Reaction: Why is Seattle such a white city?


By Paula Wissel

Race can be a volatile subject.   

Still, judging from the reaction to a recent “I Wonder Why…?” story, it’s something people are eager to talk about.

Charla Bear’s story explored why Seattle is one of the whitest big cities in the country, whiter than such places as Denver, Oklahoma City, even Minneapolis.

The response to the report was overwhelming. 

Andrea Alexander, a Native American who works for a non-profit, told KPLU it’s important to discuss Seattle’s make up:

“We don’t see people of color, especially Native people, represented in some of the key industries that make Seattle such a successful area so, for example, I’ve worked in philanthropy and I don’t think there’s any (Native Americans) in philanthropy working for any foundations and that’s access to resources, money and power,” she said.


Should I care?

But, as the following thread on the NPR Facebook page shows, there was debate about whether Seattle’s whiteness mattered.


Are we post racial?

One section of Charla Bear’s story that really seemed to strike a nerve was the part where she interviewed a white couple in Magnolia and they said:

“Why do people care about the race? Our 14-year-old daughter is absolutely bemused that anyone even talks about race anymore. She’s totally post race.”

In response, Kamaria Daniel, an African American freelance video producer, told KPLU:

“Not talking about it doesn’t make the problem go away. It’s easy to say I don’t see race when you don’t have to think about race.”

Daniel says there are little subtle things that people of color face living in Seattle that white people are unaware of. For example, she often faces teasing from her white friends.

“I do spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill and if I go to a metal show and I’m like the only person of color there I’ll be called white. My friends joke around and I do tend to be the butt of a lot of jokes just by my color and it’s kind of like I’m forced to be okay with it, because if you’re not okay with it then that’s when people get sensitive and defensive about it,” she said.

On the NPR Facebook page, there this response to the idea of people being post race:


Seattle’s history

In the “I Wonder Why…?” story about Seattle being very white, Charla Bear also pointed out the paradox that the city does have some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country.

That prompted these comments on the KPLU Facebook page:


Donald Shank: “For years, Seattle had ‘polite’ racism, no ‘whites only’ signs, but when looking for a home loan or job, invisible barriers were there and still linger in the form of predominantly minority populations in former ‘red lined’ areas.”

In the comment section of the story, MixedUp wrote:

“…The city is chock full of integrated racism and gentrification. Notice how the light rail is underground in the ‘white’ neighborhoods, but not in ‘black’ neighborhoods, leaving the poor and the ethnic minorities to deal with the sound pollution and real pollution that comes with construction. Being forced out of their homes through imminent domain.”