A Letter From a Young, Black, First-Gen Journalist 

by Amina Ibrahim

Last week all of my identities were under attack. It laid bare just how little this system respects all that I am.

Seattle, I am disappointed. Your political system, which was never intended to serve me, your police force, which was never intended to protect me, and white allies, whose intent doesn’t always match their impact, have failed me.

As a young Black person, I have been angry and sad over the murder of Geroge Floyd. I have been disappointed about my city’s response to people protesting this murder. Over the past week, I have watched countless videos of the Seattle Police Department, in riot gear, tear-gassing peaceful protestors. The night of June 1, I watched videos of journalists and citizens running through the Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I used to call home, as police threw flashbangs, and sprayed tear gas, and pepper spray at people.

I want to make one thing clear. This response from the Seattle Police Department is a choice. Donning riot gear to a peaceful protest is an act of aggression. You are displaying your already thinly veiled intentions. You do not have to come out in riot gear. You do not have to attack peaceful protestors.

Civilians who are protesting the unarmed murder of a Black man by police are being met with violent police. The irony is evident.

As a journalist, I am seeing mainstream media fail to report accurate and unbiased stories. In a now viral video there is a clip showing a scene of a white woman clearly looting from a downtown department store.  The reporter says, “ I can only hope that this person isn’t stealing and that maybe they are an employee,”. It is obvious that this white woman is not an employee. This kind of benefit of the doubt is rarely given to Black and brown people. In fact, the worst is always assumed.

I have seen reporters focus on looting, instead of the actual cause that has people protesting out on the street. Despite reports and video showing violence and destruction being perpetrated by white citizens, I have seen white journalists emphasize the misconduct of people of color.

This kind of reporting is problematic at best, and perpetuates the distrust that communities of color have with the media. To my fellow journalists, who are white, DO BETTER.

As a Seattlite, I am disappointed in our Mayor, and her lack of leadership. The fact that Mayor Durkan is indifferent to police violence against protestors is disheartening. In press conferences, she has said that police will not be violent towards peaceful protestors, but it keeps happening. Not addressing this not only makes you complacent, it makes you in support of police violence. This is not the time to be silent or indifferent. Apathy is not an option.

As a child of a refugee who escaped war, this experience triggers past traumas for some of our community members. Over the weekend I saw the impacts of it as I watched the news with my mother. Seeing cars and buildings on fire, and police using violent force against citizens brought flashbacks of the war she fled more than 26 years ago.

I have reflected a lot during these sleepless nights. The institutions that others depend on have failed me and people who look like me. However, as a Black individual, a Black journalist, a Black daughter of immigrants, I understand that these institutions were never made for me. They are beyond repair as they are doing exactly what they were created to do.

These institutions must be completely torn down and rebuilt from the ground up to serve everyone, equitably. So that I can be a young Black, First Gen, Journalist in celebration, and not in fear.

In love and solidarity, 

Amina Ibrahim  

P.S. white people:

You have a responsibility. If your only reason for not supporting this movement is because people are rioting and looting, you would have always found a reason to not support this cause. Damaged property is not more valuable than Black life.

You will not be able to dismantle white supremacy and racism until you first admit that it has always been a fundamental part of the United States. It is built into everything you have been taught. It is the foundation of our systems. Maybe you are not condoning police brutality, or calling people racial slurs, but ask yourself these questions:

Do I call out racism and microaggressions when I see and hear them? Have I challenged racism or racist rhetoric in my family or community? Am I willing to be uncomfortable, stay uncomfortable, and follow the lead of Black people in this movement? 

Amina Ibrahim is a journalist and activist with a passion for reporting about underrepresented communities and her South Seattle neighborhood. She has previously done audio work that has aired on KUOW.

Featured image by Alex Garland