One thing I’ve always loved about road trips is that you never really know what to expect. Rain or shine, good food or gas station gourmet, you can try and plan it out as much as you want but things will always change. And as a group, we embrace that! We leave room for serendipity—and so far it’s always worked out in the end.
Today we began our fifth major road trip, wherein we plan to experience parts of the south none of us have ever been to before: Hilton Head, Savannah, Atlanta, Nashville. So we’re excited, to say the least! However thanks to flight delays, missed connections and a missing babe, the trip is already off to a very different start than any of us expected.
And of all places we could have chosen to begin our trip in, we chose Charleston. I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but in the past two days things have taken a pretty serious turn down here.
How someone the exact same age as me could kill nine people in cold blood amazes me, although I know things like this happen far more than we’d like to admit. Doesn’t matter how much we proclaim we’ve achieved equality, try to diversify the media or be fair about the way people get jobs—racism has always existed and continues to exist today.
As a college student in a good part of a big northeastern city, obviously I knew this and saw clear examples of racism every now again, but never so blatantly as this March when we went down to Oklahoma for Alternative Spring Break. Hearing kids use racial phrases that haven’t been around for two hundred years, seeing swastikas on walls and how segregated everyone in town kept themselves without actually enforcing segregation was horrifying. Nothing I studied in any book could have prepared me for that. For seeing just how normal it is for some to treat others as less of a person simply because of the color of their skin.
They still fly the confederate flag over their capital here. When all other flags had been brought half-mast, that one remained high as ever, and that in itself sickens me. I understand it is a big part of their history, but today that symbol has such a radically different connotation than it did 20, even 10 years ago, that it cannot continue to be treated as it was in the past. What does it really stand for anyway? Passionate people who fought to keep their slaves? Maybe I don’t have all the information, but from my perspective at this moment that’s what it seems like.
What’s more, if any of you are familiar with Snapchat, you know there tend to be Geotags representing the area you’re in you can overlay onto the pictures you take before sending. Right now, in addition to what I’m assuming are the standard ones they have (“Greetings from Charleston” and “Charleston, SC”), they have a Charleston Strong one with the image of a church next to it. Boston Strong was and remains our slogan of hope and perseverance after the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013, and having been at the finish line and seen all that came of it, the fact that they feel the need to use it in this context breaks my heart more than words can say. I wouldn’t wish understanding what that felt like on my worst enemy.
Charleston, our hearts are with you. We look forward to experiencing your city in the morning and hope that you find some comfort in knowing there are others out there who are ready to support you just as we were supported in our time of need. #CharlestonStrong today and always.
One thing’s for sure: this trip is going to be unlike any other. And all that being said, I cannot tell you how good it feels to be on the road again. To be finding purpose in doing what we love, traveling the world and experiencing all it has to offer. Because in experiencing we find understanding, and in understanding we find we’re not so different after all.