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'No, I don't know every black person on campus'

Dec 19, 2017
Eurie Dessie and Kpojo Kparyea
Courtesy of StoryCorps/Mia Warren

Eurie Dessie and Kpojo Kparyea don't want to be labeled as "angry black women." So how do they respond when they're asked if they eat fried chicken and drink Kool-Aid? Or if they know every black person on campus?

Or how about when a restaurant manager asked Dessie to "go clean it like your ancestors did."

"I wish I went off!" Dessie said.

Dessie and Kparyea talk about staying calm in the face of racism and microaggressions.

Journalist and author Ruchika Tulshyan says Amazon is not immune to the tech industry's diversity problems.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

It’s lunch time in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Employees pour out of Amazon’s headquarters. Ruchika Tulshyan sits on a bench, watching who comes and goes. 


Hiwot Taddesse, left, and Executive Chef Lisa Nakamura laugh while cooking at the Ubuntu Street Cafe on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

On a quiet side street in Kent sits the Ubuntu Street Cafe. Ubuntu, which means humanity toward others, is the brainchild of Veena Prasad, executive director of Project Feast. 

'I'm not the submissive Asian woman you think I am'

Dec 12, 2017
Moo Young Baek and Terri Hiroshima
Mia Warren, StoryCorps

"That's when I remember hearing the word 'Jap' for the first time." 

The life expectancy of Native Americans in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average.

There are many reasons why.

Some of the microaggressions noted by KUOW listeners.
KUOW Illustration

On the night of Dr. Roberto Montenegro’s dissertation defense celebration, he went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant with his wife and colleagues. He felt like he was on top of the world at the end of the night.

Until, as he stood in line waiting to claim his car from the valet stand, a woman walked up and handed him her keys. She assumed that because he was Latino, he was there to park her car.

Local residents are pressing public schools in southwest Washington’s Clark County to observe Black History Month this February.

Leading the call is Cecelia Towner, the founder and organizer of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, Washington.

Last year she was surprised to learn that observing Black History Month was largely voluntary – and a lot of local schools weren’t doing anything at all.

“At a school-wide level, it wasn’t happening. And as a district, it certainly wasn’t happening,” said Towner. “So that became the priority.”

On a melancholy Saturday this past February, Shalon Irving's "village" — the friends and family she had assembled to support her as a single mother — gathered at a funeral home in a prosperous black neighborhood in southwest Atlanta to say goodbye.

Courtesy of Spelman College/J.D. Scott

In 1997 Dr. Beverly Tatum published her acclaimed book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.” The work explores an enduring American reluctance to acknowledge the realities of racial identity development and racism. For the last 20 years, it has served as a catalyst in efforts to address those realities.

New results from an NPR survey show that large numbers of Asian-Americans experience and perceive discrimination in many areas of their daily lives. This happens despite their having average incomes that outpace other racial, ethnic and identity groups.

Flickr photo/Kian McKellar (CC By 2.0)

When Melyssa Stone was seven years old, she was chosen to play Snow White in a Disney revue at school. She wore a beautiful handmade dress, knew the words to the song she was about to perform. And even though she was nervous, Stone was excited to get on stage.

Are you sure you're handing your keys to the valet?
Flickr Photo/Caitlin Regan (CC BY 2.0)/flic.kr/p/6AB68e

On the night of Dr. Roberto Montenegro’s dissertation defense celebration, he was at a fancy restaurant and feeling on top of the world — until a woman bypassed the valet stand and handed him her keys.

Bill Radke sits down with Kevin Young, archivist at the New York Public Library and author of the new book "Bunk." The book is a catalog of hoaxes, plagiarism and flimflam of all stripes. Young argues that there’s something uniquely American about hoaxes.

"Do Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?"

I am asked this question at least once every fall. Which, by the way, is too many times.

The answer is that my family (though I can't speak for the other 5 million Indigenous people in America) doesn't. Not the "brave-pilgrims-and-friendly-savages" version of the holiday, anyway. Twenty or 30 of us might gather under the same roof to share a meal. We'll thank the creator for our blessings.

But that could be true of any Thursday night in a Wampanoag house.

It's time for another Ask Code Switch. This week, we're getting into the gray area between yellow and brown.

Amy Tran, from Minneapolis, asks:

Claudia Pineda, right, interprets for a woman who suffered domestic abuse from her 13-year-old son.
KUOW photo/Patricia Murphy

Vicky used to hide the knives in her home, but not because of the ex-husband who she says was abusive.

She was being beaten by her 13-year-old son.

November 2, 1972, two days after the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kingdome, Bob Santos led a protest. The rallying cry: HUMBOWS NOT HOT DOGS!
Courtesy Eugene M. Tagawa

The 1960s brought marches, boycotts, and moments of unrest to Seattle as the battle for civil rights played out across the country.

That was also when four local activists — Roberto Maestas, Bob Santos, Bernie Whitebear and Larry Gossett — joined together to give voice to Seattle’s minority communities. Their nickname was the Gang of Four.

The list of racist place names in Washington is long, but the state is slowly getting rid of them.

The latest is a “Squaw Creek” southwest of the town of Methow in Eastern Washington.

Most people can acknowledge that discrimination has an insidious effect on the lives of minorities, even when it's unintentional. Those effects can include being passed over for jobs for which they are qualified or shut out of housing they can afford. And most people are painfully aware of the tensions between African-Americans and police.

What happens when you're faced with a workforce that seems unwelcoming or even hostile? For people like Dennis Jackson, often the answer is to become your own boss.

In Los Angeles, he is making the best of an October heat wave by selling solar panels. Jackson says he has essentially always been an entrepreneur. He started in landscaping and moved toward solar panel installation.

Damon Bomar, owner/operator of That Brown Girl Cooks!
KUOW Photo/Katherine Banwell

We don't need statistics to see that Seattle is growing at an unprecedented rate. One neighborhood where the change is most noticeable is the Central District.


One of the paradoxes of racial discrimination is the way it can remain obscured even to the people to whom it's happening. Here's an example: In an ambitious, novel study conducted by the Urban Institute a few years ago, researchers sent actors with similar financial credentials to the same real estate or rental offices to ask about buying or renting a home or apartment.

Journalist David Neiwert
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

In the late 1970’s, David Neiwert was just getting his journalism career started. He worked at a small daily newspaper in Sand Point, Idaho, about 20 miles outside the Aryan Nations compound.

He had to figure out how the paper was going to cover the hate group.

A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."

Turunesh Gura, 78, takes a break from working on Friday, October 13, 2017, at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Turunesh Gura, 78, piled blackberry bushes into a wheelbarrow.

She was a farmer with her husband back in Ethiopia. Now an urban farm in south Seattle is helping her and other East African seniors find community in a new land.


At first glance, Mu Delta Alpha might seem like any Greek organization on UT-Austin’s campus.

It has letters, colors – teal, white and peach – and had rush week last month. While that may be pretty typical for a sorority, Mu Delta Alpha is different. It’s the first Muslim sorority on the University of Texas campus.


Free-agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL and team owners alleging that they colluded to keep him out of the league following his pregame protests during the National Anthem.

Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games last season to protest police treatment of blacks, alleges that the NFL and team owners violated anti-collusion provisions in the league's collective bargaining agreement with its players.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Hundreds of old brick buildings in Seattle are at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake – that’s clear.

Also clear: These structures are often in neighborhoods with high risk for displacement – affecting people of color and low-income households.

In the 1990s, Johnny Holmes was head of security at a high school in Blue Island, Ill., when he met Christian Picciolini, a teenage student who was the leader of a local neo-Nazi group.

"I put you through hell," 43-year-old Picciolini said to Holmes during a recent visit to StoryCorps. It was the first time in 18 years the two had sat down with each other to talk. "I mean there were fights, there were words that we had those years that I was there."

Holmes, who is 71 and a school board member now, agreed, describing Picciolini as rough at the time.

Dr. Lois James, Assistant Professor at Washington State University
Courtesy of Washington State University/Cori Medeiros

After a white police officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there were months of protest across the country, including Seattle. New attention focused on how the police interact with black people.

Now, police departments are considering whether special training can help their officers overcome their own biases.

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