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Is gentrification altering Seattle’s political landscape, diversity of thought?


Seattleites having to move outside the city because of rising costs is nothing new, but an inadvertent result is that this may be causing a shift in the political landscape, with many demographics losing their ability to have their voices heard.

Over the years groups including the young, immigrants, and people of color have headed south, prompting a shift in the electorate that has some worried about equal representation in Seattle politics, reports The Seattle Times. The discussion has been highlighted by the prospect that city council might be without a black member after the November election — the first time since 1967 .

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“Because of gentrification, because of the rising costs of things, there are a lot of African-Americans that are leaving the city, and so Seattle is in danger of perhaps maybe becoming more white just because of the natural economic engine,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney. “But if you’re concerned about diversity, right now one might be able to argue that there’s more diversity on the Seattle City Council than ever. It’s just not represented by African-Americans after this next election.”

“It’s a diversity of what? Not a diversity of ideas,” added co-host John Curley.

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For Curley, the discussion of this issue is a regressive one, and only further divides people who might otherwise come together.

“It’s interesting that we have been trying for the longest time to look past all of this stuff. But every single time we have an opportunity to point out the difference, which is a black person or a white person or a Latino person or female or a male or gay or straight or bi or gender fluid, it’s so important to break everybody down into these categories,” Curley said.

“Because then we decide that, ‘Well, this person is better than that person because let’s say that the whole system was created by a bunch of racist whites. So we have to throw out all white people because they’re all guilty of white privilege’ … We break them into categories, then we all feel comfortable with who we’ve decided is better than somebody else, rather than looking at the individual themselves.”

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According to the Times, Seattle was 65.3 percent white in 2017 and 67.1 percent in 2010; white people recently became the largest racial group living in South Seattle.

For Tom, this focus only on ideas can overlook the notion that people from different backgrounds may bring something new to the table.

“One could argue that color of skin can influence the way you see the world. Because of the experiences that skin color has had on you and other people reacting to you,” Tom said. “I think what Republicans try to always do is to say, ‘Oh, if you acknowledge any kind of a disadvantaged societal group all you’re doing is placating them.’ No, it’s to acknowledge that it’s an aspect.”

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that the Seattle City Council has not had a black member since 1967. In fact, as reported by The Seattle Times, the council may end up without a black member after the November election.

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