Bushwick vs. Bedstuy
Today I was reminded why it is so important to always push myself to better understand the issues that I’m concerned with most. My identity has always been a huge part of my work from writing to visual art. Today I was in desperate need of this card:
Apparently a post-racial society means that society should stay blind to the things of the past. Is being called something like a Nigger or Spice to your face better or worse than having someone acknowledge that you would take offense to being called a Nigger or Spic and actively finding other names to associate you with instead?
Today at work I learned the difference between Bushwick and Bedstuy is that Bushwick is a little bit safer. But, of course they are both bad if you step into the wrong territory. It’s just not safe there. In this dialogue, not safe means more Black and less White. You do not walk through the projects late at night. You do not want to be identified. You will get robbed. You are not safe.
I was sitting less than 2 feet away from my three white-coworkers that were engaged in this conversation. In fact I could make no use of the calling card pictured above which was created by Adrian Piper in 1986, the year I was born, because my coworkers are actually painfully aware of who I am. They know I am Latina. They know I am concerned with issues of xenophobia. They know what they can and can’t say around me.
They know who I am.
After swimming for words to describe why Bushwick and Bedstuy were so different, my manager finally admitted: there are more Black people. She said any White person foolish enough to come home drunk late at night, walking through their semi-gentrified neighborhood on the wrong half of the Jim Crow line deserved to get robbed for the fancy things they inevitably own that Black people lust for. To be honest what she said was something more like this: Any person foolish enough to get off the train, drunk, with something valuable in their possession deserves to get robbed. If I was the type of person to mug someone I’d target them too.
“We’re all friends here…no need to be politically correct.” said one of them laughing.
It infuriated me to be the cause of their search for the right words to say. I thought “race” doesn’t matter anymore? Que Paso? After work I took a train ride with another one of my coworkers who also happened to be White and I was reminded of another statement made by Adrian Piper about not caring about race when she was with friends, since it didn’t matter.
The only people who can function in a post-racial society, are those that do not believe in reaching beyond the surface.
After learning that Bushwick was more safe than Bedstuy, I wondered about the people who live in either of the Colored quarters, I mean unsafe areas of the neighborhoods. Do Black people in this neighborhood live in perpetual fear? Unlike my three White co-workers, they are unable to walk home through a different route since it is their street my coworkers must avoid in order to maintain a sense of security.
Then again, maybe I should make use of Piper’s calling card after all. I am a light skinned Dominican and Afro-Cuban American. The other person present in this situation was Latina as well. Would the conversation have been the same if one of our Black coworkers was present? Was it easy to think that since I am Latina and of light complexion that I do not consider myself to be Black? Or maybe I’m just too dumb to decipher what words like safe and unsafe really mean.
I cannot fully blame them for their words. This is a White society, which means that only issues concerning White people really matter. Maybe it’s just time for my coworkers to unpack their Invisible White Knapsack.
Of course my rant was also inspired by one of said co-workers making the iconic “We are in America, Speak English” in reference to the patrons of the Museum we work at which receives thousands of International clientele a day. Oy vey.