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Sian Cullen and her daughter Aine. Cullen was a teenager in Dublin, Ireland when Aine was born. They now live in Seattle.The Seattle Story Project: First-person reflections published at These are essays, stories told on stage, photos and zines.To submit a story – or note one you've seen that deserves more notice – contact Isolde Raftery at or 206.616.2035.

9 heartbreaking responses to ‘A man shouts racial slurs at a Seattle Starbucks’

Dr. Bob Hughes of Seattle University and Yoshiko Harden of Seattle Central. Hughes and Harden were meeting at a Starbucks on Broadway in Seattle when someone came in and unfurled a string of racial slurs and explicitives at Harden.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery
Dr. Bob Hughes of Seattle University and Yoshiko Harden of Seattle Central. Hughes and Harden were meeting at a Starbucks on Broadway in Seattle when someone came in and unfurled a string of racial slurs and explicitives at Harden.

Last week we published an essay by Dr. Bob Hughes about a shocking experience at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

Hughes was meeting with a colleague, Yoshiko Harden. A man came in and screamed racial slurs at the two college administrators, who are black. The man spit on them and then left.

“My first thought was do I know him?” Harden told KUOW’s Bill Radke. “Then I thought, he’s going to kill me.”

Hughes’ essay: A man shouts racial slurs in a Seattle Starbucks. The silence is deafening

A woman approached, saying she would be a witness. But everyone else in the café returned to their coffees and electronic devices. Even the police officer who took their statements was surprised by the silence.

“Come and ask me, am I ok?” Hughes said. “Don’t ignore me. Don’t look away.”

This story hit a nerve with our readers. Many of you responded with your own stories of being insulted because you are a person of color or LGBTQ. Here are some of those stories, culled from public Facebook pages and emails.

Justin Provido

Just last weekend Charles and I were walking along Alki Beach with our dog and as someone drove by us they yelled "F**king F*ggots!" I was livid! I wanted to chase the person down, yank them out of the car, sit them down, and have a stern conversation about human rights and respect.

That didn't happen, but what did happen was a collection of stories received from friends and coworkers with similar accounts as of recent. It appears that the hateful speech is spreading in our beloved Seattle. This type of thing hasn't really happened to me since living here, one of the main reasons I moved to Seattle was due to its liberal views and support for the LGBTQ community.

[asset-images[{"caption": "A 2011 sketch by artist William at the Starbucks on Broadway, where Dr. Bob Hughes and Yoshiko Harden were spit on and called racist names.", "fid": "127018", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201606/", "attribution": "Credit Flickr Photo/William CC BY-ND 2.0"}]]Jill Habdas

I was in a store in a small suburb of the Twin Cities about 13 years ago, carrying my then 1 ½-year-old Haitian son, going down a stairway, when I meet this white guy going up the stairs who blocks my passage.

I move to the left to go around him, he moves to my left. I move to the right, he moves to my right. He is just staring at me with hate in his eyes, then he stares at the baby in my arms. I was TERRIFIED. Even though I am in a public store, I am alone at this moment in this stairway, looking racism in the face.

He makes me stand there for maybe two minutes? I dunno, it felt like an eternity at that moment. Then he spit on me and walked past me. I wasn’t strong enough to think to call the cops. I didn’t even tell anyone.

Donna Rose

I was a passenger on a bus to the airport in Chicago in the mid-1980s. A young white male rose from his seat and began cursing at me, "You ugly black bitch, you need to get the fuck off of this bus." It continued for about five minutes.

The white passengers all heard this, as did the driver, also white. They kept their eyes focused on the front. This guy started to advance toward me, and I rose to defend myself. 

From the back seat of the bus, rose an older, black man who looked as though he may have been homeless, or otherwise invisible. He shouted at that menacing young white male, as he pulled the longest knife out of his coat sleeve, "I will cut your motherfucking ass if you say one more word to that woman!"

The black guy and myself get off, I to catch another bus to the airport, and older Black man to get away, refusing to accept the money I offered him in thanks. He stated, "I just don't like that shit."

Colette Garcia Kerns

A guy did this in Walgreens here the other day. Making fun of the black manager. You bet people spoke up here. It was an old man who thought he could be a jerk! No one let it slide and told the man right where to shove it!

Susan Phan

My daughter spent the night in the hospital after a friend was attacked on Capitol Hill. They were headed to late night eats after a show. The Seattle Police categorized it as a hate crime. They did nothing to provoke the attack, no confrontation beforehand. I've been with my husband who was oblivious when he was called names. I was shaken but chose to keep walking. This is the first time I've acknowledged it.

Sarah Graham

My kids have experienced being called the 'N' word — a word they don't understand the full impact of, being from Ghana. Sometimes I STILL find myself so shocked that I just move on, not wanting to cause a scene. But I also want to be a good example to them of how to respond to these situations in the future- they won't always have their 'white mother' with them (and whether we like it or not, that's a benefit).

[asset-images[{"caption": "A sketch by Vin Ganapathy on Flickr, 2012.", "fid": "127019", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201606/ppl-linedup.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Flickr Photo/vin ganapathy CC BY-NC-ND 2.0"}]]Ritsuko Eguchi

This happened to my friend and me as we walked home together from third grade. We were 9-years-old and older boys screamed these same racial slurs at her. I didn't know what they meant at the time but I knew it caused her to run all the way home. That night my father explained to me what those awful words meant and that if anyone ever says things like that to Bianca again, or anyone else, I have to stand up for them. And I always have. I'll never stay quiet.


I was walking my dogs around St. James, as folks were leaving the dinner they provide the homeless. Three white men who had just walked out saw me. They stopped and one of them said to the others, "Look, a fucking nigger bitch and her little dogs, let's go have some fun with her."  

They started toward me, when someone walked out of the church and stepped up to talk to them. I took that opportunity to get out of there quickly. No one else who was standing around looked at me or seemed like they were going to intercede, but I don't know if they would have or not. All I knew was that I was in fear for my life and my dogs’ lives.

That experience changed my life and my perception of Seattle. And nothing has ever been the same since. 

Andrea Salazar

I'm a second-generation Mexican American female.

In the parking lot of the PCC grocery store in Issaquah, my father, my 3-year-old old daughter and I were verbally assaulted by a woman.

The woman became irate when my father, who was sitting in the car waiting for me, told her under his breath to at least apologize for hitting the car with her door. She thought nobody was in the car when she opened her door and hit my family's car.

I came out to the car witnessing the woman yelling at my father and telling him to "go back to the country you came from!" and, "You people are stealing our jobs!"

When she saw me with my daughter she raised her voice even louder and continued to yell racist remarks. My father, who immigrated to Los Angeles as a child, is not a stranger to this behavior. When he asked, “What country do you think we are from,” she said, "I don't know where you Pakistani, Middle East people come from!"

[asset-images[{"caption": "The Great Girl by Helena Perez García, 2011.", "fid": "127020", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201606/girl-tied.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Flickr Photo/Helena Perez García CC BY-NC-ND 2.0"}]]Teacher, unnamed

I have witnessed a young student of mine tell another young student, who used a racial slur, "That is SO NOT cool." It stopped the language immediately. Then the adult in the room (me) could take further action.

And general comments to Hughes’ essay:

If white people don't speak up, then we are part of the problem. If something is important, take a stand and say something. If not, don't complain when African Americans see us all as equally part of the problem. —Alexandra Olins

If you’re a person of color, a woman, or LGBT, you CANNOT depend on or expect white people, men, or heterosexuals to defend and stick up for you. You have to speak up for YOURSELF, put your foot down and make sure your voice is heard loudly and confidently as a minority. —Joseph Goodman

Living in Seattle my whole life and working mostly in downtown Seattle, this seems more indicative of the mental health crisis we have here. Downtown streets are filled with mentally ill people who are in the faces of others, screaming epithets and most people look the other way. —Margie Murray Prebo

Why is bad behavior put down to mental illness? Some people are just nasty and hateful. Look at Twitter for five minutes. Look at the people applauding Trump and clamoring for more foul remarks. Racism is everywhere. –Melanie Celeste

Well of course; when white people are told about racism they instinctively say, "Oh, relax minority, suck it up, it was probably just a crazy person." Stay #SOWHITE Seattle. —Imamu Frazier