A boy's dirty hands holding a cardboard house

OPINION | My Tukwila Is Not the Same

by Ruba Ayub

Every day, I take the A Line to the Tukwila light rail station from my home, then I walk from the station to work at an elementary school. On my walk, I pass new buildings — the type that you see in Seattle’s bougie areas — overpriced apartments, justice centers, and other expensive urban infrastructures typically protected by over-policing and built-over, bulldozed Black, Brown, and immigrant-owned shops and community spaces. 

In Tukwila, the very few immigrant-owned businesses that are now left pay an enormous amount of money to landlords to keep their doors open and their legacies alive. Many of these businesses struggle to keep up with the rising costs of rent, parking, food, and child care. As more gentrifiers come into my city, I see a higher rate of unhoused folks on the streets. Every day it feels like more people have lost their homes to new hotels, police stations, parking lots, and apartments. Most impacted are Black, Brown, and immigrant families who have been forced to move farther south in King County, away from their community in Seattle. 

My community is disappearing — my Tukwila is not the same. 

On my walk, I see American flags hanging on apartments, white people jogging as police cars guard them like their own personal security, and white librarians surveilling Black and Brown youth outside and inside the library. On the streets, unhoused folks are forced to find rest on the sidewalks, at bus stops, and in alleys in hot weather. Every day, I see cops on the streets doing nothing but chilling in their cars, eating McDonald’s, or harassing and arresting Black and Brown unhoused people. One time, I saw an unhoused person have a seizure right in front of a cop who did nothing but watch. I wonder what the cop would’ve done if the victim was a white man or woman. 

Arresting people for being homeless is a violation of human rights. People need housing, safety, employment, food, stability, community support, and money. Calling the cops on unhoused people or harassing or stereotyping them because they don’t have a roof over their heads is neither help nor an act of kindness. 

I don’t believe the police do anything for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrant, and queer communities, except subject them to more violence. The police do not prevent crimes. They respond with violence when a white person is harmed or the white law isn’t obeyed. The institution of policing is built on violence and operates to preserve the status quo, serve the rich, and perpetuate racial violence and uphold capitalism. 

If you want to feel “fragility” about the people on the streets, instead be angry at the City Councilmembers who do nothing but make fake promises to keep people housed and safe. We need to hold Tukwila City Councilmembers and all politicians accountable for breaking their verbal promises of defunding the police and reallocating those funds and additional funding to social services made during protests and marches. As a wealthy city funded by our tax dollars, the city should be investing in free health care (mental and physical), housing, rehabilitation services, child care, food sovereignty, elementary and higher education, and all community-based pantries, events, and healing spaces. We need free and affordable mental health services and housing for families, unhoused folks, immigrants, refugees, people with no documentation, people escaping violence at home, and the elderly. We need medical treatment, rehab, and other services for people with substance abuse disorders. We should build capacity for community pantries, events, and community-led healing spaces for those seeking emotional and mental support. And we need to make an investment in the education of our children that could include free child care and after-school programs, as well as higher pay for teachers and smaller class sizes. 

I am tired of fake sympathy and apologies from Tukwila Councilmembers who do not keep their promises of serving the people, but actively criminalize poverty and BIPOC people. I believe we all, in particular BIPOC communities, deserve to feel safe in and on our streets. People need to come first! For those who want to apply pressure and seek to hold councilmembers and politicians accountable to their words, you can demand that councilmembers go out on the streets and see things for themselves, and demand that they start working to house the unhoused and families in need and centering their voices to ensure we identify solutions to systemic problems like homelessness. 

But because of the Council’s harmful actions, I personally do not rely on the Tukwila City Council to change our city and to do better for our people. My friends and I have been disrespected numerous times by Councilmembers and City of Tukwila staff. I am tired of negotiating with Councilmembers who do not care about the people. Therefore, I choose to fight to bring resources back to the community by writing this piece to call on Councilmembers to act now.

I, along with the people of the city, demand an investment in community care networks that are led by people from the community with direct lived experience of these harmful systems. The Council needs to work on keeping people in their homes. They need to connect with community organizers and residents of Tukwila and ask for their input, ideas, and beliefs while working to shift decision-making power to the community. As I fight to bring resources back to the community, I will continue to practice mutual aid and organize community events and healing spaces. 

I just want to scream out my anger — “No gentrifiers coming into my neighborhood!” If you are a privileged person working tech or luxurious jobs, don’t come here. Don’t contribute to gentrification. Don’t disrupt our neighborhood’s cultural traditions. Don’t police our choices and decisions. Stop calling the cops on our Children of Color. Also, police officers, stop wearing shoes at my mosque and surveilling Black, Brown, and Muslim people. Police, stop harassing our people, quit your jobs, and get out of our city! DEFUND THE POLICE NOW!

Every day, when I get to my job and meet my kids, I see the future in their eyes. They remind me that we collectively need to do better for our children and future generations. We need to model for them what safety, protection, and care look like. We need to build a future that ensures they are going to be able to thrive. We must keep going for our future generations so they can get to experience peace and love in the community. Build a future where the community stays together, their families are well, and I get to remain their teacher. 

My call for action is that housing must be made affordable for families and individuals, especially the folks facing homelessness and eviction now. Mental health resources and support services must be funded for houseless, BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee communities now. 

The war on the poor stops now. 

Thank you to my friend and mentor Mateo Hernandez, Emmanuel Thornton (artist name @Jariim), Tru (org name @FTP206), Anab Nur, and Nura Ahmed for feedback and emotional support on this piece.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Ruba Ayub can be found on Instagram @rubadabest__. Ayub is actively composing poems for an upcoming poem book. If you have any resources that’ll benefit Ayubs community, please reach out to rubaayub31@gmail.com.

📸 Featured image by Roman Bodnarchuk/Shutterstock.com.

Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. 
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. 
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!