So, now I had to decide what I was going to do. Find someone else to go with me at the last minute? Or just go down to New Orleans by myself? I decided on the latter. I love traveling - but to be honest I prefer doing it by myself. I have very particular interests and activities that I like to do on vacation. Usually they are things that seem odd to others. Just ask my wife. We love traveling, but compromising on what I want to do and what she wants to do can at times be challenging. And as my wife is finishing up her MBA and her break doesn't line up with mine - it seems like the perfect time for me to just do my thing.
While planning my trip I realized that my route would take me past many locations that have a common theme - a theme that is very much in the national conversation today - our racial divide. I know - what a relaxing thing to be contemplating during my spring break! I guess I'm weird that way. My goal is to write about the history of race relations in many of the places I visit in a way that doesn't shy away from our history, but also cast anyone as the devil. We are ALL capable of kindness, intelligence, and fairness - but we are also capable of cruelty, ignorance, and injustice. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't hold people accountable or that I think the Black Panthers have the same moral responsibility for racial strife as the KKK. But I'm going to try to focus on the dynamics of power, which is in my mind, the main driver of racial animosity - not just in this country, but all over the world.
Will I just be recounting a never ending list of historical injustices that have plagued racial minorities in this country since before its founding? Yes and no. Those events must be acknowledged and described fully - so that we can come to grips with how horrific it is that these things happened on our soil. But, I think it's more important from the context of how those events shaped our current nation. Why are we so segregated? Why do minority communities still experience poverty, violence, incarceration and addiction at rates higher than Whites? What do we have problems acknowledging the contributions of minorities to our nation? How can it be that in 2016 we are still dealing with racial strife? Why do people feel like they have to shout "Black lives matter" in 2016? And is that "reverse racism"? What do our current presidential politics say about us as a people?
Yep - that's some pretty weighty stuff alright. But I don't think that we can move forward without conversation. Sure it's scary. But like I would say to a patient with PTSD - the only way to move beyond our past is to fully explore it.
Here is a map of where I will travel starting next Friday afternoon. If anybody has any suggestions of places to visit that are near where I'll be traveling - please let me know. I've got a lot of ideas, but I do actually realize (contrary to what my wife tells me sometimes) that I actually don't know everything.
Here is a map of my planned route.
The places I'm planning to visit because of their significance are Kansas City MO, Oswatomie KS, Tulsa OK, Dallas TX, Tyler TX, New Orleans LA, Vicksburg MS, Memphis TN, Ferguson MO.
Wish me luck! ; )