By Chris B. Bennett
Last week, I got a call from my good friend Kam Rashy (Camera-Shy). It’s been a while since I talked to him as he’s made some significant changes in his life – including the loss of about 45 pounds. But I’ll save that for a different story.
It turns out the he has a few relatives that work for Metro and he had some disturbing news to report.
“They are disrespecting King,” he said as his voice exploded through the phone.
“What? Who are you talking about?” I replied.
“Dr. King,” he said. “The bus drivers are disrespecting Dr. King.”
Then, as he was talking, I received a photo via email that shows a Metro Transit bus transfer that has a hole punched through the image of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is part of the King County Logo.
King County changed its logo in 2007 from a gold crown to an original graphic image of civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
According to the County’s website, Dr. King is an international icon for justice, equality, and peace, and the logo is symbolic of those same values embraced by King County on behalf of the people it serves, as a government that values inclusion, diversity and excellence.
“Did you get it,” said Kam. “Did you get my email?”
I drew silent as I looked at the image and read the email a few more times.
“Well, my friend it appears that racism, bias and the disrespect associated with it are alive and well in the only county in the United States officially named in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” I replied.
The reality of what was going on set-in as I read a memo sent out to transit workers that read as follows:
“Customers and operators alike have been noticing operators punching out the MLK logo on the transfers. This practice is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately,” the memo read.
This is 2016 and someone has the audacity to deliberately punch a hole through the image of Dr. King, in a place on a transfer where there is no reason whatsoever to place a punch. This shows the level of disrespect that exists in a city (Seattle) that markets itself as a model for diversity.
But it does not stop there. In talking with other King County employees, they claim that there are people who work for the county that refuse to wear uniforms that bear the new logo, and instead choose to wear uniforms that have the old gold crown logo (8 years after the implementation of the new logo).
“Yeah, they refuse to wear it because they don’t want to wear the image of a Black man across their chest,” said one county employee, when asked about the alleged actions of some of his fellow employees.
It’s a shame when people disrespect a man that has done so much for humanity – including better working conditions for all workers regardless of their race. It’s a shame when people will hold a grudge against someone who they’ve never met, and in some cases, who died before they were even born. It calls into question the moral integrity that is handed down from generation to generation, and how nearly 50 years after the civil rights movement that people will perpetuate bias not only towards Dr. King but what he represents.
Yes, we all would like to believe that we live in a colorblind society, and that bias, bigotry and racism no longer exist. It’s easy to believe the great marketing campaign that Seattle has going for itself. But the reality is that when you peel back the initial layer of multicultural, melting pot rhetoric that our great city wants the rest of the world to believe and get down to the nitty gritty… you quickly understand why it is that Seattle is home to the oldest chapter of the NAACP west of the Mississippi.
It’s up to us to stop the nonsense. If you receive a bus transfer that has the image of Dr. King punched out please take time to write down the route number, bus number (which is usually on both the front and back of the coach), day of the week and time of day that you received it. Then either call (206) 553-3000 or use the following link to report it: https://kingcounty-metro.force.com/customers/cs_app#/cs/driver.
Through the eyes of an ink barrel may peace be unto you!
You can follow Chris B. Bennett on Twitter @The_inkbarrel.