Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter.

I support people of color and I support this movement. At no point when I began writing about hiking on the internet did I think I would use my platform to address social issues. I see now that it was ignorant of me to think that way. Hike for Days is not immune or separate from injustice. Nothing is, and by remaining silent I support racism. No platform is too small to stand for justice. Being passive isn’t good enough. It never was. I know that now.

I am white. I am a man. I come from an upper middle-class background. Without diminishing the hard work of my parents and others who have contributed to my prosperity (while still recognizing their privilege), I benefit from just about every advantage a person can be born with. The adventures described on this blog stand as a monument to my privilege. I work to recognize this and humbly appreciate just how fortunate I have been in life so far, but that’s not enough.

Am I anti-racism? I’d like to think so, but evidence in my life to justify this label is glaringly, embarrassingly absent. The injustice that currently afflicts our society, locally, nationally, and worldwide, has been around since long before I showed up on this planet. It’s nothing new and I’ve had my entire life to wake up and do something about it.

Black lives matter. In the past I didn’t get it, and I still struggle to understand what this means. If you don’t understand what this means, if you just don’t get it, I urge you, like I do, to at least believe the people who are grieving. Try not to be offended, like I was and still am sometimes. No need for that. And no need to get defensive either. I try to extend the limits of my empathy instead. Though I’m trying to learn more, I feel crushed under the weight of what I don’t know. I know nothing, zero, nada about what it is like to be a person of color in America today. That’s why I believe them when they say they suffer from great injustice. By what experience can I claim to know their lives better than they do? That is one privilege I do not have.

This is a hiking blog. Why does this matter? Who am I to share my opinion with the internet at-large? Well, it does matter. For reasons I won’t claim to totally understand, people of color are underrepresented in outdoor recreational activities. Anecdotally, combining the PCT and CDT, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I encountered a person of color hiking the trail. That’s pretty crazy to me, but ultimately unsurprising when I think about it. I remind myself that while hiking the CDT, we passed through some small towns proudly displaying hateful words, walked along remote dirt roads where bad timing can mean a stolen backpack or worse, and slept in woods full of white hunters with guns — The bar in Leadore, ID hosts a particularly ugly display; a bloodied Obama caricature hangs by the neck from the rafters. As a liberal, I did not feel welcome or safe in these places, but at least I could hide my views behind the color of my skin. In general, the wilderness feels like one of the safest places I can be. It feels like home. This is another privilege that I am only now learning to understand. I know nothing. I have so much to learn.

Black lives matter and the BLM movement matters. Today. Tomorrow. Yesterday.

If, like me, you are looking for more information, more ways to listen, more ways to learn, more ways to act, the editors at The Trek put together a post that is a great resource. Find it here:

https://thetrek.co/challenge-the-narrative/

As a white person, I don’t have anything to add besides my voice. This is it. Right now it’s my job to listen, learn, and amplify. Thank you for listening. Thank you for continuing to listen. Now it’s time for me to get back to doing the same.

Anger, frustration, embarrassment, confusion, love, and peace.

-Owen

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