Who’s afraid of Rainier Beach?

Media portrayals of communities of color got ya scared? (Still from Boyz n the Hood)
Media portrayals of communities of color got ya scared? (Still from Boyz n the Hood)

When I tell people I live in Rainier Beach I get a variety of reactions.

Sometimes people politely nod as if to indicate that they might know where that is. Sometimes they live there too and we try to figure out if we’re neighbors.

But too often I get that incredulous “WHY?!” reaction.

I actually had one person say “And you bought a house there?” while shaking his head. This guy used to go to school in Rainier Beach at a time where crime was much higher. He visited my house once and spent half his time peeking out the window to see if his car was being stolen. His paranoia made me wonder what I was missing.

Should I be afraid? Of whom?

Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin in a predominantly white west side neighborhood by a lakeside park, the closest I came to the ghetto was watching Boyz in the Hood on cable.

Like anyone who has ever had any exposure to U.S. media, I learned that the “hood” was nowhere I wanted to be. It was dangerous and in order to live there you had to be dangerous too — or very poor with nowhere better to go. And of course that’s where black people lived.

To this day when people ask me where I’m from, they side eye me when I say Madison. One of my roommates in college upon meeting me for the first time blurted out “but you’re black”, as though my ethnicity was something geographically specific. And now here in Seattle my neighborhood precedes me, giving me some unexpected street cred.

When I first moved to Seattle I lived in the north end in the U-district then later in Wallingford, Greenwood, and Greenlake. During those years I was often the only black person on my block, something that was familiar, but not ideal.

I wanted to live where other people of color lived, but was often discouraged from considering the south end. That was described to me as Seattle’s hood, a place synonymous with drugs and crime.

Map of Seattle showing major crimes in 2012 by neighborhood reveals "dangerous" areas of Southeast Seattle have lower crime rates than Fremont and the U District. (Map via Seattle.gov — darker areas indicate more reported crimes)
Map of Seattle showing major crimes in 2012 by neighborhood reveals “dangerous” areas of Southeast Seattle have lower crime rates less crime than Fremont and the U District. (Map via Seattle.gov — darker areas indicate more reported crimes)

In 2011 I moved to Beacon Hill.  I was still one of the few black people on my block, but rather than being surrounded by white people my neighbors were mostly Asian and Mexican. I loved hearing Spanish spoken on a regular basis.

Beacon Hill felt like a community to me in the way Wallingford — with its neighborhood watch groups and email list serves — never had. I began to question what I had heard.

Yes, there was crime. Someone broke into my neighbor’s car once, but the same thing had happened in Wallingford. In fact when I lived in Wallingford there were a rash of home invasions, car thefts and vandalism, yet no one had ever described Wallingford to me as a scary place to live.

So what makes a place “the hood?”

Most people think of it as the poorest part of any city, the place people of color live because they have no other choice (as though anyone who did have a choice would want to live in a white neighborhood).

That is not how I would describe Rainier Beach.

There is no crack house on my street. I don’t know all of my neighbors, but the ones I’ve met haven’t struck me as gang banging thugs or prostitutes. They wave and say hi if I’m out in my yard or if they pass me on the street.

Mostly they are a mix of first generation immigrants from Mexico, Cambodia, Vietnam, and East Africa and U.S. born people of color, mostly African American.

My neighbors are people with kids, people who get up and go to work every day, who walk their little ones to the school bus and work out at the corner gym. One neighbor is a landscaper, one is a cab driver, one is a retired guy with a fondness for tinkering with old cars. I’ve never seen him in anything but a very comfortable looking blue bathrobe that he wears on his short walks with his dog.

The people who live on the corner are by far the loudest. They like to play Al Green on Saturday afternoons while breaking out the BBQ. Mostly it’s laughter and loud talking — annoying at times like the perpetual siren songstress of the ice cream truck circling the block — but not exactly something to be afraid of.

Rainier Beach pride! (Photo by Colleen McDevitt)
Rainier Beach pride! (Photo by Colleen McDevitt)

Yes, the property values on my side of Seward Park Ave are much lower. Yes, people of color live here, but many of us live here not because we have to, but because we want to live around other people of color.

So the question becomes is it still the hood when the people who live there do so by choice?

Recently I’ve began to attend meetings of Rainier Beach Moving Forward, a coalition of my neighbors who have gotten together to be strategic about making Rainier Beach a safe and beautiful community for its residents. They have partnered with Puget Sound Sage and local business owners to host a community art walk, a Back to School Bash for Rainer Beach International High School and to plan a community farm.

What’s unique about Rainier Beach is that unlike the Central District and Columbia City, the gentrification hasn’t come yet. Most of my neighbors bought their houses in the ’90s and have no intention of getting pushed anywhere. Organizations like Puget Sound Sage and South CORE continue to do their part to empower people to stay in their homes.

So I am living in one of the last predominantly mixed communities in Seattle — and while I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and unicorns, it’s home. It’s a place I feel comfortable and a place I feel invested in.

If it’s the hood, then I guess that’s where I belong.


    1. Good point — the crime stats map we included basically mirrors population density in different neighborhoods. But if you look at the methodology on the transit blog map that shows Rainier Beach as having by far the most crime, it’s based on data thats 7-15 years old.

      A casual comparison of a more updated population density map like this one with updated crime stats seems to show that crime in Southeast Seattle is about in proportion with density: http://buildthecity.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/seattle_2010_density.jpg

    2. If there’s more crime in a area due to higher population density there is still in fact MORE CRIME. Breaking up the data by relating it to relative population density seems to me, a veiled attempt at asserting peoples propensity for committing crime may be in some way related to who they are as a group. There are many ways you can massage the data, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that there is in fact less crime in Rainier Beach and the South End than in Many other areas of Seattle.

  1. Great article. I bought my first house in Rainier Beach a few months ago and absolutely love the neighborhood. We’ve joked (semi-seriously) that our next house might be a few blocks away! The mix of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian is awesome. Won’t find that in many Seattle hoods nowadays.

    And yeah, our cars have been just fine in our driveways. :)

  2. When I first moved to seattle in 1995, I moved to Beacon Hill. I thought it was such a great neighborhood! all my neighbors were from all over the place. Nice manicured lawns and super friendly people were a bonus. When I started working downtown, I found out that I lived in the “ghetto”. Of course, my coworkers were from Ballard. Ha. I was really confused, considering what a great place I was living in. But I quickly learned that they equated “ghetto” with “non-white”, and more specifically, black. This article speaks the truth 100%. People in North Seattle are actually scared of South Seattle, and judge people and children from here very negatively. sad. very very sad for them. I feel sorry for the people in Ballard who think our kids are just out to get their kids. They have no clue what they are missing out on, or on how they harm our community with their racist attitudes. Don’t call them racist, though, because they’re liberal. They’ll get super defensive about that word. ha again.

  3. Sorry to bust some bubbles here but I’m white and grew up in south seattle. When I tell people in north seattle, or Kirkland, or Redmond I get *gasp* the same reaction the minorities on here get. So no, it’s not a race thing, it’s a crime thing. I have lived in Columbia city (Rainer valley) since 1992. Crime was high all the way to 2005 heading south. RB has come a long way. But the author would not be writing this if her first impressions were made prior to 2011. RB is considered the hood because crime was high and RB high school was one of the worst (It’s changed). A lot of people seem to be screaming racism but don’t know the history of the area and why it affects others viewpoints. Take it for what it’s worth, but living in RB for a few years and wondering why people call it the hood, just goes to show you don’t know any of the history…

    1. The truth. Too many peoe come to this city with an opinion on how it is. They don’t know shit about where we used to be and how we got here.

    2. SA, I think you have to go a little further back in history to find out about the redlining and exclusion that created “black neighborhoods” …. at one time people of color were not able to buy or live elsewhere. Racism isn’t just personal hatred, it’s a whole system that limited and still limits access to resources including housing, education, and jobs. The media has criminalized people of color, especially black boys and men, and so we white people have been taught to fear people of color. The fact that we are white means we walk differently in the world and doors are open to us that are not open to others and we don’t have to think about it.

  4. This article is interesting, there are many points that hold true. Such as how the rest of Seattle would avoid even driving in the southend of Seattle if they could. Being raised in south seattle throughout the 90’s, and having to travel to/through the Rainier beach area for various reasons, I myself spread the stigma of Rainier beach being a “scarey” place to be. My cousins (1 of them was a girl) got severely beaten for being “asian” and got robbed. Of course I am never going to look at rainier beach the same, but at the same time I know that the situation was a product of Rainier Beach in the 90’s to mid 2000s. It was a much different time back then, and many parts of south seattle were dangerous. People who lived in south seattle their wholes lives can see that the demographics of south seattle is changing rapidly probably due to the light rail and many other factors. I think living in rainier beach would not be horrible, it’s just the stigma that existed for decades is hard to get rid of.

  5. Thanks all for your thoughtful comments on my piece! I’m glad we’re beginning this dialogue. @SA respectfully I do think it’s a race thing. As you yourself stated, crime in RB has changed, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that its still ethnically diverse and it still has a bad rep. Though no one wants to talk about it racism still exists and this kind of stigma based on stereotypes is one way I see it playing out in Seattle. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is, especially for the youth growing up in RB. They deserve to be proud of where they live especially when everyday people in their community are working to make it better.

    1. Great article, thank you, I definitely agree! As a North Seattle kid I cannot tell you the amount of times I hear rude responses toward kids at RB HS or even Garfield. Those being some of our more diverse high schools – it is definitely “a race thing.”

  6. Reagan, I really liked your piece. I am glad that you took the time to respond to SA. Racism and classism have layers. I wanted to add to the comments because I believe sometimes it is hard for white people to understand how racism figures into people’s perceptions even of white people, because we, like many other people, base our interpretations on lived experience. Most white people do not know what it is like to not be white, and while they may be aware of white priviledge, its impact, and racism’s impact, is often invisible to us. @ SA Just because some white people live or lived in RB does not mean that racism does not shape how some people view RB, especially from predominately white neighborhoods in Seattle. The looks often reveal people trying to decipher social or economic class of a white person they never would have expected to live in South Seattle in order to maintain their perception of South Seattle as a dangerous and undesirable area–even when that is not the case. The best public high school is in South Seattle and there are so many great associations, as well as culture. Normally I do not chime in, but I hope this adds to the discussion.

  7. I agree up in Seattle. I lived in the CD until I was about 15 and then moved to the ville. The apartments right by rainier beach. I stayed in the area until I graduated and went to college. I was at summser school in 06 when they made the mistake of putting kids from Ranier beach, Garfield, Cleveland and west Seattle together. This led to the task force and police in horses. When I wore red walking by what is now SARS in 07 I would be asked what’s up by the neighborhood kids because bloods was not the prominent gang. When I was in high school the saving grace for Ranier beach was their athletics. Because millions of dollars had been poured in they were fighting against school closure. They did not have enough books for their kids. There was scandals about teachers fudging athletes grades. Then you had Henderson the unofficial class that rainier beach never knew it had. Where a great deal of young black men with the puffy black coat with the fur stood all day. You saw them lined up selling drugs. I was apoached by crackheads regularly. I graduated from Garfield In 07. This is not something that’s in the distant past. From the shooting at jack in the box to over on cloverdale where my husband lived. And that was around 2010. The fact is that there has been many changes in the Ranier Beach area. I do know and agree with the gentrification. However, having a younger brother who in 2012 was jumped and almost killed with one of our cousins, chased from Henderson to cloverdale and renton ave…. I think that this article was a little romanticized. I think when you bought the house you fell in love with the community. No problem. What makes a hood I say is crime, economic diversity, the quality of the schools, and ethinic diversity. If you have crime, low quality schools, economic hardship which impacts crime that’s a hood. Yes race is a huge factor in this. I have seen lovely changes in the community and hope for the best. The reputation was earned. It is up to any community that issues social and economic issues to band together and try and solve them. It seems like that is what is happening. Was it the worst hood? No not by any means. Is it changing yes, and the more outstanding people come out of the community the more that old repution will erode. And I am African american. The reason why I say that is that if anyone disagrees with my comment don’t let it be about color.

  8. Thanks so much for posting this. When I first moved to Seattle I lived in Belltown and worked full-time down in RB, and I loved the community there. It was the first community that I’d truly felt a part of, and it was amazing to see how involved and engaged people were on community matters (something that’d been lacking in my hometown).

    The following year I moved up to the U-District to attend school, and at first I was really put off by the types of reactions I’d receive when I would mention Rainier Beach. I constantly feel like I have to defend and explain my love for the community to people here, and seek to dispel the sort of mythology that has developed about the South End from the North End.

    Again, thanks for sharing. I personally really appreciated this.

  9. I grew up in the southend of seattle (all over) and it has had it’s times when i t was super ruff but I also had the most humanizing and joyous occasions of my life there. No where any where is all good or all bad. I’ve lived in East Oakland, Bed Stuy- Flatbush- and Crown Heights Brooklyn and felt just as safe there as i did in Seattle. The most unsafe I ever felt in my life was in north Seattle cuz I thought everyone would call the police on me as soon as they saw me. ( as a teen I believed all north enders hated black folks and that there where no north end black folks which i was wrong on). So I think it’s all based on your perception. Especially since they people who feel the most afraid of RB are the least likely to get hurt there statistically speaking.

  10. I’ve lived in Rainier Beach for 5 years now. It has it’s blessings and it’s problems. Most folks here are super nice. I have almost always been greeted by a smile and a nod if I offer one to a stranger. There is crime, yes. It’s not all rainbows and roses. We have had multiple attempted break ins of our home (none successful, thank goodness!), our cars are rummaged through if they are unintentionally left unlocked. Our week whacker was stolen from our storage shed and the gates to our yard broken down. But you know what? My housemate’s car window was smashed in when she was working in Freemont. Friends of mine have been beaten and mugged in Capitol Hill. People get shot everywhere in this city, not just Rainier Beach. But you know what? There are many, many, many more instances of people being good and decent to each other than there is crime, from my perspective. The people here are good people, families with children and it is alive with ethnic and cultural diversity. There is community here. There is a difference between a bad neighborhood and a poor neighborhood. Rainier Beach is not a bad neighborhood. There are people here who are economically disadvantaged and who are lacking necessary support and resources to thrive. There will always be crime in areas where people are undeserved with limited resources while being surrounded by wealth and unrecognized, rampant privilege.

  11. I love this. As I was reading, I found myself nodding to every statement and agreeing with every outcry. It was powerful, practical, and very personal, which is why I was not at all surprised when I read your name at the bottom as the author of this piece.
    Hi Reagan! I don’t know if you remember me well, but I was on the summer trip of 2011, and I sure remember you. I still look back at my time at GV as the beginnings and formation of my journey to look beyond my small self and onto the world.
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for this piece, as well as all the work and care you put into kids like me that had no idea what love and challenges were in store for them in Guate. It is this love that I carry with me today, and it still challenges and inspires me to not be satisfied with the current situations.
    I hope you are well and sincerely miss everyone in my GV family:)

  12. The neighborhood has been clean for a few years now but that is simply because the city overhauled to get it that way. When people refer Rainier Beach as the hood, they are talking about Rainier Beach’s pass. I grew up and lived in the projects of South Seattle, Rainier Vista to be precise. It was a whole different story back then. In the late 90’s to the early 2000’s Rainier Beach was the last place you wanted to be. I’ve seen a man shot in the head projecting brain matter from the exit wound, Iv seen countless brutal jumpings, I’ve seen prostitutes having sex with their tricks inside cars in the Safeway parking lot on multiple occasions. I’ve seen many things in the passed in our neighborhood. But like I said, Its all in the passed. South Seattle has made a major turn around since then and things are for the better now.

  13. Add White Center to the list – I lived there for a year, and my immediate neighbors were black, white, asian, hispanic, mostly young families – most of that area’s reputation comes from the history of the place, and not what is happening there now. It too has a bad rap, but for anyone who gets to know the area will realize that it’s a community of immigrants and solid middle class values. North Seattle is white and getting whiter according to the census – if you want ethnic diversity, go south, or to Redmond (yes, Redmond) where our girls go to public school – it’s a veritable UN of ethnic influences, thanks to Microsoft. They are exposed to Asian, Indian, Russian, Dutch, Australian, English, African American – you name it, it’s there. A far cry from the 100% white school of my suburban Chicago youth.

  14. Hey Minji! So lovely to hear from you. I’m touched to know you are well and still served by our experiences in Guate. Email me a life update when you get a chance.

  15. I have lived in Seattle my entire life in and out of Rainier Beach. I currently live in Skyway, by choice, another area called “the hood”. My neighbors are a mix of all races and my neighborhood is very nice and quiet. When i lived in Rainier Beach I enjoyed seeing folks who looked like me and some who didnt, but definitely didn’t feel scared. Im more afraid in areas where nobody resembles me. Nothing like being the raisin in the bowl of milk….scary!

  16. thanks for posting this i did like the read a lot. i lived in rb for 25 years (1988-2013) so i know about the violence and how we have come a long way. i went to dunlap and was the class of south shore before they moved to graham . the reason i didn’t go to rb high school was because i knew if i wasn’t playing a sport it would have been pointless. so instead i graduated from franklin and then graduated from OSU. i went to the late night at rbcc every friday as a kid and remember how there would be hella crips all over. it never bothered me because im black and i was good at sports. but if you couldn’t “fit in ” people would mess with you. nowadays its different but not that different because i wont let my mom walk by herself after certain hours. beach does look better more updated buldinging and a new community center but the danger is still there. even saying that i love RB and never really felt in danger because people know me but i wouldn’t advice anyone to live there if there are afraid of potential gang violence. it is way safer than the 90s but i wouldn’t leave my car unlocked or door unlocked. the house to the right of me has been robbed and the house to the left used to be a drug house. so if u live close to ranier you gotta be careful people don’t die everyday but i still consider the south end beach area “hood” by northwest standards

  17. Now if they would just build an OUTDOOR community pool instead of making me sneak down the hill @ Chinook Park then things would be fantastic.

  18. Yes it’s actually one of the nicest places in Seattle, although I like Beacon Hill most of all. Shh don’t go telling everybody.

  19. Want to know why black men instill so much fear? Look at the photo above. Three black men with that menacing scowl. The language M-F this,M-F that. Say anything they do not like and they will “F you up” including women. That phoney ghetto dialect!! Look at their music videos! Prancing around with their hands hovering over their crotch,yelling about getting over, obsessed with sex. They promote the stereotypes themselves! My husband got into a confrontation once,with a black man who insulted me. It would have come to blows,and my husband probably would have killed him,except he was backed up by six of his “home boys” Obviously fighting their own battles one on one is something they are afraid of.

    1. Thank you for the honesty in your comments. As a visibly black woman, white people rarely have the nerve to tell me what they think directly, so it is refreshing to have someone come out and simply bring to light the degrading, offensive, stereotypes they hold in their hearts. Given the recent media coverage of the still blatant disregard for black lives, I feel compelled to say something that you need to hear: YOUR FEAR IS NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY. If you are afraid of black people, that is your choice. Own it. Deal with it or not, but it is not my responsibility as a black person to make myself palatable to you. It is not my responsibility to dress or speak or have thoughts that you deem appropriate in order for you to categorize me as a “good black person” or not one of “them”. My responsibility is to be the best human being I can be. That means living my life, respecting myself and others. And doing the best I can with the cards I’m dealt. Having traveled the world I have met people of all races, religions, nationalities, ethnicity, and beliefs and been able (not always, but most of the time) to find common ground even with people whose initial appearance may have sparked some fear. Why? Because we are usually more afraid of the unknown that we are the known quantity. When you take the opportunity to set aside your fear, you are the one who is healed and lord knows we need more healthy, whole-hearted people in this world. Please take this as an invitation to become one.

  20. I actually love living in Rainier Beach. I love seeing all types of people, and hearing soul music blaze from opened windows in cars as they pass by me on my walks.

    I’m Hispanic, and don’t see them very often, but I love the Black culture and the lovely music that they have blessed us with.

    I have lived in the Burbs and found the people there to be quite snooty, I didn’t talk to neighbors much and felt a bit isolated .

    I walk my dogs to King Donut & Laundromat which I think is so cute and quirky. They also have the best donuts. I like to talk to people when I go to Safeway, Rite Aid, and everyone is friendly, I’m 54 and I was even called beautiful on my walk.

    My co-workers make fun of Rainier Beach, and I shrug it off. I tell them I love it here, and actually see some people that look like me, people that are happy to be amongst each other.

  21. As someone who grew up in the RB area from 1964-1982 and attended Rainier View, South Shore and RB, this neighborhood description sounds so different from the area I knew before moving East to attend college and start a career. In the ’60s my family was one of the first Black families in our neighborhood. But by grade school, I found myself in very diverse surroundings. I grew up with friends of all colors and I know that shaped who I became in a very positive way. I recall feeling so proud when Carter (or was it Mondale) cited RB’s ethnic diversity as the reason it was chosen for their political appearance. I’ve told my kids how school clubs celebrating different cultures were the norm during the 70s/80s, something unheard of where I now live. The ethnic food fundraisers were eagerly anticipated by all students regardless of race. My parents remained in our home until the early 2000s, so I visited at least once or twice a year up through 2001. While I would hear murmurings about gang activity, I never witnessed anything alarming and my parents never expressed fear living there. I guess since it was such a rosy-colored world for me growing up there, I missed this view when I visited. Or perhaps my perspective of a “dangerous hood” was shaped by what I saw living in DC and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, as an adult. I am sad to hear the neighborhood ended up with such a negative reputation, but it is encouraging to hear it’s on the rebound.

    1. Let me clarify my above statement. The reputation the author describes, as well as what I read in many comments, is actually what sounds so different. The author’s perspective on the positives she sees in the neighborhood, however, sounds more like the neighborhood I knew and loved.

  22. Very interesting article. I have considered living in South Seattle because I prefer to live in neighborhoods with diversity. In many ways, it is a good thing that the gentrification hasn’t hit Rainier Beach yet. Many of the neighborhoods surrounding RB are very diverse. In fact, Rainier Beach itself is apparently the only neighborhood in the state of Washington where African-Americans make up the majority (55%) of the population.

  23. WOW!!
    Talk about bringing back the nightmares!!!

    My wife and I both went to Rainier Beach High.
    Thanks to the Jimmy Carter ‘Busing Program’ We spent about 45 minutes each way on a bus to go to school. This was in order to help force a diversification on Seattle and Baltimore (guinea pigs)
    Our older siblings attended schools within walking distance, like Chief Sealth High.
    Nothing like going to a neighborhood where EVERYONE, including the school’s staff, hates you for no other reason than the color of your skin. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t discrimination…. after all there is no such thing as reverse discrimination. After I entered “R.B.” I stopped learning anything, scholastically.
    A particularly terrible administrator stands out in my memory. This person was someone that all of us of no color spoke about for years…. She passed in 2003 and I hope she really did find peace, some how.
    Off campus lunch? Dangerous!
    After school activities? Dangerous! (2 hour night bus)
    Memories of this place? A NIGHTMARE
    Education? Yes, I suppose I did learn something there…. but nothing that would help me land a job later.
    Thank you Jimmy Carter…

  24. I grew up in White Center, went to high school at RB. Back then it was a bad ‘hood. I could buy beer around the corner from school. We stole cars at lunch, and there were fights, rapes and lots of drugs in the school. I know some things have changed for the better. I am white and was just as much a troubled kid as all the rest of the kids there. Be proud of who you are and be proud of where you live. No matter what I do now, I feel proud to say I have grown up in and around Seattle

  25. I want to address the guy who said he gets negative comment from folks who live in Ballard. I was born and raised in Seattle and , trust me, Ballard was called a glorified trailer park and was not a desirable place to live until recently. So I don’t understand why they have the nerve to turn their nose up at you. Wow!

  26. I now live in Maryland but grew up on Beacon Hill. My sis and I attended Beacon Hill elem., was bussed to Madison Middle School in West Seattle, and graduated from Garfield High. We took Cantonese for 4 years in Elem., and our mother was Canadian so we visited Montreal frequently. We were allowed to participate in activities in the CD and also traveled all over Seattle (including Rainier Beach). When I married and had 2 daughters they participated in drillteam, swimming and basketball in Rainier Beach and track in the CD. We purchased our 1st home in Renton Wa but traveled thru Rainier Beach to Leschi Elem on a daily basis. Our daughters and I never felt unsafe! Our eldest daughter is 26 now and travels to Seattle from Maryland regularly. She has absolutely no problem making her pit stops in RB to the CD. I am extremely proud of my upbringing and the early upbringing my children had. I am African American but can honestly say we grew up with African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Samoans, Filipinos and Whites. Can it be possible that some of the negative comments that are made regarding Rainier Beach are made by some people that truly have not had an opportunity to experience diversity? Crime is absoluyely everywhere but trust me when i say, South Seattle may have some issues but it is no where near as bad as some other US cities. As I said, we live in the suburbs of Maryland but I travel to Wash DC everyday for work. One wrong turn and I can be completely out of my element. That does not stop me from going to DC or passing judgment. I am fine with where I live now but am more proud of the SAFE upbringing that I experienced growing up. I am actually glad regentrification has not taken over Rainier Beach. I say keep the diversity.

  27. Well done, Reagan. Honest and insightful, without getting bitter. That’s hard to do with any issue as high-voltage as race. One point I didn’t see mentioned in your article or the comments is that when neighborhoods compete for resources, whether it’s government money for schools, parks, and police, or private money for jobs, churches, we’re all fighting over scraps. Our schools get state money after the prisons are built and Boeing and other corporations get huge tax breaks and handouts. Our mental health care gets funded after the Pentagon gets a trillion dollars to rebuild the nuclear arsenal. Monsanto gets control of our food system, and we get food stamps to keep from starving.
    An old joke tells it plainly: A banker, a teabagger and a black Minister were sitting at a table with a dozen cookies on it. The banker took 11 cookies and told the teabagger, “Watch out. That thug is about to steal your cookie.”

  28. Thought provoking article. I first lived on Beacon Hill which at the time mirrored the ethnic population of the US. I threw a house warming and my friends would not come to Beacon Hill because of “the crime”. Rainier Beach feels the same as BH did in the 70-80’s.

  29. Really good article. It was very written with much insight. I could relate a little! I drive south on Rainier often to Renton where I reside. I dine there and occasionally shop there. I have never felt anything but safe! On a side note, when I tell some folks that I live in Renton (I work in Bellevue) I sometimes get sympathy looks. I live in the woods on a little lake and I would not ever change zip codes.

  30. Reagan! I miss you! Tell me how to get in touch. We still need to take tea together! My daughter found you fascinating and was pleased that you took the time to talk with her. I hope you are well and gearing up for more travels.

    Thought-provoking writing here. But, why hasn't any one mentioned Skyway Park Bowl? It makes for a wonderful date night on a large family budget!


  31. I am the standard white lady with a bachelor's degree and a four wheel drive wagon. I live in Rainier Beach and I get the crime statistics and the frustration that my daughters know more about school lock-downs than kids going to schools in other neighborhoods. But can I just say that my neighborhood rocks. I love King Donuts and Teriyaki. I love Rainier Dance Center and NW Tap Connection. Nate's Wings and Waffles. All my friends at SARS and Safeway. The library. The community center. South Shore. Tino's Pizza. Maya's. And god help us if the fashionable people discover Redwing Coffee Shop. Light rail, which just whisks you downtown in what 20 minutes? And yep we go to our McDonalds by Safeway and Kentucky Fried. Just had my taxes done at H&R Block by Subway. I have carried the privilege of the color of my skin all of my life with the subsequent comfort and safety guaranteed to me but I'm a mom to daughters who do not carry this same privilege. I need a world where they see themselves and they see all kinds of people. I want them to be comfortable in a world where a person's heart is the thing we seek to understand. And not to sound too much like unicorns and rainbows, Rainier Beach is exactly the right place for me and my family. And Skyway Park Bowl is awesome, too!

  32. I really loved this article and all the comments! Im looking to move to Seattle.. I crave diversity and economic prosperity. Can someone compare RB to Houston for me (which one has the worst stereotype).. Im originally from Pflugerville TX (north of Austin) and my family gives me the side eye for living in Houston but I like being around people of color!

  33. I really liked this article. My entire life I’ve lived in two completely different worlds. My father has always lived in very white non diverse neighborhoods throughout Seattle and my mom has always made the choice to expose us to many different cultures and raise us in diverse neighborhoods and environments. Just this year we bought our first house in Rainier beach and so far I love and don’t feel that any of the rumors I’ve heard are true. because of my change in address RBHS is now my assigned school for freshman year. when I asked one of my friends if he knew anything about RBHS he immediately said “THATS THE GHETTO SCHOOL” this is coming from someone who’s never even stepped foot in Rainier Beach. That’s what bothers me is when people spread uninformed rumors and perpetuate false stereotypes.

  34. Thank you for any other informative blog. Where else may just I get that type of information written in such a perfect approach?
    I have a project that I’m simply now running on, and I have been at the look out for such info.

  35. I love Rainer Beach I grew up there this is my home yes it is the hood.
    And it can be dangerous but that’s what I love its a beautiful ghetto a great place for a young man to be during the summer time theyre are pretty girls of all colors in my hood when then weather is warmer the neighborhood is filled with children playing ice cream trucks. Its a haven for Bloods like myself

  36. I’m white, grew up in Seattle, went to Garfield High. I still remember (fondly) going to a protest at the police station at 12th and Pine. This was maybe a year, maybe two after WTO. A lot of kids like me were doing a lot of protesting. It had branched off by that time away from trade agreements and globalization and we were started to “act locally.” One strand of this was trying to address police violence and racism. It was super-awkward. Although honestly I think the right thing to be doing, figuring out a way to make activism real instead of the fantasy dream that was the four days of mayhem in 1999.

    Anyway, I digress. The memory I wanted to share was being at that protest. And I was hanging out with a white girl my age, we were talking about big ideas; her thing was about noncomformity, staying away from “conventional thoughts.” This black dude who was older than us somehow became part of our conversation. I believe he was from California. What stuck with me was his emphatic point that “Seattle doesn’t have a hood. There is no ghetto in Seattle.” I’m paraphrasing, this was like 12 or 13 years ago.

    But that really stuck with me, I just had a gut feeling that he was right and indeed I still think he was right in some deeply fundamental way. I grew up on capitol hill and only started hanging out in the south end more at age 18 as my girlfriend of the time lived in Columbia City. I got to know her family decently over the course of a summer. I now live in Burien and I’ve gotten to know south king county, south park, other parts of the south end over the years also (worked one summer at Rainier Beach high helping out with grounds maintenance.)

    And yeah, all these years later I still think that dude was right. Seattle doesn’t have a hood. Now I’ve only lived in Seattle and Portland so I don’t really know what it’s like in LA, NY, Chicago. But I have relatives in Baltimore, east coast Jews, my father’s side of the family. And I had a summer internship once going door to door in Columbus, OH. And even just very brief experiences of venturing into the ‘hood there were just on a totally different level than my experiences here. And I we had all sorts of serious race problems in school. I was in the APP program at Madrona, Washington Middle and then Garfield had significant race tension as well. But in Baltimore and Columbus I just felt a level of tension that I’ve never experienced here. Wandering around knocking on doors in Columbus I felt like I was an alien. Some people were nice to me but there was this air of– “dude do you even know where you are?” In Seattle there is an unease but no one just assumes immediately that you don’t belong because you’re white.

    Anyway, my thoughts on the topic. And by the way, I volunteer at Valley Cities Mental Health. I’m a peer counselor; I take care of the resource room. We have computers so if you need the internet or a printer stop by cloverdale + Rainier and say hi :-)

  37. Thank you so much for this article. I grew up in the northwest side of Tukwila, and get the same reaction from people– white people will be horrified and people of color will nod and say “Oh yeah I grew up across the bridge in Skyway” and then we’d get into a conversation about how the neighborhoods have changed since the early 90’s. Back then, Tukwila and the surrounding areas were pretty run down. My block was high on crime with a lot of gang activity, drug use and domestic abuse. But it was still our neighborhood. The kids still rode bikes in the street together, our presence in a low-income neighborhood (most of us were either below the poverty line or had recently immigrated) wasn’t so much the focus of our identity as it was simply a box we checked on a form.

    Tukwila gained some funding that eventually put sidewalks in some of the neighborhoods and from what I’ve heard even the schools I attended are beginning to excel, but as a neighborhood, it’s still a big landing site for those that just want an affordable place for their families. The gentrification is still split into pods where the wealthier white families have lived for generations, and it’s begun to spread more with the introduction of the Light Rail and related business. Knowing the economic and social issues that I and other families grew up facing, I hope that the essence of what makes Tukwila so diverse doesn’t disappear as funding for basic amenities increases.

    For the record, I’m white, and it’s a weird conversation to have with other white people about where I grew up because they assume it’s “the hood”. Yeah it’s not perfect. But defining a neighborhood by that kind of word (with the negative racial connotations, you nailed it) is not only an over-simplification, it’s an offensive one.

  38. I felt good about this article until I read “Seward Park.” Being a young black man who grew up in the South End, though some families of color lived in Seward Park, that is not the area that was considered dangerous. We considered that to be the rich area because a majority of Jewish families & big houses have always dominated that east side of Rainier forever. Maybe the actual park is(was) dangerous at certain times of the day, but not the suburb itself . Knowing the transition from the 90’s all the way until now, everyone from there themselves considers it the hood, even with its drastic changes .

    There are few that were fortunate and knowledgable enough to buy houses, but to say that gentrification hasn’t reached it couldn’t be further from the truth . Countless of friends, family members and extended have been forced to move south due to the light rail and influx of rental rates (even though they are still lower in comparison to downtown.)

    I love the energy put behind this, and I agree with some points (racism being alive and well & how RB should not have the stigma about it from outsiders) because I love the South End for life! Glad you created a dialogue, I never comment on websites like this but I thought I would just share a little of my thoughts about it.

  39. I am considering relocating to Seattle from San Francisco/Oakland. I would like to hear any updates regarding the Rainier Beach neighborhood. Please feel free to reach out directly. If this is relevant, then I identify as Taiwanese/Chinese American Male in my early 30’s. Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.