Our Northwest

Bellevue more racially diverse than Seattle

Tuesday, March 18, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Stereotypes die hard. How does this strike you: Bellevue is more racially diverse than Seattle.
   It’s true, as spelled out in Gene Balk’s March 17 Seattle Times article. U.S. Census Data shows that Bellevue, once known for its white, middle-class, bedroom-community blandness, scores higher on the diversity index than Seattle.
   Balk’s article points out that Bellevue’s diversity is spread across the city, whereas Seattle’s highly diverse neighborhoods are clumped together.
   Most interesting to me is that my childhood neighborhood, West Lake Hills, is the most diverse area of Bellevue. Demographic data shows it’s 33% white, 27% Asian, 26% Hispanic, 8% black, and 6% other.
   When I lived there from 1956-74, Lake Hills appeared almost entirely white. My third-grade class picture (above) reveals as much. Even now-diverse Crossroads seemed the same.
   I knew Lake Hills’ makeup had changed five years ago, when I started tutoring kids at Jubilee REACH Center, one block away from my childhood home. Most of our students come from nearby Lake Hills Elementary, my old school. It serves many struggling families, and the school population is radically different:

  • 24% are white; 42% are Hispanic, 22% Asian
  • 57% of students speak a first language other than English
  • 40% of students receive English Language Learner services
  • 67% qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches
  • Across Bellevue School District, 83 languages are spoken.

   Lake Hills embodies diversity. The next time someone razzes me for growing up in “Blah-vue,” I’ll point out the old ‘hood has changed.
   More diverse than Seattle? In the 1960s, who would have thunk it?

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