Seattle’s Inclusionary Future

What if everyone is important?

By Brenda Cooper

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November 9, 2022

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Editor’s note: Brenda Cooper is a Kirkland-based short-story writer, poet and futurist who has written 10 novels. Her most recent books are “Edge of Dark” and its sequel, “Spear of Light.” The former won the 2016 Endeavor Award for science fiction or fantasy by a Northwest author. In this column, Cooper discusses the importance of inclusion to Seattle’s future. In a companion piece, Cooper imagines a Seattle set in the future.

The next 20 years will test and transform cities. Seattle is and will be challenged, and we are and will rise to them. In 2042, the greatest of Seattle’s many strengths might be our respect and care for all. Building a great city requires care for every person who lives here.

The last two years have seen deep pain in Seattle. We watched and protested the murder of George Floyd. Asians faced slurs and even violence, as if they were responsible for Covid-19. When the pandemic erased the usual daytime traffic from Seattle’s streets, the tents the homeless pitched on our cracked sidewalks stood out like weeping sores. The next 20 years are likely to bring more pain. The virus isn’t done, and the damage humans have inflicted on the Earth is changing our environment.

We can use this pain to build empathy, and out of empathy, strength. Imagine a future where everyone matters. Everyone. Every color, every age, every ability, every story.

Seem impossible?

Seattle is on this path. We’re not there yet. We’re making missteps, learning, dealing with changing circumstances. But we’re facing the right direction and moving forward. Let’s look closer.

We’ve become accustomed to diverse elected officials. Gary Locke. Ron Sims. Jenny Durkan. Bruce Harrell. Seattleites are seeing and discussing racism’s harm. A Seattle writer, Ijeoma Oluo, produced the national bestseller “So You Want to Talk about Race?” It is full of tools to support this conversation. It has become normal in Seattle to acknowledge the harm settlers did to the indigenous people of the Puget Sound region. Deeper discussions about indigenous reparation and recognition are happening.

Many Seattle corporations are seriously working on diversity, equity and inclusion issues. For example, I work for a leading construction company. Our senior executives are all white men this year, but we’re actively developing and hiring diverse members of our team and working to welcome them. By 2045, our leadership is almost certain to be far more diverse. Other leading local companies are actively engaged in the same hard work. In business, diverse corporate boards, leadership and staff are seen as strategic choices.

New people are coming. Climate refugees will move to Seattle. Some will move from other countries, but most, perhaps, from other states. We can make them welcome, fold them into our city. Every new face, whether from Afghanistan or Alabama, brings strengths. Every person that we find a working place for is one more that our nonprofits can help, but don’t need to fully support.  Seattle is smart: we will advocate for the skills we need and help people relocate here rather than trying, unsuccessfully, to close doors.

What about people living on the streets? We’ve raised a lot of money to help the houseless. We have a newly appointed head of homelessness, Marc Dones. With money and leadership, we can vastly improve our success. We have good models. Plymouth Housing supports the chronically houseless and the Eastside’s Hopelink is a model for getting people productively off the streets. This may be the hardest equity challenge of 2022, and we can improve a lot by 2042.

Our city can succeed by walking the path we are already on, and by putting honest, deep effort into our support for nonprofits and our corporate diversity programs. If we honor every heart in Seattle, we will remain a resilient and powerful city.

Photography by Tyree Harris

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