Dear Media, a letter to you from a Saudi Arabian Muslim girl born in 1992

Afnan Linjawi, Effat University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia 

Dear Media,

It was a summer breeze that made me first open my eyes

I was too little to see, but old enough to hear my mother’s cries

I heard her croon to me as she cuddled her first baby

But I also heard a boom before she told my dad to turn off the TV

“They bombed the Eastern Province, the Gulf War is here!”

My mother glared at my father, I felt her tears

“Please Abdulmalik, there will be no more news in our house

We have a child now. She will only know about Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.”

My mother was a woman of peace

She hated the news because they never left her at ease

While my father was a news fan

He would lock me out to watch politicians rant

I would stick my ear to the door and peer through the keyhole

Daddy was watching gunshots and blood rivers

Streaming from Iraq to Palestine

As political analysts said it an inevitable sign.

Dear Media,

When I went to school to learn about the world

I came in with All Star shoes and fluent English, ready to explore.

My Palestinian teacher refused to meet my eye

I reminded her too much of the enemy that made her cry.

I felt guilty and like a traitor

I didn’t know what my crime was but I felt I betrayed her.

Slowly, Arabic became what I uttered

And black was my attire

Just as I was finding my place

A plane crashed in New York and killed hundreds

I was no longer watching Home Alone on TV

But pictures and names familiar to me.

Women dressing the way I did were headlines

Phone conversations in my language were threat lines

Internally I was chagrined for not doing more

Externally I was mocked for living in closed doors.

Dear Media,

After years of bewilderment and accepted nonsense

I realized that it was You who told me I was oppressed

You, told me I was misguided and unblessed

You, put a weapon in my hand

Turned my language into an international poison

Defined my attire as prison

And took away my voice by a caption.

You were my biggest influence

You taught me my place and my importance

You struck fear in my heart

You wanted to break me apart

So I wouldn’t reach out to the nations in their native tongue

And teach them the way my language is sung

So when a head-scarfed girl meets a white blond boy

They’d be too afraid to say hello.

Your photos made them blind to the coral beauty of Jeddah

Your ignorant accusations made them deaf to the stories of grandma

Their fear strung louder than Hijazi music

They missed the chance to create art and magic.

Dear Media,

You forgot to tell them that grandma finished school in the thirties

Before men knew how to drive or fix a light bulb

You forgot to tell them women used to guard Makkah

When men tended to pilgrims in Arafah.

Dear Media,

I am 23 years old now and I am a journalist

The time for me to write you has come

It is time I tell the world about my true home

It is time to bridge cultures and celebrate the differences.