The ball in Times Square drops; the year 2069 goes into the history books and Americans join with everyone around the world in welcoming 2070.
The crowd of people, some of them quite inebriated, eventually leave the Times Square revelry. Two of them walk into the hotel where they’re staying.
“Wow,” one of them says, “my grandfather told me Trump used to own this place, like 50 years ago.”
Her friend laughs. “Trump? God, no one wants to talk about him anymore. He’s the worst president ever.”
“Yup,” the first one says. “When the military killed those 700 people way back then that was the end of him. That happened maybe a mile from here.”
An old man hobbles by. “May I say something?” he asks.
The two women nod their heads.
“I was 25 years old back then. I lived through that crazy time.”
The two women smile.
Finding three open chairs in the lobby, they sit down.
“Here’s what you have to remember,” he continues. “A lot of Americans were arguing over an idea called ‘Black Lives Matter.’”
“I studied that when I was in school,” one of the women says. “One of the big deals was that some people, who of course didn’t want to admit they were racist, wanted to turn ‘Black Lives Matter’ into ‘All Lives Matter.’”
“My dad and stepmom took me to some of the protests in Washington, where they lived, and I went to other ones right here in New York City, where my mom lived” he says. “See, what Black people back then were saying was that White people had built a society in which they had all the advantages, and too many of them didn’t want to admit it.”
The two women nod their heads vigorously.
“So, say, it’s 2020, and you two run a race against two of your White friends,” he continues. ”Now, you two are Black, so your friends get a 5-step head start. Their lane is paved and clean; yours is full of holes. They get to run in new shoes. Yours are old, have some holes in them and missing laces. People support them when they’re running, but people scream ‘what are you running from?’ and ‘thug’ when you run. Too many White people weren’t seeing the obvious, or they simply told Blacks to work harder.”
“One of my college professors said BLM was really about building a fair society so that Blacks had a chance,” one of the women says.
“Not just that,” the old man replies. “It also was demanding that White people realize Blacks never had a say in creating the society that existed. They didn’t create racism, but they suffered from it. Whites never were racially profiled, but Blacks were. Blacks didn’t create police brutality, but they suffered from it. And a lot of Whites didn’t care. Blacks didn’t create the education system, but they suffered from it. Banks could charge them more for a loan just because of where they lived. Whites were the majority, and they built the institutions and the ideas that benefited them. The BLM movement wanted White America to look at Blacks and admit that they had suffered enough and it was time to redo the whole thing.”
“It took about 10 more years to finally get what they wanted,” one of the women says.
“Yes, but the 2020s were ugly times in America,” the man says. “Thank God Trump lost the reelection, but the guy who replaced him made no friends with that pardon that forced Trump to sell everything he owned. But the liberals were mad, so they impeached him and…”
“President Kamala Harris,” one of the women said, with a big smile. “She was my hero, the first African-American woman president.”
“She shook some things up,” the man says. “Oh, she kicked those troublemakers in the rump.”
“Do you remember the day someone tried to assassinate her?” one of the women asked.
“Terrible day. Horrible day,” the man replies. “She survived, and she came right back with more energy than she had before. A lot of racism was already dying before she was shot. Once she recovered, those losers really were lost.”
The women looked at each other, both imagining what life must have been like back then.
”Oh, and you and I could never have run that race against you that I talked about,” the man jokes.
“Why?” one of the women asks.
“I’ve had a cane since I was 25 years old,” he says. “We were at a protest one day in the summer of 2020 and the biggest group of military men I’d ever seen came down the street. They shot everything and everyone in sight. I got shot in the knee, so I fell to the ground. Some big tank rolled in a minute later and finished the job.”
“Oh my God!” the women shriek at the same time, causing a few people not paying attention to the conversation to look at them.
“But you were just there, not doing anything wrong,” one of them says.
“And you’re White,” the other one says.
“No one cares about your skin color when fighting a war,” the man says. “My dad was White. My mom was White. I’m White. My sister is white. Now, my stepmom, she wasn’t white. But my whiteness didn’t matter when the president ordered that anyone who was on the streets should be mowed down.”
“So, you were there,” one of the women says.
“You know about the massacre,” the other one adds.
“So much blood in the streets. So many tears. So many broken families,” the man says. “But back then, when the president told the military to do something, they had to do it.”
“But it was wrong,” one of the women says forcefully. “Wrong.”
“Understand that times were different then. That Trump, now he cared only about himself. He did the damage. The Republicans stayed quiet because Trump was cutting taxes and placing new judges all over the place. It was hell. But it eventually got better, a lot better.”
He slowly stands up, smiles and looks at the two women. “Think about so many of the things you take for granted today. Black men aren’t dying by the dozens. Our education system is better. We’re not scared of Brown people anymore.
“It’s a better world.”
He smiles, wishes the women a Happy New Year and walks away.
He laughs to himself, thankful that they never figured out who he was.