While riding today I thought about what this whole #StanfordCyclingAgainstRacism thing means to me. What exactly am I hoping to achieve? It reminded me of a verse that stood out to me in my reading last night,
“If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable, consistent goals.” – Dr. Ibram Kendi
I haven’t always been an antiracist. To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever even heard the term, “antiracist” before June 2020. Like many, I always thought that I was not-racist, and that that was enough. The thing that has stood out to me the most, Chapter 1 of “How to be an antiracist,” is that there is no such thing as not-racist. Now I realize how radical this idea may be, and I also recognize that there is no way that I can accurately recapitulate Dr. Kendi’s argument for this idea in what is meant to be a short blog post. You can go out and read it for yourself. What matters here is that after 2 hours of riding and thinking, I agree with Dr. Kendi. Things can be racist, or anti-racist. There is no such thing as a policy, law, or idea that is “not-racist.”
I chose Foothills Park as my first day in this journey for a reason. Foothills Park sits on unceded Muwekma Ohlone Tribe territory, also known as Palo Alto, California. Since its founding, this park has only been open to Palo Alto residents, and for a long time locals have pushed back against this policy, claiming it has racist origins. When I posted about this on Twitter the other day, a long time resident called me out saying the policy was not-racist because it was simply about what cities were or weren’t willing to purchase the land. What a perfect moment to apply Kendi’s argument about things only being racist or antiracist.
The question of whether or not something is racist is simply this (as outlined by Kendi), does this policy/action/inaction/idea further empower the oppressor? Does it further the divide between races? Does it mean that an already marginalized group has even less access/opportunity/rights? And the answer is yes. The Foothills Park policy is racist. Black people make up less than 2% of Palo Alto residents despite making up 14% of the United State population. East Palo Alto, a distinct city, is made up of 17% Black and 65% Hispanic people of color. By closing its gates to non-Palo Alto residents, the park is restricting access to one of the largest racially diverse populations in the region.
Going back to the original quote that inspired me today–to the idea of doing the work to define who we want to be–I wanted to define what this #10day30k means to me:
- Making time to do the work: I’m a fulltime student-scientist. I barely have enough free time to be social. But making time for this journey is more broadly about making time for the work. No excuses.
- Inreach: I love this term. I learned it from my advisor recently. The idea is that often those of us in places of privilege focus on outreach–reaching out to underserved communities. This work is great, but not if it means we neglect the work we need to do within.
- Learning: I believe in civic duty. As a citizen of this world, it is my duty to learn as much about the world as possible. This journey is about learning about other people’s experiences, learning the real history of racism in America, learning about how I–even in my I’m not a racist ways–have contributed to racism in America.
- Becoming an antiracist: It’s not enough for me, half Chicana, raised in a multiracial family, to be self-proclaimed “not-racist.” I am either complicit in racism, or I am actively fighting it, whether through action or inaction.
- Humility: None of us is perfect, and none among us gets it right 100% of the time. This journey is about staying humble, recognizing my own flaws, and staying open to change.
The idea of defining who I want to be has always been important to me. I come from seriously humble origins. I don’t know many people who’ve lived and survived through the type of violence, trauma, and poverty I’ve seen. Thriving, despite all else, has always come from my desire to wake up each day and be a better person than I was the day before.