By Kerry Tinga
A trip to New York is exciting for any young person. Many of us dream of visiting this classic big and bustling city, our itineraries often inspired by our favorite shows and films or, as is more often the case nowadays, by our favorite social media personalities, so many of whom seem to congregate in the Big Apple. That is how it was for me as I listed down places to visit and things to do from what I saw online.
This included the latest Instagram essential: Hudson Yards. So a lunch reservation was made in the area. As delicious as the meal was, I am struck with guilt over the hypocrisy arguably exercised.
An article published last week in The Washington Post reported on a fundraiser for the re-election campaign of the United States’ President Donald Trump, to be hosted by billionaire Stephen Ross. Yes, the US President whose rhetoric can be described as blatantly racist and misogynistic, and whose actions indicate he is nothing less.
This led to a call to boycott Ross’ Related Companies properties, which include recognizable influencer favorite establishments such as Equinox and SoulCycle. While the latter two companies have issued statements that stress that their parent company, Related, does not engage in their day-to-day operations and that they do not endorse the Trump fundraiser, Ross is still the ultimate beneficial owner under their corporate structure. Thus, boycotts that seek to interfere with the profitability of these establishments as financial investments for Related, and ultimately Ross, have the potential of being extremely impactful.
Except that the real estate empire of Related Companies and of Ross is much greater than a few trendy spots scattered around New York City. It includes the $25 billion Hudson Yards Development, one of the most expensive real estate projects in American history, if not the most expensive. The same Hudson Yards I was having lunch at, that I was shopping at, that I was supporting by giving my business to its tenants.
Ross issued a statement amid the controversy, calling himself an “outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education, and environmental sustainability.” Well, actions speak louder than words.
Designer Prabal Gurung, who has pulled out of a planned fashion show at The Vessel at Hudson Yards, tweeted: “To read Stephen Ross … is hosting a fundraiser for President Trump in the Hamptons is appalling, shocking, an indication of their integrity and values.”
I like to think that my actions are a reflection and indication of my integrity and values. But every action does not have an equal and opposite reaction. Our actions have hundreds of little consequences, some intended, many unintended, that ripple throughout society for a much larger reaction than we may imagine. We ask for transparency and when confronted with it, we still need to second guess, third guess, fourth guess every action.
But how are we supposed to weigh the facts before we make our decisions, especially when we begin talking about entire “cities within cities” like Hudson Yards?
There are the ultimate beneficial owners who receive major dividends on their investments, but there are also the employees of these establishments, the employees of their suppliers, the opportunities being brought to the area and to the people, the friendly fire in our fight for social justice.
Unfortunately, despite my love and belief in the power of the written word and social media activism, it is not enough. Change, real social change, happens when we start making uncomfortable decisions. No matter where we find ourselves in the world, there is no vacation, no getting away from that fact. There is no curve or leniency for the tourist, no shield of ignorance we can hide behind as the facts are so plainly put before us.
This is so much more than just about where we eat or shop, it requires us to follow through in all of our actions a representation of our integral beliefs. I can afford to go on a vacation, live a life far enough removed from the effects of growing radical right wing populism around the world that I do not agree with. But that luxury and privilege means I have the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.
I am not here to advocate any one action as right or wrong, but that even on vacation every action requires a conscious effort and thought.
The Kerry Diaries is a weekly youth column that discusses prevalent social issues and current events through a Generation Z perspective in the opinion of the author. Kerry Tinga is a feminist and contributing writer for The Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. She is based in Metro Manila and can be found working at MINT College.