Time drives us into August, and this is my sixth week in Seattle. As outsiders, I would love to live here for the rest of my life, based on what I have observed: nice summer weather, friendly people, and all the other incredible things. But many of my coworkers at FamilyWorks, the participants I have met, and other Seattle locals, have different views.
I am sure everyone knows the housing price is rising. The technology companies, like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are bringing lots of capital into the city. People complain about how those better-paid individuals throw a large amount of cash on the table for a house and local people cannot compete with them. One of my co-workers decided to resign in a few weeks because her salary at community service industry can barely meet her rent, and a lot of homeless people become homeless recently because they cannot afford the rent rise. The solution to this problem seems simple – more affordable housing. That’s it. Problem fixed.
But housing price is only one of the more apparent problems that Seattle people are facing. The culture of Seattle has been changing throughout the years, way before the technology companies came into the game. These different groups of people bring in huge gaps within the community, split by socioeconomic status, religions, ethnicities, political opinions, etc.. Working at the food bank, I have seen people coming in for any food that boosts their blood sugar, and I have seen absurd amounts of leftovers after catering events and conferences. Some people feed their children donuts that are $2/dozen, some people pay $15 for a half-done pizza at PCC. Plastic straws are banned for a more sustainable future, while some people are not able to use a cup. If Seattle is truly a community, then why some people live an organic, eco-friendly life without knowing the actual definition of “organic food”, while others never know the differences between corn syrup and organic cane sugar? Seattle has so many organic salad bars, organic grocery stores and local farmer’s markets, and I am sure that in Seattle, people do care about their community. But maybe this community only includes a certain part of Seattle, and many, although they physically live here, do not have a voice in community conversations.
Last week I saw a tweet: Seattle is a white Wakanda. It is definitely not true that all white people in Seattle live a decent life – many white people that I meet every day have suffered too much in this city. But the lifestyle that Seattle appreciates – decorating your own house, being friendly to your neighbors, getting groceries that are locally produced and organic, and participating in initiatives that support social justice on weekends – caters to a certain group, and white are the majority. How many people from this group can actually give a quick definition of “organic food”, and how many can name 15 countries in Africa while they post about endless poverty in developing countries? This city is named of a native American, yet native Americans have the highest rate of being homeless of 4.78%. Just to name a few things that are often ignored, not by everyone, but by the mainstream.
This post is not a negative review about Seattle. It is wonderful, and I would be more than willing to spend the rest of my life here. But we have to say it has problems that are very deeply embedded in its culture, history, and society. Issues such as rising housing price and Hilary/Trump only give us a chance to look at them from a tube (or a plastic straw): now we know they exist, but we have no idea how serious they are, how long they have been, or how to fix them.