SEATTLE - Do you believe racial inequality is a problem in America? If so, do we all have a responsibility to fix it? Many are asking these questions following the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.
Some of the most influential people in the Black Lives Matter movement have also been some of the youngest.
The story of a 26-year-old Seattle woman may just change your perspective. She says after speaking up and sharing her experience, she's become the target of white nationalists. Fearing for her family's safety, she asked us not to use her name, so we'll call her "J."
“I’ve always described racism as somebody comes up to you and starts screaming," J said. "And nobody can hear it around you. It’s just this experience that you’re having.”
For J, the death of George Floyd brought out emotions and reflections about her own experiences with police brutality.
“Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Black people should not have to live in fear,” J said.
Our interview with J was interrupted by screaming from across the street. So J moved in to get a better look.
“I see a police car. I don’t see a police presence," she said.
'Why immediately did you want to go see what was going on?" Q13 News asked.
"Because being a demonstrator doesn’t just happen when there are a bunch of people around," J said. "It’s all the time. When you see something, you say something. ”
"Part of the reason George Floyd is dead is because people stood there with their phones in their hands and watched and recorded, instead of interjecting themselves into a moment that could have been intercepted.
A "take action" attitude, that for J, has deep roots in the city of Seattle.
“My grandfather was fighting here in the Central District in downtown Seattle to have Black banks, to have Black grocery stores, working with the Back Panther movement and things of that nature.”
J showed us the spot in Westlake Park where she attended her first protest as a 13-year-old.
“When you are sitting in school and you’re learning about slavery for the first time and you are learning about a chapter, and you are having that conversation at home and I know this is much more than a chapter in a book," J said. "And challenging those concepts in school which led to challenging those concepts in college, challenging those concepts in the streets.”
For J, the recent protests revealed pain, but also a promise and opportunity for what she believes could be a breakthrough to finally confront systemic racism.
“If you could all take a moment and look around right now and see how people are crowded together. This is what it is supposed to look like every single day," she said.
She's helping to mobilize a youth-driven, multi-racial movement focused on fundamental change.
“Being liked by people is not the point of this movement,” J said. "If this is uncomfortable for White people right now, it should give a small window for how uncomfortable Black people have been for so long.”
We asked J what she wants people to know about this moment in time.
"I want them to know it shouldn’t have required George Floyd being murdered in the way that he was for this to come to the forefront and strike a chord with America. This is all of our problem.”
This young but powerful voice has been joined by thousands of others, believing together racial justice can become reality.
“I see a lot of potential for Seattle still ... I see a lot of opportunity for Seattle still.”
J believes achieving racial justice and ending police brutality will require defunding the police and moving much of that money into programs that support the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities.