There is usually a strange sort of recalibration that comes after a period of disconnection from cell reception and the daily news. It can be jarring to be instantly reminded of all of the other lives and struggles that go on without your knowing. We were met with heavy news the other day when we briefly reconnected for the first time in a while. At the top of our feed was the grave news of the deaths of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men gunned down by police officers. This set us on the task of reflecting on our journey and our responsibility to remain connected to the struggle against systems of oppression.
Since hearing the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile we have had to reconcile the fact that we are far away, both physically and in our ability to be up to date on what is happening in our communities and around the country. We set out to run around Lake Superior in order to more intimately connect with a place that we love. We’ve had the privilege to invest nearly all of our time and energy into this journey and the work that we’re trying to accomplish with it. Part of reconciling our feelings is that we know we’re missing opportunities to fight against police brutality and engage in anti-racist work back home.
What is the importance of our journey? What are we trying to accomplish? How can we as white people in the woods engage in anti-racist work? These are the questions that we have asked ourselves after being reminded of the constant violence against people of color in a broken system. No matter how far away we may feel in the woods, no matter how easy it is to tune out the woes of the world in this space, we must realize how entrenched we all are in these violent systems of oppression. It would be easy to turn our heads away from the news of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. It would be easy to not talk about these things with the people we meet on the road or over a campfire. But these typically recreational spaces, as they are, have the means to transform us and thus transform our understanding of systems of racism and state violence. Hiking trails, beaches and campgrounds are often seen as idyllic separations from the rest of life. While we don’t want to negate that wilderness can be a necessary place of healing, and has been for us, we also want to acknowledge that we have the power to reconstruct these spaces to hold critical conversation.
After reconciling our circumstance in the heart of our journey and re-evaluating our place in the system, what do we do from here? At first, as white people in the woods without internet access, it feels disheartening to feel so far away and so incapable of showing up. But we’re not incapable. Our current circumstance may have limits but there’s a lot that we can do and we have an undeniable responsibility to do it. We can talk about systems of violence, death and oppression with the people we meet even when it feels uncomfortable. We still can’t show up physically but we can send solidarity and support from where we are through social media, donations and writing. Racism is a white person problem and we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and those close to us. We have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with Black life.