Category Archives: Race

Kitsap Sun Intern’s First Impressions of South Kitsap

Let me introduce Angela Lu, our intern, at least through March. She is living in South Kitsap during her stay with us. Here she shares her honest impressions of South Kitsap.

Angela says:
First impressions of SK

The very first split second I saw South Kitsap — Port Orchard to be exact — was on the evening of January 2, 2009. All I could see of the city was what my headlights and the few bright lights of local eateries would shine light on:
Dark roads.
Fred Meyer (which I’m completely new with)
A few stores and parking lots.
More trees.
A place like nothing I’ve seen before.

Maybe my thoughts and opinions would make more sense if I tell you where I’m coming from. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is half an hour (more like an hour with traffic) from Los Angeles. After graduating high school, I went to Northwestern University near Chicago to study journalism. And that is what led me here, to place I’ve never heard of, to intern for a quarter for the Kitsap Sun. After three months I’m headed back to Chicago to finish my junior year in college. Continue reading

Kitsap Residents Respond to Obama’s Speech

Following on the heels of Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia Tuesday, the Kitsap County Youth Rally for Human Rights, held Friday at Olympic College, appeared to affirm the hunger for racial unity to which Obama refers. But according to at least one participant at the rally, Kitsap still has a long ways to go.

At a workshop on the “Culture of Kitsap” that was part of the rally, Shatara Tiller, 17, talked about the unwritten rules of the lunchroom at South Kitsap High School.
There’s the senior section and the anime table, she said, drawing a diagram on the board. “Over here is all the jocks and popular kids and the cool people.”
Then there’s “brown town … If you have a tint of color in your skin, even if there aren’t enough chairs, that’s where you’ll sit. I don’t know why,” said Shatara, who is black and who serves as president of the Bremerton NAACP youth council.

Shatara’s observations elicited strong reactions in Kyle Dye, 53, a teacher at South Kitsap’s Marcus Whitman Junior High School, who is white and remembers “the whites only signs.”
“We hear the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech every year, and we think it’s all done,” he said “Actually, what you’re presenting here … I just want to go home and cry.”

The rally is hosted annually by the Kitsap County Council on Human Rights to get students thinking and talking about biases they may have about others who aren’t like them, touching on the prickly issues of race, sexual orientation, suicide and other taboo topics.

Karen Vargas, advisor to the NAACP youth council, said events like the youth rally stimulate frank discussion that’s unlikely to take place elsewhere.
“It’s got to be an intentional dialog,” she said. “If it’s not intentional, I’ve found they dance around it. It’s difficult to talk about race and bias.”

Vargas, who is black, said the Obama speech has been a hot topic in Kitsap’s black community this week. I asked her how she feels about the presidential campaign becoming, as she called it, “a race race.”
“I think it’s a good thing,” Vargas said. “The reason I think it’s a good thing is because we’re being challenged about our character. … What I think is the whole world is looking at us right now.”

Vargas said she is excited to see Obama embrace the issue of race, to crack the delicate egg shell of decorum-through-denial and let the whole messy discussion ooze out (my analogy here, not hers).

“It’s exciting times. It’s scary times,” she said. “There’s real change happening in our nation and in our world.”

Vargas, who moved here in 1992 from the East Coast, said Kitsap will need to do some serious catching up in the area of frank discussion about race. She would like to see the county and city governments appoint a multi-cultural advisory council.
“I don’t think leadership has done a good enough job to outreach to (minority) community leaders,” she said, including in her comments Kitsap’s Japanese Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Latinos.

Earlier this week I ran into my friend Mauris Emeka, riding his bike to a volunteer job at Cedar Heights Junior High. (I didn’t literally run into him, mind you.) I asked him what he thought of the Obama speech, and he said it moved him to tears. He had one point of contention with the speech, which you can read below in the letter he sent Obama:

Dear Senator Obama,

I am a 67 year old American of African decent, born and raised in the south. I am writing to thank you from the bottom of heart for ‘pouring out your soul’ in Philadelphia on yesterday — ‘telling it like it is‘. America has long needed to hear the words you uttered in that historic speech, because they can help bring a measure of healing to our country.
There is one point in the speech where I would recommend different wording. You stated that “segregated schools were and are inferior schools”. That statement misrepresents the work of many of the all-Black schools that I knew. In my view, it is more relevant to note that all-Black schools were nearly always under-funded as compared to White schools. And that sometimes resulted in unsatisfactory academic outcomes from Black schools, but certainly not always. The all-Black schools during my school years (i.e., the 1940s, 50s, and 60s) produced untold numbers of well prepared graduates, despite limited facilities at our disposal. I will never forget the compassion and dedication of many of my secondary school and college teachers. We were always encouraged to do our best with what we had; and I believe you will agree that that advice served us well.
Thanks again, Senator Obama, for the historic speech that you gave yesterday, sharing words that all Americans have long needed to hear.

…here’s wishing you The Best,

Bro. Mauris Emeka