There are strangers gathered in front of a gold tower and the street looks like a shattered piñata and at first you see the sights, but then you hear the sounds. They are loud sounds. They are angry sounds. The loud, angry sounds transform into soaring voices of a church choir that do not worship, but condemn. That do not praise, but question. They are loud, angry voices thrown like rapid, careless brushstrokes of color thrown onto the streets. What color though? Because – let’s be honest – isn’t that the question everyone wants to ask? The colors of this masterpiece are red, blue, orange, green, and purple. A splash of pink.
You notice the colors of clothes more than skin because that’s how you are. That’s how you were raised. That’s what you believe.
What do you believe? You believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear. Standing in this crowd of colorful strangers with phones held high capturing this moment, this night, this anger. You’ve never been so close to anger, so aware of its potency. The temperature is average for August, stifling and sticky, but in the deep pit of voices and anger, you feel like you’re on fire. You’re pinned between a giant mountain man with a bird nest of a beard, a fuchsia eye shadowed woman wearing a glitter hat, and a man with piercing blue eyes in a dark uniform and initials stamped on his chest. NYPD. The letters are meant to protect but you know it’s only half true. Just look around. There is a barricade on Fifth Avenue from 60th Street to 50th of bulletproof cars to block the traffic. The belts of the protectors hold cans of colorless gas and long, hard sticks, and shiny, gray guns. There are double fences in the streets, heavy metal meant to keep people out or keep people in. You’re not certain of the intention. But you know one thing – you cannot move and you have not moved for an hour and in all honesty, you don’t want to move. You’re not sure what you want but you’re sure of who you are and that seems to be a reason to stay.
Who are you? Let’s be honest. You are The Privileged.
When puberty hit, you buried your head in books and spoke only in nods. Your first kiss was read on paper years before felt in life. You missed the parties, the pot, the prom. You cried at the acceptance letter, the heavy stationery in your hands held the weight of a promise. You went to college in the city where dreams are made of (there’s nothing you can’t do), had 2.5 boyfriends, graduated with a maroon hat on your head and two ivory braids around your neck called Honors. You landed The Job. You got The Apartment. You collected an assortment of pretty Best Friends with varied passions but the same interests and body type. On weeknights, you paint your hair the color of sun and paint your nails the color of sky.
On weekends, you namaste and hashtag and sip overpriced green tea lychee pomegranate martinis and damn the Uber is late and Jessica fucked the guy you might have married and avocados never go on sale and on the rare nights you go home alone, you cry because life is so hard. You deserved this and you deserved that but instead you have a 401k and split ends. What about everything they promised you? What about the American Dream that was supposed to be free?
Fact: life is not hard for you.
You have never been hit or homeless or hungry. You can have anything you want if you ask and on the walk to work each morning, you smile at the crossing guard because she stops the cars on First Avenue from hitting you. You smile because you are protected. You are lucky.
In your best moments, you recognize this is not luck but Privilege and in your worst moments you can’t tell the difference.
And let’s be honest – you did nothing to deserve either.
Most people are not lucky. Most people are not Privileged. You will never understand because you cannot. But what you can do: listen. Listen as the streets swell with voices and bodies and heat because something is not right here. Nothing is right here. He made promises that turned into lies. He told lies that turned into violence. There was never an apology. He said it would be better and it is worse than before and it will continue to get worse until we do one thing we are all capable of doing.
Listen to the stories of those who do not look like you, who were not born where you were born, who do not believe what you believe. Who love this person instead of that person and who the fuck cares who anyone loves as long as there is love. Listen to their words, their stories, their fears. Keep an open heart and open mind that the world tells you not to have because they want you to be fearful. Do not be fearful.
If you are anything like me, you are most comfortable in acts of passivity. How can I comment on the inequalities which I have never suffered from? How can I offer a solution to problems I’ve never experienced? How can I stand in a crowd where people look at me and think I am like them when really I am like us?
We are all like us.
Let’s listen to each other.