Fat Bikes and Privilege

Note: in this climate, as a white woman it is a scary thing to try and write about race.  If you have comments, would you please send them personally and let’s avoid a social media blitz.  The following is part of my own journey as I struggle to speak for justice and love those who might be listening.

I love to run trails.  Even in below zero, wind and snow, I layer up and run down the street and into Hartley.  Yesterday I raced home from church and got 77 minutes of almost total bliss.  Eyelashes frosted.  Snot dripping.  Yak tracks keeping my feet from slipping.  And dodging fat bikes.

When you’re a runner and the fat bikes come at you, you get out of the way.  At least I do.  They could get off their bike and walk around me in the deep snow… but they never do.  Never.

This isn’t a judgment on bikers, but it was impossible not to think of privilege and Martin Luther King Jr as I ran yesterday.  Stay with me.

Fat bikes aren’t cheap.  Neither are the fancy outfits most bikers wear in the winter while they are racing around the trails.  And even if the bikers come from modest means they still never get off their bikes when I’m “sharing” the trail.

True Confession: At some point it is hard to trust the bikers.  To say hello.  To even like them while I am driving on roads and they are doing nothing to impede my day.  And to not wonder if I were a man if it would be any different.  Or as a woman I feel like this a lot… but I digress.

Perhaps if one or two of them did treat me differently it would change my attitude.

So as I ran yesterday, amazed by the tiny flakes of snow completely unique from the other billion falling around me.  As I struggled to breathe as the weight of 4 layers of clothing kept me from my PR.  As I wondered at the pure white snow… and how we love to think white is good and black is dark and bad.  And as I dodged fat bikes, I asked for help.

Help in parenting my kids to treat everyone well.  Help in continuing my education about how it is to be a minority in Duluth.  Help in reading books like Waking up White, biographies written my Muslim women raising children in post 9-11 NYC and Tony Dungy’s experiences in the NFL in the ’70’s and ’80’s as a black coach.  Help.

Help us Lord.  It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr was killed.  50 years.

The next generation is watching.  I know I was as I grew up in Dawson MN, pop 1626.

This is a picture of my father (center) shaking hands with Martin Luther King Sr at a Chapel meeting in 1972.

My father went to Duke Seminary when it was segregated.  He tells stories of what it was like to try to get Duke to open their doors to African Americans.  Inviting black pastors to speak at their chapel (which was “allowed”) and extending friendship.

I’ve always wanted a copy of this photo.  My dad was an Army chaplain.  He believed (still does) that Jesus is our model for how to treat others.  And to stand up for what’s right.  I’m pretty sure Martin Luther King Jr had a dad like that too.  It’s what motivated him and created a movement that changed our country and the world.

I don’t know what the answers are all and I sit in a warm house today educated and well fed.  But I do think how we treat one another, the words we use and our parenting will impact the world.

So as the state bleeds purple today, may we not forgot what day it is.

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