Black Lives Matter
Where to even begin?
I am a white woman who grew up in a fancy building on the Upper West Side in New York City in the 80s and 90s. I was a combative and somewhat rebellious teen and caused my family a lot of agida, but it was easy for me to stay on the path that was paved for me: work hard and get good grades and get accepted to a good college, where I worked hard and got good grades and got accepted to a good law school, where I worked hard and got good grades and got a job at a prestigious law firm. There were no obstacles to “success” other than myself. I am a lucky, privileged white woman.
When I left the house, my parents might have worried that I would get into trouble with drugs or boys, but they didn’t worry about me being shot by anyone. They certainly didn’t worry about me being shot by the police. In our reality, that thought would never cross our minds. To be honest, I didn’t really think about it being a reality for anyone, white, brown or black. The police are there to protect us, right? It is only in the last few years, that I have realized how naive I was.
I have always liked to think of myself as someone who sees people for who they are, not taking into consideration the color of their skin. Loving my friends because of who they are, what they stand for, their strength and passion and kindness. But, today, I have to reflect deeper and ask myself whether skin color really isn’t at least somewhere in the back of my mind. I want to say it isn’t, but I am probably wrong.
I was raised by liberal white Jews who, in theory, wanted a better world with racial justice and equality. But how badly did we really want that? And what were we willing to sacrifice to actually see that happen in our lifetimes? We were happy to take everything we got, in part, because of our white privilege. I was taught that everyone is equal. I was taught not to judge a book by its cover. But what did I do to affect change? I grew up with friends of all different colors and backgrounds. I was very lucky to go to a school with a very diverse student body, where everyone could be friends with everyone. I never thought about people being grouped by race, only socializing with people who look like you, until I went to college.
At the end of the day, I suppose I always knew racism was everywhere, but I didn’t live it. And, when I did, I thought it was horrible, but I continued on with my privileged life. There was a day in high school when my friend Brian came over to my apartment, and my doorman called up and asked to speak to my mother before letting him upstairs. Why on earth would he do that? Brian is black. My mother was embarrassed and disgusted, and, of course, told the doorman to let Brian upstairs immediately. This had an impact on me. I still remember it almost 25 years later. But what did I do about it other than let it sit with me? Nothing. Did my mother report the doorman to the board? No. Did she speak to this doorman and tell him what he did was racist? No. While we gave him dirty looks when we saw him after that, we let it happen. That is not ok.
We cannot continue to just let things happen.
At Cornell, my reality changed very quickly, sadly, not for the better. In my world at Cornell in the late 90s, just about everyone was Caucasian and Asian. There was no diversity, at least no intermingled diversity that I could see. I don’t remember there being one black person in my dorm freshman year. I don’t remember more than a handful of black people in my classes in the School of Hotel Administration. There were maybe a handful of black people at the parties I went to and bars I frequented. I couldn’t understand it because I knew Cornell had to be more diverse than what I was seeing.
A few months into my freshman year, I left my little Hotel School bubble and went to eat in one of the dining halls in the Ag Quad. There were groups of tables where only black people sat; there were groups of tables where only white people sat, there were groups of tables where only brown people sat; there were groups of tables where only Asians sat. I had never seen anything like this. In high school, we all sat together. We were all friends. It wasn’t like that at Cornell. I didn’t realize Cornell was reality, and the bubble I grew up in was not real life.
But what did I do?
Nothing. What I saw upset me so much, I never went back to that dining hall in my four years at Cornell. I went about my days pretending that what I saw didn’t exist. But it did exist. It existed on a beautiful campus filled with very smart and educated people. How many people thought that was strange? How many people did something about it? I questioned it, but I did nothing.
It is doing nothing that has resulted in inequality, unfairness and disregard for human life.
Even now, in both my personal and professional life, I am surrounded mostly by white people. Why? Is it situational? Or is it something deeper? At Digs, we represent everyone and anyone who wants to buy, sell or rent their homes with us. Our clients are incredibly diverse, and this is something we are very proud of, but we would welcome an even more diverse client base. I do have very close friends who are diverse, but how many are black? If I dig deep and look at my closest friends in this world, I am sad to admit not enough are black.
These are questions we ALL have to ask ourselves today and every day going forward. Do we want equality and justice? If so, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to speak up for what is right and take action or sit back and watch, enjoying our white privilege?
Personally, I want to do more. I want to teach my children to be truly color blind. I don’t know how to do that, but I will read and educate myself and learn, so that I can at least try. I want to do more than march down the street (while social distancing) chanting “black lives matter” and “peaceful protest.” I want the news media to stop reporting on the very worst of what’s happening across the country in our cities and start focusing on the hundreds of thousands of people (of all colors) who have taken to the streets to effect change.
A very wise friend
Earlier today, my beautiful and wise friend, Regine (who happens to be black), texted me, “I noticed that you haven’t put a fb post on Digs or your personal… Where do you stand as a company?” Embarrassed, I told her I hadn’t thought to post and that I was staying silent because people have more important things to say than I do. Her response, which caused me to sit down that minute, put all my other work aside, and write this blog post, “That’s the thing – we all have to use our platforms to denounce it.” Regine, you are 100% right!
I am taking this opportunity to speak up and tell everyone (even if it’s only 10 people who read this!) where Digs Realty and I stand. We stand with you, with humanity, with the movement. We are with you, and we will learn from everything that is happening and no longer sit back and watch. We will take action in whatever way we can to make the most impact we can.
Let the demonstrations continue
Let our voices be heard. We are peaceful. We have a message to deliver. For those of you in the city, you see this. You see the people marching up your streets, begging for change. You see the beauty of what is happening in our city and all the possibilities. Please keep your eyes and ears open, and open your hearts to the message. This is our city. Let’s make it better and stronger together.
We are stronger in NYC together than apart
Stay! Be part of these peaceful protests. Let your voices be heard. You are truly blessed to live in this melting pot, where everyone is so different. Let’s remember why many of us chose to make NYC our homes to begin with. For me, it is the diversity, the culture, the connectedness, the fact that you are never alone. This is why I am here with my family, and we are staying. And we are so happy to be here to be a part of what (hopefully) will be monumental change. Our children are part of this. They are living it. I am proud to be able to show them the real world – the world outside our bubble – from our backyard. I am a privileged white person. I acknowledge that I have work to do. I need to do more, and I intend to. I have to figure out how. #nycstrong #blacklivesmatter #endthehate #endtheinjustice
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