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Ijeoma Oluo on Seattle: ‘We are NOT a liberal city’

caption: Ijeoma Oluo backstage at Town Hall Seattle
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Ijeoma Oluo backstage at Town Hall Seattle
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Almost two years ago, Seattle-based writer Ijeoma Oluo published her book “So You Want to Talk About Race.”

She had finished the work before Donald Trump became president. She doubts it would have become the best-seller it is if he hadn’t.

“Election day happened, and all of the sudden white people were messaging me going ‘What went wrooong? We have a proooblem!”

Oluo has toured the country for her book and other projects. She knew taking on the issue of race the way she had would make her a target.

She returned from a recent trip to text messages alerting her that an anonymous harasser had “swatted” her house, sending police on a false emergency call. She was on a plane and couldn’t call her son, who was home asleep.

If you’re a privileged white person like me, listening to Oluo’s message can be a challenge. She asks, pleads and sometimes demands that white people take responsibility for systematic racism. Most of us would probably say we deplore that system and want it to go away, but what are we willing to do about it?

“White Seattle has gotten way too many free passes to call themselves liberal," Oluo said at Town Hall Seattle on October 2.

"When we look at the bills we pass; the way we fund our education; the way in which we look at policing; the way in which we treat poor and homeless people; the way in which we treat addicted people.

"We are NOT a liberal city. And part of why I wrote was because I was realizing—I grew up here—that this wasn’t my community. They were never going to have my back. People would come out harder for recycling than they would come out for Black Lives Matter.”

Ijeoma Oluo spoke with her friend and former colleague, writer and film maker Charles Mudede, at Town Hall Seattle on October 2. KUOW’s Sonya Harris recorded the event.

Please note: This recording contains unedited language of an adult nature.

This episode originally aired in October, 2019.

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