Hey there! How are you enjoying the city so far?
Yep, it does rain a lot. No shit, you live in Cap Hill? Sure, it can get crazy on the weekends. You pay how much for rent? Yeah there are a lot of uh, “street people” I guess.
Good food, but the restaurants just aren’t as nice as where you used to live, huh?
First off, Seattle is not L.A., Manhattan, or San Francisco — and many of us would like to make sure that never happens — so don’t bother comparing. I’m sorry if your six-figure job dragged you kicking and screaming from whatever classy cosmopolitan wonderland you moved here from.
But, here you are my dear — so please stop acting as if there was nothing “going on” here before you arrived. Seattle’s worth doesn’t lie in meeting your weekend warrior playground criteria.
And cut the attitude that we locals should be grateful; as if your “spending lots of money” and the “economic growth” your employers have spurred are doing all of us a favor, not just the select few who operate in your elite micro-verse.
It may seem like a petty thing to take offense at, but it reflects a huge ignorance and dismissal of Seattle’s existing history and heritage.
Yes, the city may seem homogenous, and is pretty lily compared to most other major cities. The irony is, Seattle, as the 4th fastest gentrifying city in America, has become MORE WHITE (within the city limits) than ten years ago, as people of color are displaced to the outer suburbs, or out of state altogether.
Data analysis shows that our diverse “homegrown” communities are being left behind in terms of education and job access, as most high‐wage positions are filled by “high-skilled” workers moving in from out of state.
Seattle has a distinctly LGBT neighborhood, a historically Black community, a flourishing culture of artists and outsiders just to name a few…
At least it did. These communities are dwindling and facing even more challenges from the influx and concentration of wealth, hyper-development, and gentrification.
Seattle is experiencing a mass displacement and erosion of social capital among people of color, low— and moderate — income families, plus a now OFFICIAL! homelessness state of emergency.
But I don’t mean to be a total Eeyore here — we can get a Nespresso machine delivered to our doorstep in an hour. AN HOUR! And there’s probably a brand new CrossFit gym in your neighborhood now!
Wait, WHAT ONE HOUR — NFW — THE WORLD AT MY FINGERTIPS!!!
When historic homes and businesses get demolished to make way for high rises or mixed-use luxury condos, or a shiny new transportation line/bike lanes/road diet cut right through the heart of a low-income ethnic neighborhood as bus lines get chopped and existing businesses get squeezed, you might see a more convenient way to get to work and hit the town on your weekends.
But on the other side of that equation, people are being pushed out; either directly or indirectly being told, “this place does not belong to you anymore.”
That cool place on 23rd where you buy your legalized weed? It sits at the intersection considered the epicenter of the Seattle Civil Rights Movement, and where Black communities have long been disparately profiled and imprisoned for selling and using weed. The (white-owned) pot shop there appears to be booming, while across the street, Midtown Center, which houses Black‐owned small businesses, will be razed, I mean, ahem, “revitalized” for big new fancy-ass buildings. Will these businesses and their customers be able to re‐stake a claim? We’ll see.
Of course it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to place direct blame or burden on you and the industries you support, as you’re caught up in larger forces orchestrated by corporations, developers, philanthropists, and elected officials who OWN EVERYTHING in this town from sports teams to property investment firms to foundations, and have been colluding and planning this “gold rush” for years. You might say you’re just trying to survive and optimize like the rest of us.
I don’t claim to know what exactly the solution is, and obviously inequity is a complex systemic issue with no silver bullet. But we all hold individual responsibility to the places we live and work. On the scale of power and privilege, you are situated on the weighted end, and perhaps there are some things you (and all of us) can do to tip the balance.
To follow my big rant of DON’Ts, here’s some ideas of what we can DO (your suggestions are welcome too):
Shop, eat and buy from minority‐owned and small businesses. Be mindful of where you consume and how that supports or undermines the existing ecosystem. I’m sure Tom Douglass, Ethan Stowell, and Bezos are doing just fine.
Hold your peers and your employers accountable. Think about how these rapid changes are affecting people and who is on the losing end — and have more conversations within your circles. It’s likely getting an assload of tax breaks, so ask about your company’s corporate social responsibility and giving practices. And there’s been a substantial amount of media attention to the grueling “hi‐skilled” workplace culture, but how does your company treat its warehouse, delivery and blue‐collar workers?
Give to local organizations doing organizing and advocacy led by those most impacted by these changes — people of color, low‐income/working class, immigrants and refugees, queer and trans: OneAmerica, South Communities Organizing for Racial/Regional Equity, Rainier Valley Corps, Black Lives Matter, Got Green, Lambert House, Seattle Young People’s Project, to name just a few.
Get engaged: civically, socially, politically, etc. Get to know this city’s culture, its people, and its history — beyond your immediate social strata, your “vertical neighborhood,” and the new fancy bars and restaurants. Appreciate and help us preserve what was already here — including (and especially) the aspects that don’t directly interest or serve you.
Overall, please treat this city and its people with respect, whether you plan to settle here, or view Seattle as a stepping stone to your next career or life move. Be aware of the spaces you are entering, as you would anyone’s home: Gay bars are not your personal bachelorette party, and please refrain from hassling the drag queens when you’re out on Pike & Pine (you WILL get your ass beat). Chinatown/ID is not just a convenient place to have your raging tailgate and throw your empties; people (like my Grandma) live here and depend upon the services, language, and culture only this community can provide. Know that the Black and brown kids walking down the street and in front your townhouse were here before you were. You are encroaching in their neighborhoods, not the other way around.
Now that you’re here in the 206: will you be the weeds, or will you be the fertilizer?
Cynthia from Seattle
For more art from Louie Gong, check out www.eighthgeneration.com