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Rantz: Seattle DOT tries to exclude whites in free ORCA program

First Hill streetcar. (Photo: SDOT Flickr)

The Seattle Department of Transportation is giving away free ORCA cards via a racist program that tries to exclude as many white people as possible.

The ORCA Recovery Card program allows up to 2,000 recipients unlimited transit use through the end of the year. But to be eligible for the freebie, you must work in neighborhoods SDOT selected. Their criteria? Race.

SDOT doesn’t discriminate against whites directly. That would be illegal. Instead, they have set up their program to ensure that the fewest white people sign up. They’re not hiding the strategy, either.

Race-obsessed Seattle’s latest program

This specific program comes as Seattle hopes to kickstart the post-COVID economy. It’s meant to get employees to their jobs for free while they “continue to work toward a just and equitable transportation network.”

“As part of this effort, we are aligning our transportation investments where there are high numbers of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-owned businesses and in neighborhoods most significantly impacted by COVID-19. Little Saigon, Chinatown-International District (CID), Japantown, and Pioneer Square are a few of these neighborhoods,” SDOT notes in a blog entry.

Though activists claim requiring an ID is racist, SDOT requires one to pick up the unlimited ORCA card.

An SDOT spokesperson tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the department selected the neighborhoods based, in part, on the Race and Social Justice Index.

This tool uses residents’ race (“priority populations”) to find neighborhoods it deems marginalized. Though the data looks at criteria like income level, it gives extra points to neighborhoods with people of color, non-English speakers, and foreign-born populations.

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SDOT’s racist program makes little sense

This race-based program makes little sense.

Choosing these neighborhoods based on business location when the goal is to help employees doesn’t really make sense.

These neighborhoods may have more minority-owned businesses than, say, Downtown, Lake City, or Beacon Hill. But where do those employees live? The International District may have a high percentage of employees who live in the neighborhood, but the most diverse, densely-populated parts of Seattle are farther south.

Shouldn’t those communities get a stab at the free ORCA cards for their work commutes to downtown? And if a white owned-business in West Seattle or Northgate has a high percentage of minority employees, why would the city shut them out?

Beyond the program’s logic, it is designed in a racist way.

It’s not equitable

Low-income people, regardless of their race, were walloped by COVID.

The pandemic hurt businesses run by a person of color, the same as a business owned by a white person. Rather than help the first 2,000 who ask based on income instead of skin color, SDOT excludes as many low-income white people as possible.

Though their so-called white privilege hasn’t helped them escape poverty, SDOT views white Seattleites as unworthy of ORCA assistance. If SDOT hopes to pursue equity truly, they should treat low-income whites the same as low-income minorities.

SDOT adopts the same race-obsessed approach as the other city departments. Claiming to focus on equity, they treat people differently based on race. They assume all racial minorities are disadvantaged and all whites have privilege. It’s the kind of racist stereotypes society used to abhor. Now, it earns you social currency, and you design transit programs around it.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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