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Photo of Buffalo taken by Lila

The Nuance of Change

Lila Tauzin-Fox reflects on the idea that two things can be true.

On Monday, Eva alerted us all via GroupMe that there is solitaire on the treadmill. I don't even know how to play, but excited by the prospect of tapping away at a large screen while exercising, I hurried to the humid basement gym to get in my steps! I found the treadmill had a lot more to offer than solitaire. There was chess, Netflix, BBC- really everything a young girl could desire. I also don’t know how to play chess. And Netflix required login information, so I found myself settling upon BBC. Most of the stories on the home page were about Russia and Wagner. I navigated to the US & Canada section because I only care about my country and me me me and was met with a jarring headline: “US woman shoots Uber driver she believed was kidnapping her.” It was a short read, 3 paragraphs describing how a woman had ordered an Uber to visit her boyfriend in Texas and began seeing unfamiliar signs so she shot the 52-year-old driver in the head. 

My first response was disgust and horror at the passenger’s actions. But then I think about this woman who has lived a life of fear, who probably grew up with pepper spray in her backpack and distrust in her heart. I think about the fact that all those frightened years of feeling helpless led her to buy a lethal weapon and, ultimately, use it to end someone’s life. Then I think about the driver, on his last ride of the day, unsuspecting. He was simply doing his job. Police assert that the driver had not deterred from the proper route during the ride. The woman has since been charged with murder. She believed she was in a murder or be murdered situation. From a young age, she has been spoon-fed stories of women whose desires for a safe ride home ended in a kidnapping or assault. She has been taught to fear as a form of survival. So afraid of ending up another 3 paragraph tragedy in the news she sealed the fate of herself and the driver. My heart lies with the driver and by humanizing both sides of this devastation I don’t mean to rationalize this woman’s actions, I simply believe they are both victims of the same system. 

We function in these little paradigms and it feels almost impossible to not be hypocritical. How do I do a service to all the things I believe while also giving myself room to grow? I want to stand firmly by my morals but I want to give room for nuance. I am scared of being wrong but I also want to be willing to revise my ideas. I don’t want to play devil’s advocate but nonetheless want to consider all perspectives. But is considering all perspectives evil when you are giving thought and weight to an evil perspective? I want to have compassion for people but sometimes I only can see people as their ideas. I want people to treat me with compassion but also to hold me accountable. Everything feels personal but larger than me. It is hard to toe these lines. 

This week the journal prompt was on viewing climate change through an equity lens. This isn’t just connected to my project at the Community Foundation, it is my project. I am going to get anecdotal again. Yesterday, I rode a Reddy bike home. Reddy Bike is one of the main  bikeshare projects in Buffalo.  I have been doing so much research on low- to zero-emissions forms of transportation that I thought I would finally experience all the alleged perks I had been reading about. Overall, it was a lovely, hassle-free experience. I enjoyed the 20 minute ride home (which would’ve taken 50 minutes by bus!), dismounted at the set of bike racks on Porter, and was locking the bike back up when I was approached by a man. “These are some nice bikes,” he said with a toothless grin, “How much to rent them?” I told him I believed it was $6.00 an hour and he seemed elated, “That’s not too bad at all!” He gestured to the D’Youville building behind the bike rack and asked me if he just had to go inside to pay. I explained how you had to download an app and then scan a QR code on the bike. A dismayed look washed over his face, “You have to have a telephone to do all this? How do you even pay?” “Card, you put in your information online,” I answered. The grin was gone and our conversation was over. He began mumbling something as he walked away with the large sack he had slung over his shoulder. It was clear this man had neither a phone or a credit card. 

There is glaring privilege that informs the way I move through life. I had initially seen bike shares as a brilliant way to bridge a serious gap in the world of sustainable and affordable transport. But what is a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to travel for me required some serious upfront investment. 

I think back to the spectrum Kricky spoke about on Wednesday but instead of a spectrum of allyship, I’ve filled in a spectrum of income. To the left we have high-income individuals, they will be included in the transition we make as a society towards a green economy and green world. Their economic status has always ensured them a position and a voice and will continue to. Moving left to right in the middle region we have medium- to low-income. This is the demographic we speak of most about being included in a “Just Transition” because they will be easy enough to include. We don’t dare move further right. We have counted these people out in any societal movement we undergo. They don’t get to take part in change, they are simply left to experience the ramifications.