Newsletters from Manhattan — Juneteenth
On June nineteenth I walked up to Central Park. I was hanging a pair of bronzed childrens shoes I had made from a light pole near the bathrooms. They were part of a project I started in the summer of 2018 in response to kids being separated from their parents at the border.
Suddenly a broom out of nowhere struck at them angrily and they pitched in a wide circle. I turned to see a black youth maybe 13 or 14. He said something I didn’t really hear. A second later I watched him swat an elder asian lady with the same broom in the shoulder as she passed by. She turned and glared at him. I was glaring at him too. He was with three other young kids, two girls and a boy all about the same age. He glared back and lunged with his broom.
“Do you want to fight an adult?” I asked. My blood was boiling and strangely in that moment I scanned my body to feel out my strength while at the same time imaging my body parts, my limbs beating the crap out of the kid. Right then I knew that I wouldn’t. He was a kid. But it didn’t register for some reason. I had always beat up my cousins when we were growing up. I was the oldest and we wrestled and I won every time. We never really hurt each other though. I didn’t even think it was weird that I would have wrestled this kid until I was retelling the story and my friend said
“But he was just a kid.”
In that moment he wasn’t a kid to me, or maybe I am still that kid.
He said yes and lunged forward with the broom stabbing at me then half threw half dropped it and ran back to his gang. They jeered at me “Pussy!” And he joined in “Yeah Pussy!”
“You’re the one that dropped your broom and ran away.” I said. I picked it up and began walking down the path looking for a different spot to hang the shoes. I heard him yell behind me, “SHE’S RACIST SHE’S RACIST!” I turned around and saw him smirk at me as his accusation rang through the park. I was (shocked?) I don’t know what I was. But I realized I was the only white person in a park full of people who had been oppressed for generations and generations by whiteness. It was scary and he kept yelling louder, smiling and looking around for an audience. I turned walking quicker, dragging the broom with me. Next I heard, “She called me a nigger, she called me a nigger!” I spun around and said, “I did not you fucking punk ass kid!”
A group of older girls, maybe later teens, maybe older I couldn’t tell, stood up from their blanket in the grass and one of them sneered in a loud voice “Well she didn’t say she didn’t, she never said she didn’t!” She hadn’t heard me, or maybe she had. This was insane. It was scary but no one else around seemed to notice or care. The bolder of the girls with the younger group came up a short ways behind me and said in a sweet voice, “Can we at least have our broom back Miss?” I looked back to see her standing ever so politely with her hands folded in front of her. Then she quickly turned around loudly whispering, “Here!” She shoved her phone at the bully boy telling him to record and then turned back smiling waiting for my reaction.
I decided to just throw the broom at them and walk away.
It was Junteenth and they didn’t have any other white people to yell at.