Bumbershoot internship/mentorship program appears racially discriminatory

36th legislative district representative Julia Reed’s recent newsletter contains this section:


The Bumbershoot Festival is a highlight for the 36th district. It provides opportunities for local artists to showcase their work to wide audience and gives us the opportunity to see our favorite artists in our backyard.

But the festival is also an opportunity to invest in the next generation of creative professionals. That’s why I secured $150k to provide a fully-paid, tuition-free training program with internships and mentorship for students looking to enter the creative economy. This ‘festival as a classroom’ program prioritizes BIPOC students in the Puget Sound region and removes barriers to creative industry futures.” [Emphasis is mine throughout; quotes have been reformatted for consistency.]

Of course, prioritizing BIPOC is the same as penalizing non-BIPOC, so this wording is very concerning.

The Bumbershoot website’s description of the “festival as a classroom” uses less blatant language:

This is a tuition-free program designed to remove barriers of entry for underserved communities while supporting the next generation of industry professionals. We are simultaneously laying the groundwork for a more equitable and inclusive arts and music scene.

Representative Reed’s website uses neutral, non-race-based language in an earlier announcement:


Celebrating Seattle’s rich musical and artistic history makes for an amazing way to provide opportunities for our students. That’s why I was excited to see the annual Bumbershoot festival return to our district, with a renewed focus on local flavor and opportunities for local creatives to show their work and to expand their audience. It also provides space for our students to get real world experience in the creative economy thanks to the $150,000 included in this year’s budget.  

The Bumbershoot Workforce internship program provides young people interested in creative careers with paid training in festival production and technical arts. I’m glad to be able to support Bumbershoot and the next generation of creative professionals in Washington State.

The inconsistent manner in which the program is described makes it difficult to tell just how open the opened “doors” are, and just how many “barriers” were removed, and for whom. But it would seem that Rep. Reed at least perceived that the funds allotted to Bumbershoot for the internship/mentorship program would be given preferentially to non-white applicants, and felt that it was something to brag about in her newsletter.

Building racially discriminatory structures into our government and the programs it funds is toxic to the functioning of a liberal democracy, and should be avoided and opposed in every form. Frankly, we’ve been there, and done that, going in every possible direction, and it has only thrown fuel on the fires of racial resentments.

This program appears well-meaning, but seems intended to distribute its $150,000 based on race rather than relevant attributes like familial income, parents’ education, and so on. Why not target based on what we actually care about as a society, which is helping those in need? Race is a blunt instrument for achieving that goal, and very likely illegal given the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in college admissions.



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