Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long gives talk at BC on fixing racial discrimination in housing documents

Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long spoke at Bellevue College last week, speaking mainly about an article she wrote regarding racially discriminating language in deeds in the Seattle area.

On Long’s first slide, there were many clippings including examples of the racially restrictive covenants. “No person of any race other than the White or Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot,” said one of them. “No race or nationality other than those of the Caucasian now shall use or occupy any lot,” stated another.

Long spoke about what she found while investigating the language used in these deeds. “If you own a house in Broadmoor, Capitol Hill, View Ridge, Queen Anne or more than a dozen other Seattle neighborhoods, there’s a good chance that the property deed allows only white people the land it sits on” stated Long, in the first line of her story. “The deed to your Seattle-area home may contain racist language. Here’s how to fix it.”

“They date back to a time when racial discrimination was explicitly allowed in King County,” stated Long in her article, “But now, you can fix it – at least on paper. As of Jan. 1, a new law allows you to file a request with the county auditor striking the discriminatory language from your deed. There’s no fee, and no need to hire a lawyer.”

While these covenants can be crossed out, “the covenants can’t ever be completely removed, because they are part of the property record,” according to Long.

Long’s article goes into detail regarding the legality of these covenants. “Even though the covenants cannot be enforced, they’re often a shock to homeowners who read their deeds or research their house’s history.”

Long discussed her interest in history as a large reason for why she felt invested in this story. “I think it’s really important to understand what happened before to understand what is happening now.”

Along with Long’s interest in history, “My goal was to say ‘hey, you might be really surprised, but if you own a house you might have a racially restrictive covenant.”

“I get a lot of emails from people and calls from people who found this racist language in their deed or their covenant” stated Long in her lecture. “Some people even refused to sign the deed until the language was struck.”

Photograph by Penny Yeh, The Watchdog