I’ve grown up under a facade, thinking America is free to everyone, only to realize – free isn’t really free! Maybe it is free for me, a white American, but not for EVERYONE! I think I’ve felt it as far back as a young child but didn’t fully understand and know what to do with the feelings. I had overheard my stepfather and his family on numerous occasions speaking of black people like they were inferior humans who didn’t deserve to live on this planet, let alone in this country or God forbid, on the same street. I knew in my gut this wasn’t right. I even voiced my opinion as a teenager and it was not met with a warm reception or any type of understanding. Maybe that’s why I kept quiet. It all really does start at home but that’s no excuse.
Racism in America and This Blog
I have to be honest, I debated writing this post. How can I share my opinions on this blog related to racism in America. What expertise do I have to share on the subject? How does it fit into the purpose of this blog? And how will it be received by my readers? I mulled this over for awhile, crying most days when I watched the death of George Floyd before my eyes over and over. “I can’t breathe officer” will forever be played in my mind. My heart hurt and still hurts. And then I finally realized, ENOUGH watching, now it’s time for listening, truly listening, and more importantly it’s time for action. Beyond my pledge below, I don’t know yet what that action will be but I do know listening, educating myself and writing this post is a start.
This blog is named free as wheel ever be for many reasons. We (Craig and I) are free to live how we want, travel where we want safely and choose the adventures we want to experience – all without fear. Besides RV life and travel, this blog is focused on intentional living which to me is “living with purpose to reach achieve my greatest dreams”. I purposely chose an RV living lifestyle to achieve my dreams of full-time travel. quality time with friends and family, and entrepreneurship. If one of the focuses of my business is to show others how to live a more intentional life, how can I do that if I’m not taking into account that some do not have the freedoms to be as intentional as I do.
Also, as a female entrepreneur who holds other businesses accountable to “do the right thing” for me, how can I not hold myself and them accountable to do the right thing for all? How can I not do something or say what’s on my heart when free isn’t really free for all?
My Experience Is Not Your Experience
We have spent the last year traveling the US and Canada without one thought of feeling unsafe in unfamiliar and familiar settings.. Never a thought of “will this police officer pull me over because of the color of my skin?” We crossed the Canadian Border with some questions from the officers and but no true issues. If my skin were black, would it have been the same experience? Would our RV have been searched? I don’t know the statistics on this but my gut tells me the chance of a search would have been considerably higher especially on our trip back to the US. I was free to cross a border. Are my fellow Americans who are black really free to do the same?
In case you are reading this and wondering, my intent is not to bash police officers or have any harm come to them. I know and have great respect for many of them. Excellent police officers who care about their communities and put themselves in harms way EVERY day. I know they and their families are hurting too. They are scared. They are being grouped together with the bad officers and persecuted for things they haven’t done. Sounds pretty similar to how all black people get lumped together by many. Assuming they are ALL bad because their skin looks the same. It’s wrong on both sides. Bad is bad and good is good. Period!
Why Does This Time Feel Different?
This feels so different. Why didn’t I feel this when I saw so many other black men and women die before George Floyd in a similar manner? Maybe it’s because I SAW him, I really SAW George Floyd this time. I looked into his eyes and felt his pain as I watched him die! He may have broken the law but he didn’t need to murdered for it. How can I not write about that? How can I not use my platform to do the right thing, educate myself and talk about it. And better yet, look for ways to make a difference and share those revelations with you so that you may be more educated as well. And please, if there is a way to educate me further I want to hear from you.
Why didn’t I take a stand when I watched Colin Kaepernick be persecuted for using his NFL platform to make a stand against racism and police brutality against blacks and other minorities? Like many, I was initially offended because at first glance I felt he was disgracing our country. Upon further investigation of my own and truly listening to the words he used, I began to understand what he was truly kneeling for in those moments.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
While others (maybe you) will never understand his actions. I saw his point of view even without ever feeling it myself. It’s a simple thing, empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
It’s what we all should naturally do for our fellow humans. Try to understand their point of view by putting yourself in their shoes and trying to feel their pain as best you can. How would you feel if you had to look over your shoulder constantly, worry about your family members constantly, fear the police and pretty much walk a straighter line than those of us with white skin? I can never truly understand that kind of fear but I want to try. So many said, “he lives a in a free country and he’s disgracing it!” What they don’t appreciate is that free isn’t really free for Colin.
For those who keep saying, “all lives matter’, I get it. I’m sure I’ve said it in the past too. Thankfully, I’ve come to realize “black lives matter” more right now! They are the ones dying! They are the ones who have been oppressed for far too long. When black lives matter equally in this country then all lives will matter. It’s what we are all striving for. I read this analogy recently and maybe it will better illustrate why black lives matter more right now.
If a house on your street was on fire, would you expect the fire service to arrive and train their hoses on all the houses? Of course not. While they would, rightly, argue that all homes matter, in that very moment they’ll focus their attention and expertise on the house that’s burning down.Blog Post by Gary Burgess, reporter for ITV
I finally realized this week that I am part of the problem if I don’t use my voice and participate in the solution. To fight racism, the only wrong thing I can do is NOTHING. Saying I’m not a racist is no longer enough. I need to get uncomfortable in order to better understand the fear, pain and injustice going on.
I have mostly been silent because I’ve been working out my own strategy and I want to share it with you. I hope it might help you and others get clear on what you can do.
Be Part of the Solution
My way of making sense out of this for myself is to first create a plan. I’m a planner! First, I’m a thinker but then I become a planner. I have to have something more than ideas or I won’t act on them. To create action and hold myself accountable, I’m sharing my pledge with you.
I pledge to educate myself on racial injustice in our country. Not just present but past transgressions that paved the way for today’s biased standards.
I will do this by reading books and watching relevant documentaries and movies based on true stories, history and stereotypical views. Here are some options I would recommend based on my own education. Some I have read or watched and many I plan to. I would welcome any other recommendations.
Just Mercy, Selma, The Color Purple, If Beal Street Could Talk, BlackKKlansman and many more options found here or through your own investigation. Streaming services are offering them for free. They are also highlighting many of these on their home pages for easy access at this time.
Many of the movies listed above started as books so if reading is your preference, check them out. Here are some on my list with a full list for you to choose from here: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas; They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery, White People and Black Lives Matter: Ignorance, Empathy, and Justice by Johanna C Luttrell.
Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and others are using their platform to educate. Here’s a recent Instagram video, Dear White People by ESPN Analyst Emmanuel Acho. I learned so much from in just 9 minutes.
I pledge to get uncomfortable. I will talk with black people I know and don’t know. I will ask questions and most importantly, LISTEN! I will use the knowledge I gain to educate others who may have the same questions I do so that we may all have a better understanding of the problems that exist.
I pledge to take the time necessary for further reflection to more clearly understand what I learn and what it all means. For me, to resonate with someone is to become emotionally connected. I have to feel it to want to make a difference. I think that’s true for most. The only way I can feel it is to put myself in their shoes and imagine how different my life would be if I were living under the same circumstances where free isn’t really free..
I pledge to look for ways to best use my skills to make the greatest impact on a local, regional and national level. I will take all I’ve learned and felt and look for ways to influence positive results.
I pledge to find a way to act in some capacity so I can be part of the solution. I will take that first step, however small. To start, I will research and vote for political candidates that support a future free of the status quo.
I pledge to support organizations and causes that educate, inspire and serve communities in a fair, equitable and humane manner.
What is Your Pledge?
How are you planning to make a difference? I would love the opportunity to read your own pledge so that we may all grow together towards a future free of racism on all levels. Click here to send yours.
Thank you for making it this far! Now. let’s get off our butts and make a difference.
To change the world, it starts with one step. However small, first step is hardest of all.You Might Die Trying, Dave Matthews
*I am not using affiliate links in this post as I don’t wish to profit from this post, I only wish to educate myself, and others and grow from it.