The Time For Performative Politics Is Done.
By Angelina Zervos
Features & Lists Editor
I am angry. I am heartbroken. I am done.
I am done telling my Black friends, colleagues, and family members that I am there for them, that I stand with them, and that I fight for them. I need to do more. I need to hold myself accountable.
I am addressing this to white students at Fordham University, to white Bronx (and borough) residents, and to my white friends and family members.
I see lots of activity on social media from my white acquaintances from my school and my city promoting the Black Lives Matter movement. I am tired of seeing empty promises to “stand with” the Black community.
I know the kinds of conversations that take place in white spaces. In places that are “protected” from people of color. I have stayed silent in situations where I could have used my voice and my privilege to fight bigotry and educate others. For that, I am deeply sorry. I know this is how many white people react to “uncomfortable” conversations surrounding race. If you are truly anti-racist, this is your time to speak up.
To white students of Fordham and other universities in New York City that have the privilege of consuming the culture of the Bronx while being able to return to the comfort of your safe, suburban homes:
I want you to remember that this is a daily reality for Black residents of the Bronx that exist outside of the Fordham gates. This is their everyday life. We can talk about inclusivity and diversity in the classroom all we want. But what are we doing to enact real, lasting change? I urge you to push for an anti-racist curriculum, anti-racist spaces, and anti-racist efforts to give back to the community that has allowed our school to flourish.
Fordham has always had a tricky relationship with the Bronx. It has existed as a nearly all-white university in a majority-minority city for over a century. You say Black Lives Matter. Do they matter when you call Belmont a ghetto because of its residents? Do they matter when you move into a $3,000 a month apartment that has pushed its longtime minority resident into homelessness? Do they matter when you choose to stay silent when your family members say racist remarks?
I see, and I listen. I see how, when working at my part-time job, your parents single me out because I’m white. I see how they ask me instead of my POC co-workers if I’m a Fordham student. I see how they lower their voice and look around the room before telling me, “The neighborhood isn’t what it used to be, huh?” expecting me to agree.
To my fellow white Bronxites: I am disappointed, but I am not surprised. I see how you do not use your voice. I see how you stay silent. I see how you refuse to open your eyes. As diverse as we are, our city is segregated. I beg you to stop denying your privilege. No one is saying your life is easy. I attended a private school in one of the wealthier areas of the Bronx. I saw how my neighborhood was different. I saw how my neighbors were different, and I saw how you chose to ignore them.
I see how you call Belmont a “ghetto,” but visit it every weekend to buy food for your Sunday dinner.
I see how you say Yankee Stadium is in “the slums” but pour millions of dollars into baseball tickets and jerseys.
I see how you go to the Grand Concourse to get the best deal on a television. I see how you go to Webster Avenue to get your car repaired.
I am not looking at the Bronx through rose-colored glasses. I know crime exists, but I see how white communities in the Bronx act. I want to remind you that our city was built on the backs of immigrants, many of whom are your parents and grandparents. You dishonor them and their hard work by turning your back on Black and non-white immigrants that own and operate many of our Bronx businesses.
I am angry and I am disappointed.
I am angry at myself for being too afraid and too uncomfortable to use my voice to defend my city and its people when I had the chance.
I am angry at the white students and residents who pick and choose which parts of the Bronx and its people they wish to support the same way they pick and choose which parts of Black culture to support. This doesn’t end if and when we receive justice for the systemic killings of Black men and women across our nation. This will be a life-long, ongoing battle. I challenge you to accept it.
Before I finish, I’d like to remind you of our borough’s history. Its history of flourishment, abandonment, and restoration. It seems as though no one cares for the Bronx except for its residents. “The Bronx is Burning” is a phrase that defined the Bronx for decades. A phrase that made people terrified of the Bronx, that the media used to depict its residents as self-sabotaging thugs, criminals, degenerates. A stigma that still holds weight today. We were abandoned by the people that were meant to protect us, our government, our facilities, our landlords. We were left to re-build it on our own, when no one else wanted to help.
I hear the phrase “they’re burning their own city down” being thrown around on news programs and talk shows. I see racist propaganda condemning our city’s residents and the Black Lives Matter Movement. We’ve already been through that. Don’t let history repeat itself. These instances WILL be used to criminalize poor communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities. We will be abandoned again. If we destroy the Bronx, we make it easier for gentrifiers and corporations to swoop in and profit off of the city’s culture.
We are the poorest borough, our zip codes had the highest rates COVID-19, but we are strong and resilient. These are not coincidences. We need to look out for each other, and that means EVERYONE. I know we can do better. I believe in us. I love us.
Black Lives Matter.
Please Consider Donating to the Links Below: