I am a walker. That is just one of my traits. If I marry someone, they will have to be a walker. Kids? Yep, they are going on walks too. Walking helps me to be healthy and sane.
What I am not, is someone who skips work. I have too much guilt about not showing up when I am expected. I blame my dad. You show up, you do the work, you get paid. If you are sick, that is another matter. If you are healthy, you go to work.
So while others have been out marching and protesting, I have been a few blocks away, working my shifts. I act as a cog in the corporate machine while they try to be agents of change.
Yesterday there was a statewide walkout/strike. One of my employers sent an e-mail saying they supported us in partaking. I pondered. Then I told my supervisor that something had come up and that I would not be in the next day. (That is the plus side of being dependable. When you do bail, the boss is so surprised that she does not ask questions. She simply excuses you.)
I have never been one to intentionally ditch work for social reasons. But I have also never found a cure for racism. Maybe I need to try new things.
Now, going downtown with hundreds and thousands of people is still asking a lot from me. We are still in a pandemic situation after all. At the same time, sitting at home on the couch the whole time felt untrue to the spirit of the action. “How did you protest?” “Oh, I skipped work and watched six hours of Darkwing Duck.” Uh, no.
I made an exchange. Instead of working an eight-hour shift, I walked an eight-hour shift. I would not call it a rally. It was only me. No one was informed of my outing. No one outside asked what cause I was supporting.
I was not wearing any social cause shirts. (I do not have any. I chose a Superman shirt. He fights for the little guy and nobody fears any brutality from him.) I simply walked for eight hours.
I walked on several different trails. I walked down to pipelines. I walked past a college and a high school. I found where all the horse owners live in my area. I saw a sleek young cat hunting everything in sight and an old tabby cat that was too massive to be removed from his barn perch. Slugs, worms, herons, squirrels, rabbits; and yes, a teddy bear “waved” at me. There was plenty of scenery to take it. But my mind was focusing on race.
I thought about a person I know from work. They a sweatshirt that states,” Legalize Blackness”. On Wednesday I asked them if there was something I could do to help them with that. If there was some way that I could support them or be an ally. They told me that wearing that sweatshirt was their way of protesting. They told me that not so many years ago that they too had had an officer put a knee on their neck and diminish their breathing. They told me that engaging in conversation with them was support enough.
I thought about Black Panther. I like the movie because it is a well-made flick. The character, unlike most heroes in tights, goes out of his way not to give in to vengeance. This week I took it in as a movie with very few white people cluttering up the screen. With so many movies featuring an all-white cast, it must be a relief to see oneself represented. And that character is complex and a force for good.
I thought about how I hate jogging with my shirt off. There are times when it gets too hot and I have to chuck the shirt to the side. Whenever I do, I feel self-conscious. (I am not just white, I am downright pasty.) Others though, they cannot cover up every bit of their skin with clothes when they feel different. They may feel subconscious every time they step out the door. That sounds exhausting.
I thought about Hidden Figures. How the women were smart enough to help get a man in orbit and they happened to be black. How John Glenn probably did not care whether Katherine G. Johnson was black or white. He probably just cared that her math was perfect.
I thought about a customer at work. His shirt had just the right amount of attitude while still speaking the truth.
I was quite ready to turn around after four hours. Four hours was plenty of walking. But I had told myself eight hours. And it was nothing compared to what others had gone through.
I did not have someone shoving me against a police car or cutting off my air. I did not have to sneak through various states, barefoot, trying to get to the next stop on the Underground Railroad. I did not have to cram myself into a box for days and mail myself out of town.
Sore joints were a petty excuse for going home. Did I enjoy the two port-a-potties I used? No. No I did not. Yet those would have been considered luxuries for slaves back in the day.
I cannot say that I found any answers. However I did get some more perspective. I did not walk the great journey, but I took one or two steps. If this was my only investment in thinking about race, it would not be enough. As a continuing of the process, it was a meaningful one to me.
I did not cross any finish lines. I did not cure racism. (Darnit.) I only put aside some time to think. And I did it outdoors so I could learn that much more. It did me good even if it hurt. Walking for justice might be murder on my soles, but it is good for the soul.