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December 1, 2009 at 4:01 PM

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Councilmember Bruce Harrell on race and inclusion

Posted by Letters Editor

Strongest candidates — regardless of race — will win

Editor, The Times:

I enjoyed Bruce Harrell’s well-written guest commentary “The value of inclusiveness” [Opinion, Nov. 28], but as a member of the white (privileged) majority, I take issue with a few points.

Back in the 1990s I voted for Gary Locke, Norm Rice and Ron Sims and other elected officials of color. Could it be that my vote was cast in favor of the best-qualified candidates?

In 2008 I voted for President Barack Obama because I hoped he would lead us from where we were. I think he was the stronger candidate. In 2009, I followed the same pattern, and voted for the candidates whom I thought were the most qualified.

In doing so, I helped vote out a member of my group.

When Bruce Harrell runs again, I plan to use the same criteria and vote for the person who fits my definition as the strongest candidate. I hope it’s Harrell.

In the meantime, if Harrell speaks for candidates of color I can only provide my formula for bringing back more elected people of color — find and put up the strongest candidates. Good luck in this quest.

— Larry Granat, Seattle

Family is the factor in poverty

Racial inclusion is a laudable goal, but Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s approach to the issue troubles me.

It appears Harrell has bought into the concept of white privilege. This is the idea that white people enjoy unearned social, educational and financial benefits simply by being white, although they may not be individually racist or even be aware of their advantages.

Some proponents of this theory argue that social justice in America is impossible unless whites acknowledge that they’re part of an oppressive class and that they reject not only racism, but individualism and free enterprise.

Has racial discrimination disappeared from our society? Unfortunately, no. Are there institutional issues yet to be addressed? Certainly. But I submit that in the 21st century, a far more important factor is the family. There’s a strong association between the percentage of minority kids living in poverty and those living in single-parent households.

So let’s work to make sure the doors are open equally to everyone. Let’s do what we can to help families become more stable. Let’s emphasize the values of hard work, individual responsibility and education. And let’s reject the silly stuff — like white privilege.

Trying to lay a guilt trip on any racial group is neither fair nor an effective way to solve our problems.

— Phillip Johnson, Seattle

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