Leo’s Interview With Linda

Civil Rights Movement In Seattle

Linda is an African-American woman, mother, and grandmother. She was born, raised, and is currently living in the Seattle, WA area. As a lifelong resident, she has seen the city evolve and adapt through different historic moments, including the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Linda grew up in the housing projects of Seattle, adding another layer to her intersectionality that makes her perspective that much more unique. From my experience as a lifelong Seattle resident myself, the city has presented itself as an inclusive, welcoming place, but I have not noticed a great amount of diversity, especially in regard to race. It is for this reason that I was so excited to talk with Linda and hopefully see the city in a new way.

“I did grow up in the…Seattle housing projects and I guess I really didn’t quite understand all the impacts…of being Black in Seattle but…in the projects there were just all…different types of races represented. We all played together, we all got along together.”

Linda grew up surrounded by a very diverse group of people in a city where that is not necessarily common, especially during this time period. The importance of having this kind of an experience as a young person cannot be understated. Being exposed to different cultures as a child will undoubtedly have an impact on how one views the world going forward. As a person who holds a great amount of privilege, this is something I try to remember as much as possible. It is my responsibility to listen and engage with people who come from vastly different background than my own.

Additionally, this detail in Linda’s upbringing of growing up in the housing projects speaks to another element of intersectionality: class. It speaks volumes that the most effective place to experience a wide range of diversity in Seattle is within low-income housing communities. In her speech titled “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” Audre Lorde describes the “mythical norm” of a person’s identity being a person who is white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure. It when a person’s identity deviates from two or more of these attributes that the idea of intersectional oppression begins to come into play. Growing up in a low-income housing community populated mainly by people of color means that intersectionality is going to play a role in almost every person’s life, which presents an enormous amount of unique perspective and worldview.

“First of all I’m Black and my husband is White and when were looking for an apartment, we looked at two houses first and each time we looked at a house, the landlord said, ‘well you know, we just don’t have any left, we just rented that one’…Then the third one I stayed in the car that time because I thought, maybe it is what we think it is.”

Interracial marriage is a concept that, at least in my life, is not at all controversial. It has been successfully normalized as the percentage of marriages being mixed-race in the United States continues to rapidly rise. However, there is some important context once reminded of the fact that interracial marriage was only universally permitted in all 50 states in June of 1967. Most had already repealed the racist laws by this point, including Washington State as early as 1868, but the fact that it was made universal only about fifty years ago highlights the racist foundations on which this country was built.

Linda has been in an interracial marriage for 55 years, meaning that her marriage took place in a time when this was not entirely common. She mentions a few difficult instances of discrimination such as the one recounted above, as well as a concern over where her husband would be stationed in the military to ensure that they could remain together safely. Thankfully though, she recounts the experience with both of their families has being positive. She invokes her family’s past in the housing projects as contributing to their accepting attitude, which further emphasizes the important of being exposed to all types of people in your daily life.

“I remember the Martin Luther King ‘I Have A Dream’ march in D.C. and from what…was done there, we had…local chapters here in Seattle that would address those issues not so much in particular women but you could say women of color and men of color.”

Linda’s age puts her in a position to have been very well aware of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She mentions being part of local chapters that worked to use the momentum from historic marches in the South to progress change in the Seattle area. However, she also mentions much of the movement that she observed remaining focused on the South, perhaps due to Seattle being much more inclusive especially in comparison to other parts to the country.

“I’m very proud of Seattle and the way they’ve embraced…different nationalities here.”

When bringing the conversation to a more recent topic, Linda drew a connection between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black Power movement of the 1960s, which was a fight for equality in a more general sense as opposed to the specific focus of BLM on criminal justice reform and police brutality.

“It’s been a challenging year…Back in the 60s…there was a movement called the Black Power movement and we just put our fists up in the air…it was a nonviolent type of symbol…it more or less stood against racial segregation…and when this Black Lives Matter movement came around…I looked it up just to kind of get more insight of what’s there to explore and I saw that it was…specifically for the criminal justice reforms…So I thought well there you go, it’s the same thing just a new title.”

She also provided me with some advice to remain as open and welcoming as possible, which reminded me of the article by Sandra Kim, titled “Here’s Why White Allies Can Get So Overwhelmed and Confused About What To Do Next About Racism,” which provided many helpful, concrete tips to white people who are trying to help as much as possible. I know that it’s easy to feel powerless as someone who benefits from the privilege that I hold, but it’s important to keep momentum going even after the movement has shifted out of the mainstream spotlight.

“I think back to the Martin Luther King speech when he said that we can be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. I just trust and pray that our kids will see that more. We’re a sports family so I trust that they’ll see more blacks as quarterbacks and coaches…they can be quarterbacks and be on TV, they can see an all-black cast.”

Toward the end of our conversation, Linda speaks to the future that she is hopeful her children and grandchildren will be experiencing. Her point about representation in media, including sports and television, is highly important. In Dr. Stacy Smith’s report titled “The Ticket to Inclusion,” she speaks to the issue of diverse representation in media. While it is definitely on the rise, there is still a great deal of work to be done and seeing strong diverse characters in film and television is extremely important especially for generations growing up on this media.

“I want to honor my past and [share] some of the things that I’ve gone through. Things will be better as we continue to move on and get involved.”

Linda ended our discussion on a very positive, hopeful note. I learned so much during my conversation and feel truly honored to have had this opportunity. Linda’s perspective is that things are getting better in terms of inclusion and acceptance, especially in the Seattle area, but that doesn’t mean that we can stop fighting. Continuing to support and uplift these diverse voices is going to be a major focus of mine and I hope to do as much as I can in the future.

INTERVIEW WITH LINDA

SOURCES:

Kim, Sandra. “Here’s Why White Allies Get Overwhelmed and Confused About What To Do.” Re-Becoming Human, Sandra Kim, www.sandrakim.com/heres-why-white-allies-dont-know-what-to-do-next?mc_cid=e6a1b89a30&mc_eid=d98fd8e36f.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College, Apr. 1980.

Smith, Stacy L., et al. The Ticket To Inclusion. USC Annenberg, Feb. 2020.