American News Nov 8, 2021 10:06 AM EST

Seattle Parks and Rec hosts event that excludes white people

The agency specified, "This event is open to anyone who identifies as BIPOC."

Seattle Parks and Rec hosts event that excludes white people
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA

On Sunday, the Seattle department of Parks and Recreation cohosted and promoted an event which excluded white people, continuing the agency’s pattern of discrimination.

The "interactive beach walk" held Sunday at Discovery Park, was promoted in partnership with Sea Potential, an environmental group which connects area-youth of color through "healing activities and ocean justice conversations."

The event description read, "We invite you to explore what you can learn about yourself and community, as we strengthen our sense of place and appreciate nature in a way that is culturally responsive to our experiences as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color."

The agency then specified, "This event is open to anyone who identifies as BIPOC."

According to the City of Seattle’s Non-Discrimination Policy: "The City of Seattle (City) assures that no person shall on the grounds of race, color, sex, age, disability or national origin, as provided by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (P.L. 100.259) or due to breastfeeding in a public place, gender identity, marital status, political ideology, religion, sexual orientation, or military status or veteran status, as provided by SMC 14.04, 14.06 ad 14.10, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity."

Additionally, the policy "…assures every effort will be made to ensure nondiscrimination in all of its programs activities, whether those programs and activities are federally funded or not."

The Seattle Municipal Code also prohibits events that excludes participants based on their race at city parks. Seattle Parks did not respond requests for comment.

The Seattle Parks and Rec Department has a history of discriminatory events.

In June, the city’s Human Rights Commission denied a complaint about a Pride month event specifically for BIPOC people. Promotional material for the event, called Taking B(l)ack Pride, stated that while the event will be free for people of color, white people would be charged a "$10 to $50 reparations fee."

Capitol Hill Pride sent a letter addressed to the City of Seattle, calling out the reparations payments for white people and not for people of color as "reverse racism."

"It has come to our attention that an event called Taking B(lack) Pride at the Jimi Hendrix public park June 26th is charging whites only admission as reparations. We consider this reverse discrimination in its worst form and we feel we are being attacked for not supporting due to disparaging and hostile emails," the letter reads.

The letter requested the commission review the event for possibly violating city, county, state and federal discrimination laws. The letter also called attention to a possible election ethics violation by the event organizers.

"Additionally," the letter read, "we would like you to investigate the event as a possible ethics and elections violation as Taking B(lack) Pride is hosted by Nikki Etienne—a campaign manager for Nikkita Oliver who just recently dropped out of our event Capitol Hill Pride over non support of Take B(l)ack Pride."

The Seattle Human Rights Commission responded that they would not be taking up the complaint and that it did not violate "human rights," citing the United Nation’s definition of the term.

However, the UN's Declaration on Human Rights reads: Article 2: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as Race..."Article 7: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law..." Article 27.1: "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community..."

The commission ignored the text, sided with the event organizers and scolded Capitol Hill Pride questioning the race-based ticketing structure.

"Furthermore," the Seattle Human Rights Commission wrote, "we would like to urge you to examine the very real social dynamics and ramifications of this issue. Black trans and queer peoples are among the most marginalized and persecuted peoples within the LGBTQIA2S+ community."

"They often face shame not only from cis-heteronormative community," they went on to say, "but within the queer community at large as well. In making the event free for the Black Queer community, the organizers of this event are extending a courtesy so rarely extended by providing a free and safe space to express joy, share story, and be in community."

The letter suggested that the organizers of Capitol Hill Pride just weren't educated enough on LGBTQ issues for people of color, and indicated that the Pride event wasn't intended for the enjoyment of the Capitol Hill Pride. "We would like to recommend, if possible, that you educate yourself on the harm it may cause Seattle’s BIPOC community in your pursuit of a free ticket to an event that is not meant expressly for you or your entertainment."

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