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KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

In the early 1990s, Carmen Best was working as an accountant for a local insurance company when she saw a recruitment ad for the Seattle Police Department.

“I just wanted to do something different, try something out," she told Bill Radke. "Had no preconceived ideas about staying for a long time, or not staying, just thought I would give it a shot and see what happens.” 

Marijuana plants are shown in the flowering room at Grow Ambrosia in Seattle
KUOW Photos / Megan Farmer

Guy Nelson talks to KUOW reporter David Hyde about who still pays the price for marijuana crimes in Washington state after legalization.  

Jimi Hendrix in Seattle, February 12, 1968
Ulvis Alberts / Museum of Pop Culture permanent collection

Poor, neglected, carrying around a broom as substitute for the guitar he didn't have.  These are images of Jimi Hendrix growing up in Seattle.

And Hendrix biographer Charles R. Cross says that even when Hendrix returned to the city as a superstar to play a concert 50 years ago, on Feb. 12, 1968, he was heckled by students at his old high school. Cross says Hendrix always had a complicated relationship with Seattle, but the city should use this anniversary to do more to honor him.


Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Seattle-based writer Ijeoma Oluo has been widely recognized for some time now as a person who speaks sometimes uncomfortable truths about racism in America. That recognition reached a crescendo in recent days with the release of her first book, “So You Want to Talk About Race.”

Fifteen years ago, the Chicago Police Department started gathering information about gangs electronically. It was the next big thing at the time for police departments. The idea was to store gang intelligence in one centralized system.

"It allows us to reduce violent crime, to identify the most active gangs and gang members," says Michael Martin, a member of the the Midwest Gang Investigators Association who teaches at the National Gang Center based in Florida.

In 1998, Washington residents voted to ban affirmative action in the state’s colleges and universities. But through that initiative, government agencies have also been barred from giving preferential treatment to minority-owned businesses in contracting.

Now, lawmakers are considering repealing the ban.

Phil Yu still remembers reading “Keep Out, Claudia,” from the “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” book series. The story is about a client who did not want Claudia Kishi, a Japanese American member of the club, to babysit her kids. After some investigation, Kishi and her friends discover that the family, which also rejected another non-white babysitter, is racist.

The impact of the story on Korean American Yu, who grew up in Northern California, was lasting. It was one of the rare times he remembers reading about everyday racism as a kid.

"Racist."

Some people hear that word and picture a hood-wearing, cross-burning bigot. Others think more abstractly — they hear racist and think of policies, institutions, laws and language.

From 'people feel you don't belong here' to City Council

Jan 25, 2018
Zak Idan, Tukwila city council member
KUOW/Katherine Banwell

In early January, Zak Idan was sworn in to the Tukwila City Council. He's the first Somali refugee to be elected to office in Washington state.

Tukwila is one of the most racially diverse places in the state. But when Idan and his family arrived in the city in the late 1990s, the city was considerably whiter. As Idan told Katherine Banwell of KUOW's Race and Equity team, his family didn't experience any racism back then.

Author Ijeoma Oluo.
Photo by Nikki Closser, with permission of the author.

So, you want to talk about race.

But... do you? Reallllly? 

For most people, the real answer is no. 

File photo
Flickr Photo/Modes Rodríguez (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)https://flic.kr/p/jqyZJE

At the end of 2017, we posed a question to KUOW listeners on Facebook: Have you experienced increased anxiety or depression this year due to world events and stories in the news?

The responses poured in.

It's tricky to nail down exactly what makes someone feel like a "racial impostor." For one Code Switch follower, it's the feeling she gets from whipping out "broken but strangely colloquial Arabic" in front of other Middle Easterners.

For another — a white-passing, Native American woman — it's being treated like "just another tourist" when she shows up at powwows. And one woman described watching her white, black and Korean-American toddler bump along to the new Kendrick and wondering, "Is this allowed?"

Tommy Le's family and attorneys announce their decision to file a $20 million wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit against King County, the King County Sheriff's Office and (former) Sheriff John Urquhart in 2017.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

A new federal lawsuit says a King County sheriff’s deputy violated the civil rights of a man he shot to death last June.

Fai Mathews makes her way from Garfield high school to Westlake Park during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday, January 15, 2018, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Thousands gathered on Monday, January 15, 2018, to participate in the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. An opportunity fair, workshops and a rally preceded the march at Garfield High School. Demonstrators marched from Garfield to Westlake Park. 

Last week, Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes brought many in the audience to tears and to their feet. She was accepting an award for contributions to the world of entertainment, but the billionaire broadcaster and philanthropist decided to use her moment to tell the story of a far less celebrated woman: Recy Taylor.

When Arline Geronimus was a student at Princeton University in the late 1970s, she worked a part-time job at a school for pregnant teenagers in Trenton, N.J. She quickly noticed that the teenagers at that part-time job were suffering from chronic health conditions that her whiter, better-off Princeton classmates rarely experienced. Geronimus began to wonder: how much of the health problems that the young mothers in Trenton experienced were caused by the stresses of their environment?

Seattle Rumor Center volunteer Margaret Tashian hands a memo to center director Warren Henderson in this archival photo from July 1969.
The Seattle Times

In the late 1960s, Seattle city leaders were anxious to avoid the race riots breaking out in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Detroit.

Rather than focusing on the systemic racism at the heart of such urban uprisings, the city tried to tamp down rumors it imagined were the cause of the violence.  


James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired after he wrote a memo sharply criticizing diversity efforts at the company, has filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer alleging that the tech giant discriminates against conservative white men.

"Google executives and employees condemned Damore, his memo, and his views," according to the lawsuit, filed Monday. Damore says he was laughed at, personally insulted and attacked, before ultimately being fired in August.

The city of Seattle has settled a civil rights lawsuit from an activist of Latino descent who says he was unjustly arrested by several Seattle police officers during a rally downtown.

One of the biggest stories in a year of big stories was the intersection of sports, race and politics, and it's looking like that story won't go away in 2018.

And at several key moments one of the people who seemed right in the middle of this story was ESPN's Jemele Hill.

Back in February, ESPN relaunched the evening edition of its flagship sports news show, SportsCenter, with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith as its new anchors.

KUOW/ Gil Aegerter

The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle's Central District is a hub for black performing arts.

For years the programming at the institute was run by the city. But now a new nonprofit is taking over with new leadership.


'Black Courage': A young poet's words to her son

Jan 2, 2018
Angel Gardner, Seattle's Youth Poet Laureate 2016/17
KUOW Photo/Katherine Banwell

Angel Gardner started writing while living in a group home as a child. She wasn’t into therapy, but sometimes she wasn’t into writing in her journals either.


Activist Erica Garner has died, after suffering brain damage following a heart attack. She was 27 years old.

Co-director of HYPE, Charissa Eggleston, poses for a portrait on Saturday, August 5, 2017, at the Federal Way Boys & Girls Club in Federal Way. KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Earlier this year we told you about Kelli Lauritzen and Charissa Eggleston, two moms in Federal Way.

Alarmed at an outbreak of gun violence, they decided to act.


Dr. Ben Danielson in his office at the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic in Seattle's Central District.
KUOW photo/Patricia Murphy

In this tumultuous year, it’s been possible to wonder whether any progress will be made on racial equity.

But at the end of 2017, Dr. Ben Danielson said he’s seeing a shift in the conversation.


Nikkita Oliver: 'This year has been unexpected'

Dec 28, 2017
Nikkita Oliver, attorney, activist, and artist
Courtesy of Nikkita Oliver/Alex Garland

Back in March, Nikkita Oliver announced she would run for Seattle mayor. She said the city needed a leader "who’s going to reject the status quo and bring a new vision to the city of Seattle.”

She barely missed getting into the general election, finishing third in the primary behind Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. But her vision shaped the campaign and the conversation about what kind of place Seattle should be.

Matthew Hicks looks at his mother Tiffany as she reads his report card on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at their apartment in Auburn.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

What’s it like to finally have a place for you and your children to live, after spending most of the year homeless?

“Surreal,” said Tiffany Hicks, whose family we told you about in two stories this year (links below).


Stephan Blanford, former Seattle School Board member
KUOW photo/Megan Farmer

Stephan Blanford was the only black person on the Seattle School Board. He decided not to run again this year.

At the end of 2017, KUOW's Race and Equity Team asked him what pressing problem he saw in the city's schools. His answer: 4,000 homeless students.

The new year looks promising for Seattle's Native people

Dec 27, 2017
Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club
KUOW Photo/Katherine Banwell

According to the 2017 Count Us In survey, Native Americans in Seattle/King County are seven times more likely to be homeless than any other population.

Colleen Echohawk, the executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that serves Native people in Seattle, spoke with KUOW about the problem this last summer.


10 months later: 'There's hope after a cancer diagnosis'

Dec 26, 2017
Dr. Alexes Harris, sociology professor at the University of Washington and cancer survivor
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Ten months ago, Alexes Harris' health was precarious. She'd just had a stem cell transplant in the hopes of combating a rare form of leukemia.

The sociology professor at the University of Washington wasn't sure what the future held.

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