Our view into a community is inherently divided: we see just one layer, one context. One city. The last few days, walking through New York, i find myself moving not just up and down, across the grid, but also through different layers. Layers of dereliction, layers of renewal, layers that are disenfranchised, peripheral, layers that are permanent, and ones that are transient, and all, of course, framed by the dominant narratives of commerce and control.
I find myself standing outside the Stonewall Inn: the sun is out, it’s quiet, so quiet i can hardly hear the shadow, the whisper, of one woman, handcuffed, beaten, shouting “why don’t you guys do something”, as the police dragged her down. The spark that lit the Stonewall riots, birthplace of the equal rights movement in the US.
Because the guys did do something: one account has them lining up in a chorus line, doing high kicks as the police charged. But the truth is probably more prosaic: scuffles, violence, the the start of an erosion.
Stonewall represents the fall of one dominant narrative, and the rise of another. The city represents many different narratives, aggregated, captured in brick and steel. Dominant narratives are those that are so established, that we do not hear them shout. But as much as they empower, they trap us: a dominant narrative of inequality was only fractured, divided, by violence. A tipping point.
The physical city simply delineates space: a cumulative delineation. City upon city. Story upon story. One city, divided.