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Discussing Race: Tough questions leading to lasting understanding


Special committee meeting start of meaningful dialogue on the impact of race in King County and society


Inside an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, where there are numerous displays on how “race” as a construct was created, the members of the Metropolitan King County Council today discussed what they can do as individuals—and as a County Government—to close the gap that continues to exist between citizens living in Martin Luther King, Jr. County.

“Today’s meeting was historic in many ways. I hope what we learned today will propel us to engage in more conversations about the issue of race in a way that we have failed to address it in the past,” said Council Vice Chair Julia Patterson, the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. The Committee held today’s meeting at the Science Center’s exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? “What we learned today is that by challenging this false concept of race, we are taking steps to deconstruct it and foster a more equitable society.”

“Understanding race and the development of racism in our society is an ongoing discussion the King County Council needs to have,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “I look forward to our next discussion in understanding how racism impacts public policy, in general and more specifically to King County.”

The members of the Council were joined by County Executive Dow Constantine, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Sheriff John Urquhart, Corinna Harn, Presiding Judge of the King County District Court and Richard McDermott, Presiding Judge, King County Superior Court in a special tour of the exhibit directed by Science Center CEO Bryce Siedl.

“Race” was developed by the Science Museum of Minnesota in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association, deconstructs historical, scientific and social ideas of race. The goal of the exhibit is to help guests understand what race is, and more importantly, what race is not.

After the tour, the members and audience heard from two panelist that discussed the concept of race from two perspectives:

Pamela Taylor, the Director of the Center for the Study of Justice in Society and an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Seattle University, spoke about how at a job interview she was overlooked at a small municipal airport. The person who was sent to pick her up acknowledged that she was looking for a white woman, and had bypassed the African American educator.

Martin Friedman is an internal consultant for the YWCA's Race and Social Justice Initiative. His focus was on how the history of race evolved on American soil, first as a concept to disenfranchise and separate indentured servants—regardless of skin color— to a weapon that could dehumanize numerous groups of people who did not meet the standard of white for those who came to America from Great Britain.

Committee members were able to ask questions of the panelists. Many of the questions focused on the reach and effectiveness of the County’s Equity and Social Justice efforts.

Patterson acknowledged that today’s meeting was the start of what she called a “necessary effort” to get communities talking in an effort to tear down barriers that have grown over generations.

For more information on RACE: Are We So Different? click here
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