It must be nice to not know shit.
How wonderful it must be to be able to live in this world without ever being able to see. I would smile all the damn time if I could walk up and down Franklin Avenue just worrying about how long it will take the baristas to make my next white mocha. It would be amazing to stroll down Eastern Parkway trying to figure out which new restaurant in the neighborhood I should visit. Shall I have tapas with a glass of Malbec today or perhaps instead I will have some gnocchi with a glass of chardonnay. Rushing off to my job in the city, I would read the Times so I can learn more about the problems with pollution in Beijing or the about the drought in Sudan or about the displaced people of the Amazon, being all sophisticated and intellectual as I ponder how much people oh so far away are suffering, and yet, still not knowing shit about shit about the world around me.
Man, I would be so happy and hip and in-the-know, so liberated-in-my-liberal-state-of-being, that nothing could ever bring me down. Oh I would be pained by all this Trump business and I would definitely donate to the poor and cry over the families separated at the border and tip the Hispanic man who holds the door for me at Starbucks, but once these moments of sadness have passed, I would go back to being genuinely happy again.
But when you are Woke, Black-Woke, you don’t get to skip down the Crown Heights street with smiles on your face all the damn time. What you get instead….. You get to be the one thinking about every displaced brother and sister who used to live in your neighborhood before the landlords kicked them out. You get to think about all the cops, who only used to come around once the bodies were shot down and dead, who are now everywhere you turn, the cops who are making sure “everyone” is safe and sound in this cool new neighborhood. You get to see white women clutch their purses if you accidentally walk too close to them on Nostrand Avenue. (Yes, you heard that right…. as a Jamaican-American man, I get to be treated to the White woman clutching her purse and crossing the street on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights) You get to know that there is a systematic invasion taking place that will one day not only colonize Crown Heights but also rename it and rezone it. You get to know that once there are enough “other” children in the area, then there will be new schools built with special admission rules that will allow “everyone” in the neighborhood to get a good education. You get to know that once the Franklin Avenue station was kept filthy and crusty and Blahhh and when they came, it got an upgrade. You get to know that there are bodegas gone that used to be the heartbeat of the neighborhoods, the places you could wait til payday to pay off your bill at, the places you could have UPS drop off your packages at and the places you could go to and have people know you by your first name. You get to know that the new stores and new streets are being built on the bones of real people with real stories who will be erased from memory so that they can go running and biking down Classon and Rogers and Bedford and ……………..
And you get to know, as with all things in this country, when they write the history books about this neighborhood, Crown Heights, they will say what they always say. They will say that there was this brilliant white man who just knew without a shadow of a doubt that the world was not flat and so decided to go forth and explore. And one day he found land, the wild savage land God meant for him to “discover”, and he decided to bring civilization and Jesus to this land and claim it in the name of king and country and….