'Racist' is now a conversation stopper almost like that device where you can skew a conversation by comparing someone to Hitler. And only the sickest racists will own up to the description." White people in Seattle are more likely to own rather than rent. White people are less likely to hit the poverty level. White kids are (in high school, it's four times higher; in middle school, it's five times, according to the district's data).
ne day in front of a class of art history students at Cornish College of the Arts, I say, "Raise your hand if you're a racist." I hadn't planned on this.That class period I was focusing on James Baldwin and Glenn Ligon, both gay men, both African American, and it hit me that because there wasn't a black person in the room, things were getting abstract."You've never had a negative thought based on racial bias? Despite the fact that racial inequities remain steady year after "post–civil rights" year—across indexes of health, wealth, and education—racial balancing, according to the 2007 ruling, is no longer a "compelling state interest." The racial tiebreaker in Seattle was originally instituted to end de facto educational racial segregation.But now segregation across Seattle schools is worse than it was in the 1980s.The Seattle Police Guild newspaper editorial that called race-and-social-justice training classes "the enemy," "socialist," and anti-American. But if you look at the actual numbers, 66 percent of people in Seattle identify as white, which means that people are not white. It only seems like a white city when you're in, say, Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont.
If you walk the street expecting every third person you see not to be white, well, then you'll see how weird it is to be in Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont, where almost everyone is white.A student from my class—white, male—has asked for my head.His charge is that by admitting to racism, even though I described it as a problem that had to be named in order to be solved, like any other problem, I could only have been trying to recruit white supremacists. I spend the next hour rehashing, in detail, the tone and content of my lecture.I am trying to be honest and I am trying to wrap my head around the accusation.I am trying to admit to being a racist while at the same time defend my ability to teach about black art history. The charges are dismissed; the other students didn't share his theory.This art is valuable and has to be taught—there really is no arguing against Baldwin, and Ligon's painting was one of the first President Obama brought to the White House—but how do you teach someone to have a relationship to it?