He also happened to have heavy features and darker skin, so that although not of Middle Eastern descent he was mistaken for an Arab, therefore a Muslim, therefore a potential terrorist. Remember, this isn't some burg out in the sticks; it's one of the most fashionable and trendy areas of Seattle, where people think and buy green and suit up in bodysuits for serious bike riding while drinking espresso concoctions. Yet here was the progressive neighborhood of Ballard acting like a white supremacist community in the middle of nowhere when it was actually confronted by an actual (apparaently) Arab in its midst doing something completely innocuous.

This example could be seen as being representative of how Seattle works as a whole. Gays and Asians are very tolerated, both in rhetoric and in reality, while blacks, hispanics, arabs and poor people in general are discriminated against---while being the recipients of token examples of inclusivity and nice looking tableaux's in ad campaigns.

I consider it extremely hypocritical that people who consider themselves ultra-liberal, that consider themselves hipsters, and who consider themselves an elite in their beliefs should be garden variety white people, with as much hate and intolerance as anyone else anywhere else, once you scratch the surface---and also that they express their racism directly in how they treat people from groups that are only given rhetorical tolerance. You should see the response if a black guy in a sports jersey and a baseball cap walks into the wrong upscale shopping complex.

Just today, actually while thinking about this article, I was walking around one of said complexes not being dressed in fancy clothes and being an Italian-Hungarian-Polish person who to some people around here looks racially suspect, and hearing two people directly behind me loudly say "Well there's our car, it hasn't been mugged yet." Of course this is one of the safest places to park your car in the city. The only dangerous factor was yours truly. But of course it was just coincidence. As I looked behind me the two people walking together were a couple in their forties dressed in Eddie Bauer clothes.

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