Missing the point

The recent flap over the selection of Sally Clark, 39, to replace exiting Seattle City Council member Jim Compton, a.k.a. The Frequent Flyer, highlights more than one facet of modern-day Seattle life.

Before her selection last week for the $97,000 job, Clark, 39, worked for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and, at one time in the '90s, was an aide to former City Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski (now the executive director at Lifelong).

Last week The Stranger applauded the choice of Clark, a lesbian, by the eight council members who had worked with Compton. The vote was 6 to 2 for Clark; council members David Della and Richard McIver, both ethnic minorities, originally voted against Clark but then changed their votes to make her selection unanimous.

Clark was not chosen on the first ballot.

The flap surrounding Clark's eventual choice was treated as a two-headed issue by the local dailies.

First, Clark was white, and the other five candidates who emerged from the more than 100 applicants to fill Compton's (I can't say giant) shoes, are women of color.

The second issue that emerged was twofold. First, some council members said they wanted a minority to take Compton's place - Compton is very white, if you recall.

The second issue arose once the field had been narrowed to six when it was discovered that the other five candidates, those women of color, had met over dinners in which they pledged their sisterhood. Clark was not invited to these sisterly affairs.

This is where the issue gets a little more interesting for me. But the local dailies barely mentioned two salient facts that caught my attention.

In most of America, gays and lesbians are considered minorities, too. So Clark, as a lesbian, is also a minority.

And all six of the finalists were women.

It's hard for me to believe that not one man - black, white, yellow, red or purple - didn't have qualifications equal to those of the six minority women who were chosen as the final candidates for the job. Out of 100 applicants?

Now don't get me wrong. My two daughters are African American and mixed in that order (my oldest is adopted; my biological child is the product of my only marriage, which was to an African American).

I am big on women's rights and especially African American women's rights, since that's the pigeonhole where my daughters are usually filed by the less discerning.

Yet and still, all six finalists were women. Five of them were from racial minorities; the sixth from a sexual one.

But in good old Seattle, calling attention to those facts is considered bad form.

What the dailies - which take enough surveys to know their audience - focused on was the fact that some council members publicly said they wanted a minority (racial, not gender-preferenced) to take Compton's seat. The second tempest-in-a-shotglass issue the dailies focused on was the "sisterhood" dinners, which excluded Ms. Clark.

Councilman Peter Steinbrueck was quoted in The Seattle Times as saying he thought news of the dinners "hit a nerve" with some council members. But none of the current six council members who voted for Clark's ascension would say on the record that the dinners influenced their votes - although Jean Godden did say, according to the Times, that she hoped "they'll invite me to dinner sometime."

Leave it to Jean. They don't know what they're missing if they don't invite her. Ask any former readers of her scintillating columns about license plates.

Anyway, in our little nicey-nicey Seattle way we worry more about how Clark might feel being skipped over for dinner, and the hint of possible racism such exclusion suggests, than the fact that all six (out of 100 finalists) were women, and all six were minorities.

My kids are considered black by this society. And I have written many times about my support for total equal rights for gays and lesbians, including the rights to legal marriage and all the divorce-related suffering that eventually entails for almost 60 percent of the straight people who marry in the deluded belief that marriage is forever (maybe yours is). But I cannot believe that only minorities were qualified.

Even one token dude would have mollified me a little.

I seldom scream about political correctness because most of the people who do complain about such things also complain about gay rights, the minimum wage hikes, antiwar sentiments and other prime examples of a society shriven between rich and poor, with an ever-diminishing middle class buffering the hopeless divide.

I am to the left of the mainstream Democratic Party in most of my beliefs. And I think Clark will likely be a good council member - she sure can't be any worse than Compton seemed to be. As long as she doesn't go flying around on Paul Allen's private planes and take a lot of contributions from businesses where women of all colors wear very few clothes, if any, I'll be fine with her.

As for exclusionary dinners, hey, I had some white friends back in southern Ohio who quit asking me to dinner when I married a black woman. And 15 years ago, there were hundreds of golf clubs in these United States where Tiger Woods, the only golfer as good as Jack Nicklaus in the history of what I think is the world's greatest game, wouldn't have been allowed to do anything but caddy.

So, five women of color excluding one white lady from their sisterhood ain't nothin' new. It isn't nice, but who's nice all the time?

It's a non-issue in my mind, especially compared to the issue, never really raised, that not one fella was even considered to take Compton's place.

Prejudice in any direction is wrong.

Exclusion, not just for dinner but for a chance at a good job like Seattle City Council, is wrong, too.

Hitting me because my father hit your grandfather isn't progressive. It's simply misdirected retaliation.

Let's look at something more than the color, or the lack of color, of a person's skin. And let's not get too hung up about pants versus skirts, either.

Good folks come in all shapes and sizes. Just like the bad ones.

Dennis Wilken's column appears periodically in the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at editor@capitolhilltimes.com.

[[In-content Ad]]