Summer Reading Contest Winner Week 1: On ‘I’m a Black American. I Had to Get Out.’

Summer Reading Contest Winner Week 1: On ‘I’m a Black American. I Had to Get Out.’

Ula Ekmecic, 16, from Roosevelt High School in Seattle chose an Opinion essay headlined “I’m a Black American. I Had to Get Out” and wrote:

Tiffanie Drayton fled to Trinidad to escape racism in America. All my friends have to do is re-curate their Instagram feeds.

I live in rich, white, North Seattle. Since the outcry following the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter to the forefront of news, social media, and daily conversation, I have seen people come together for humanity in a way I have never before. But in the periphery of my vision, I can see the tide turning.

Classmates have begun to take down the links to petitions from their bios. Story posts highlighting their rage over the deaths of Oluwatoyin Salau, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks have become interspersed with pictures of their 3-course brunch and throwback photos for a friend’s birthday.

They took a bite out of real America, racist America, and decided that one piece was enough. They decided that 3 weeks of action was enough to compensate for 243 years of inequality.

Reading “I’m a Black American. I Had To Get Out,” made me feel momentarily suffocated. Drayton described “The brilliant American landscape…[being] ruined by anti-blackness” and it was overwhelming. I am a person of color, but I am not black. I don’t feel like I’m being pushed into becoming a refugee from my own country.

Even as I write this I have the urge to turn on Gossip Girl and hide. But I don’t. Because the difference between me and Drayton is that I feel discomfort with my shifting reality. Surface-level fear. Drayton is scared for her life.


In alphabetical order by the writer’s first name.

Alexa Marsh on “Why Do People Love Games?

Ava on “I’m Finally an Angry Black Man

Benjamin Choi on “They Fled Asia as Refugees. Now They Are Caught in the Middle of Minneapolis.

Bethany on “Doctors are Covid’s First Historians

Elizabeth Hirschfeld on “America, This Is Your Chance

Ellie Klibaner-Schiff on “New York Times Says Senator’s Op-Ed Did Not Meet Standards

Moniola on “I’m Finally an Angry Black Man

Rina on “Why I’ve Stopped Telling People I’m Not Chinese

Samantha on “Silver Lining to the Mask? Not Having to Smile” (published in print with the headline: “How Emotions Play Out Behind the Masks”)