i didn’t feel totally right jumping in on blackamazon’s additions
here, partly because as someone who doesn’t have the lived connection to the reality of stark economic disparity and injustice in new york city i want to step back for those who do, partly because what she has to say is more important and i don’t want to dilute it. but i have a little more to add.
jonathan kozol opens his book amazing grace talking about how to get on a bronx-bound 6 train at 86th street and get off twenty minutes later at hunts point is to basically travel between worlds, to go from what was at the time the sixth-richest congressional district in the united states (and if it’s not still is still doing extremely well) to what was then, and at least as of 2000 (source), the nation’s absolute poorest. there are of course other places like this (the 3 can take you from the upper west side to east new york; the F from midtown to jamaica), but that’s, i think, a particularly illuminating one both for its starkness and for just how short that trip is. these realities are neighbors. twenty minutes on the subway from the world of the bankers to the world without bank accounts (although returning to hunts point some time after i had stopped working there i discovered there is now a chase branch near the simpson 2/5 stop). and, really, you don’t even need to take the subway — start walking north at eighty-sixth and lex, and watch just how rapidly the scenery changes as you head towards 125th, as you head out of the upper east side and into east harlem, as you head out of whitey mcwhiteville to a neighborhood that is almost entirely black & latin@ (as is the south bronx).
so: i was also put off by that atlantic piece’s tone, not because it’s technically incorrect, but because it’s like, where have you been? what have you been doing with yourself? i mean he ends it: “And to me, it showed New York’s growing economic divide. I’m sure that many of the people who remained at work yesterday chose to do so voluntarily. But I fear that many of them did not.” like, wow, amazing speculation, A+ insight, clap 4 u. but while financial inequality has been worsening, it’s hardly a new fact. exploitation of the city’s struggling is hardly a new fact. these are longstanding entrenched realities of this place and i just really don’t know what to do with an adult who’s been here longer than like a week who’s treating it like some big secret it takes a natural disaster to unveil. it’s not a secret to the people living it. and those people — by your own admission! — are right in front of you. so, talk about this, in the context of sandy, sure. but don’t frame it as anything resembling a revelation. that’s just disheartening, thinking about how much not-seeing you must do (and so many people do do, and i probably do more than i notice/should) literally every day for this to be something brought home to you by sandy instead of something you are aware of running through the city.