Calling all curmudgeons in Federal Way and beyond to take a good look at yourself. All I am asking is that you look in a mirror and describe your reflection. Now close your eyes and describe in your mind’s eye how many years back that reflection goes.
Maybe you can feel a sense of place and the long arc of your human journey. As you muse about what you see, think about your world view and then as you go about your day, look at the diversity of faces you see surrounding you in our community – our country.
If you take a DNA test you might find out what kind of mutt you really are. I took a test and learned that I am an eclectic mix of European – Great Britain, Scandinavian, Wales/Scottish/Irish and European Jewish. So, from that exercise I learned I reflect a reality of being a blended European immigrant born in America.
Written on the base of the Statue of Liberty are the following words written by American poet Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
What is your American story, your Federal Way story? The reason I ask these questions is that we as a nation and community are continually evolving. In today’s current American experience, we are talking about border walls and actively seeking to decrease immigration and deport dreamers and multi-year illegal immigrants who have pursued the American dream and have no history of criminal activity. Recently added to the deportation target list are immigrants serving in the military as a path to citizenship.
So, in your reflection, do you see a person who wants to close our borders, or do you see what others saw in the potential of a new beginning when your ancestors left whatever port they called home and came to America in search of a better future?
If you are a Native American, you may wish that the kings, queens, colonizers, religious zealots and treasure hunters of Europe never found the shores of what became America. History books treat Native Americans as rubes, savages and certainly not as intellectual or cultural equals. They were people to be dealt with as collateral damage as the policies of exploitation and manifest destiny took root.
Native Americans have a rich history and world view that has been diminished and overshadowed by a colonizer’s history and that of a new nation with ambition. Appreciating and acknowledging this country’s history through the lens of the vanquished, enslaved, rounded-up and interred during war, or deported, is complicated and essential as our diversity grows.
It is vital that we seek understanding in the reflection we see in each of our respective mirrors and ask ourselves, are we really that different? What is the history you see going back multiple generations and how does that shape your world view? What makes you think your world view is the best path – the only path?
Think about the ethnic profile of Federal Way and how it has changed. In 1990, when the city incorporated, 67,000 residents called this city home. At that time Federal Way’s ethnic makeup was: 87.7 percent white, 4 percent black, 0.9 percent American Indian, 7.2 percent Asian, and 1.2 percent other.
Curmudgeons come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, colors, religions, world views, intellectual and economic capabilities, personalities, and some may think different planets. Knowing that at one time the curmudgeons in Federal Way were mostly white, it is important to see how this city has changed. In 2016, with a population of 97,000 the city had become: 58 percent white, 10.9 percent black, 0.8 percent American Indian, 13.6 Asian, 17.7 percent Hispanic and within that mix, 7.5 percent identified as two or more races.
So, what flavor curmudgeon are you? Are you accepting of the changes? Are you the change? I believe that some of you are angry because you see more diversity and poverty creeping into your once predominantly middle-class white city.
Is your world view a reflection of the ideals expressed in Emma Lazarus’s poem and the potential that is America? Or has it been negatively shaped, by family, peer pressure, choice of news sources, propaganda, religious bigotry, political lies, or personal experience? Regardless, we need to be mindful that it is important to have higher expectations for our community and ourselves in order to facilitate a better experience for everyone who chooses to live in Federal Way.
Federal Way is a reflection of the constant that is America. Our challenge is to make our growing diversity a valued choice in the region. Elected officials and community leaders should be challenged to establish better opportunities for inclusion, education, community outreach, cultural programs, the arts, business collaboration, and embrace the energy of newcomers to thrive.
Poverty is a greater concern to our community than diversity. Expecting more and investing in people’s lives with dignity will increase community value. As a community, we need to continue raising the expectations we have of ourselves, individually and collectively, to be better, do more and be positive advocates for diversity and inclusiveness. Our future depends on it.
Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.