the tree next door

***This post is in response to The Privilege Tree.***

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful forest that grew on the right side of the tracks. Sunlight danced in and out of the curves of branches; butterflies flitted from sunflower to sunflower; fairies sparkled and dropped tiny packages of blessings here and there and everywhere.

Under the canopy of trees, little white boys frolicked and played as boys do. And when the boys wandered too far from the tree and too close to danger, they each retreated quickly to the cool shade of their privilege trees.

Just miles away on the wrong side of the tracks grew another forest. Trees withered and cracked in the oppressive sun; bees and bugs feasted on young innocent skin; brown leaves littered the rocky ground.

A young boy grew a special relationship with one of those trees. He said to the tree, “You are the father I never had.” And after hugging the tree, he pulled away with splinters the color of his own skin. He gathered those splinters and crafted a toy gun. He went to show off to his homies this precious gift from his father. While running along the concrete path, waving in joy his sense of belonging, he was gunned down by police who mistook that gift for a Beretta 92FS. He now lies buried under his special tree.

Just three trees to the left in the same forest, another boy sat under a different rotting tree and organized his school supplies. He looked up at the tree and said, “Don’t worry tree; I’m going to be strong and tall and intimidating like you are.” In class that day, he spoke out of turn because that’s how the trees talk: moved by the wind. When his teacher called him out on being disrespectful, he got scared and wondered what his tree would think of him. And so he argued with her and hit his desk in frustration. She immediately sent him to the dean, who sent him to another dean, and three years later he’s in juvenile detention. He wonders if the branches he sees from his concrete jungle’s window can send a message to his tree. “Tell her I’m sorry.”

In the far back corner of the same forest, another taller boy sat under his decrepit tree. He was shivering deeply from the ice-box-air and ice-cold-culture. With a hungry stomach, he pulled his hood up and set off to the local convenience store. Having asked the tree “What would you like today?” without a response, he thought he’d bring back some sunflower seeds so the birds would be drawn to them both. As he debated to himself about his tree’s favorite flavor, he was shot down by a self-proclaimed security guard. His hoodie now hangs from his tree’s branches, shredded by the gusts.

Not long later, the boys from the other side of the tracks, upon adventuring through, saw the potential in the land beneath the degraded forest. They called their friends who called their lawyers who called their banks who called their architects who called their builders who called their businesses who called their lumberjacks to cut down the aging and ancient trees, and now, what once was the scary forest next door is the newest hip neighborhood: Gentrified Woods.

And there, the boys lived happily ever after in their privileged homes, cut and crafted from the guardians of the oppressed, while their privilege trees applaud.