Racial in­jus­tice in Seat­tle

Power-wash­ing the side­walks re­calls bad times in Alabama

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

We can’t ever be too sen­si­tive about racial in­sen­si­tiv­ity, and ku­dos to­day to Larry Gos­sett, a mem­ber of the city coun­cil of Seat­tle, which is one of the most sen­si­tive cities any­where. Mr. Gos­sett is not nec­es­sar­ily a fan of the stinky stuff you col­lect on the bot­tom of your shoe when you step in some­thing a dog has left on the side­walk, but he urges cau­tion — and sen­si­tiv­ity — about how it’s cleaned up.

When two judges of the Kings County Su­pe­rior Court in Seat­tle urged the city gov­ern­ment to clean up “the un­san­i­tary and po­ten­tially fright­en­ing” con­di­tion of the side­walks around the court­house, side­walks “that reek of urine and ex­cre­ment,” Mr. Gos­sett leaped to ac­tion.

Not to clean up the side­walks, but to warn that power-wash­ing the side­walks would be “racially in­sen­si­tive” be­cause it might re­mind civil-rights ac­tivists of the wa­ter hoses used by Bull Con­nor and his cops in far­away Birm­ing­ham, Ala., a half-cen­tury ago to dis­perse civil­rights demon­stra­tors. Clean­ing up the side­walks “might be a form of mi­croag­gres­sion.”

In most places, power-wash­ing the side­walks is re­garded as a good thing, and the odor of filth and fe­ces is re­garded as a bad thing. What could be less con­tro­ver­sial than clean­li­ness, which was once said to be next to god­li­ness, but it is true that ref­er­ences to God are of­fen­sive to the god­less, of whom there is an un­gra­cious plenty. Could power-wash­ing side­walks be a vi­o­la­tion of church and state as well?

The streets around the court­house in Seat­tle are home to a home­less shel­ter and other so­cial-ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions, and power-wash­ing the side­walks could be poverty-in­sen­si­tive, too. As­saults, ha­rass­ment and drugs are plen­ti­ful on th­ese streets, and power-wash­ing could be con­strued as in­sen­si­tive to drug deal­ers, ha­rassers and oth­ers who earn their liv­ing by rob­bing and as­sault­ing. Some prospec­tive ju­rors, the judges say, have asked to be ex­cused since two ju­rors were as­saulted on nearby streets fes­tooned with fe­ces.

“When they come to this court­house they’re afraid to come in,” says Kings County Sher­iff John Urquhart. “They’re afraid to walk down Third Av­enue be­cause of what they see.” And slip and slide on, no doubt. The sher­iff has asked the county coun­cil for an ad­di­tional $8,000 to pa­trol the streets. “There’s pub­lic uri­na­tion, defe­ca­tion. That’s a crime.”

But no power-wash­ing. Some peo­ple might get the wrong idea. Ev­ery­one should just watch his step.

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