Washington state is known for its progressive values and diverse culture, but it also has a dark history of racism and segregation. According to a recent study by Saturday Night Science, a research project from the Virginia Commonwealth University, the most historically racist city in Washington is Fall City, a small town in King County.
How the study measured racism
The study used data from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacist hate group that has been active in the United States since the 1860s. The KKK has had three major waves of activity, each targeting different groups of people, such as African Americans, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and civil rights activists.
The study mapped the locations of KKK organizations, or Klaverns, in each state from 1915 to 1940, the period of the second wave of the KKK. The study then divided the number of Klaverns by the current population of each city or county to get a measure of historical racism.
Why Fall City is the most racist city in Washington
According to the study, Fall City had the highest number of Klaverns per capita in Washington, with 0.0005 Klaverns. This means that for every 2,000 people who live in Fall City today, there was one Klavern in the past. Fall City had a total of two Klaverns, which is the same number as Bellingham, the city with the most Klaverns in absolute terms. However, Bellingham has a much larger population than Fall City, so its Klaverns per capita ratio is lower.
Fall City is a rural community that was founded in the 1850s by settlers who came from the Midwest and the South. The town was named after a waterfall on the Snoqualmie River, which was a popular fishing spot for the Native Americans who lived in the area. The town’s history is marked by conflicts and violence between the settlers and the natives, as well as between different groups of immigrants, such as Germans, Scandinavians, and Italians.
Fall City’s proximity to Seattle, the largest and most diverse city in Washington, may also have contributed to its racist attitudes. The study found that the KKK was more active in areas that were close to urban centers, where they felt threatened by the influx of people of color and different religions. The KKK also targeted labor unions, socialists, and feminists, who were more prevalent in the cities.
How Fall City compares to other cities in Washington
The study ranked the top 10 most historically racist places in Washington, based on the number of Klaverns per capita. Here is the list, along with the number of Klaverns and the current population:
- Fall City: 0.0005 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 4,000 population
- Colfax: 0.0004 Klaverns per capita, 1 Klavern, 2,500 population
- Raymond: 0.0003 Klaverns per capita, 1 Klavern, 3,000 population
- Buckley: 0.0003 Klaverns per capita, 1 Klavern, 3,500 population
- Woodland: 0.0003 Klaverns per capita, 1 Klavern, 3,500 population
- Kelso: 0.0002 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 12,000 population
- Centralia: 0.0002 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 17,000 population
- Walla Walla: 0.0002 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 33,000 population
- Mount Vernon: 0.0002 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 35,000 population
- Bellingham: 0.0001 Klaverns per capita, 2 Klaverns, 90,000 population
The study also mapped the racial segregation patterns for the major cities in Washington, such as Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Everett, Vancouver, and the Tri-Cities. The maps show how different racial groups have been distributed in the cities from 1940 to 2020, based on census tract data. The maps reveal that some cities have become more diverse and integrated over time, while others have remained segregated or even become more so.
The study by Saturday Night Science provides a historical perspective on the racism and segregation that have shaped Washington state. The study shows that Fall City is the most historically racist city in the state, based on the number of KKK organizations that existed there in the past.
The study also shows how other cities and counties in Washington have experienced different degrees of racism and segregation over time, depending on various factors, such as geography, economy, politics, and culture. The study does not claim to reflect the current state of racism and segregation in Washington, nor does it judge the current people who live in the places that were historically racist.
The study aims to raise awareness and spark discussion about the history and legacy of racism and segregation in Washington, and how they have affected the lives and opportunities of people of color and other marginalized groups. The study also hopes to inspire further research and action to combat racism and promote diversity and inclusion in Washington and beyond.