Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Continued from “And the World Opened Up”
Several years back I was dating a man who had a teen son.
One day we decided it would be fun to ride our bikes to a hot breakfast spot.
The route we would take included a bike trail, a short ride on Light Rail and a handful of blocks downtown.
The bike trail was great, one of my favorite places to ride. Meandering trails, past parks with lots of green space and water features. There are some changes in elevation so you have to put in some work, but its still pleasant.
Getting onto the light rail took some effort, a little congestion of other folks, on foot or bikes and then getting our bikes onto the racks. Effort, maybe some inconvenience but not a huge challenge.
But a voice inside started to ask, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
We were downtown in no time, off the train and starting to ride in the streets - Downtown Phoenix.
So many cars! And traffic signals and one-way streets and pedestrians and other bikers and “SHIT! I don’t know how to signal! I think we are riding the wrong way! How do I get out of here?”
Horns honking. Experienced bikers whizzing around me, someone yelled “Stay in your Lane!”
This was advanced territory and I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to navigate safely.
My being there was creating dangerous circumstances for anyone who was near me.
NOTE: I have an appreciation/hate relationship with the phrase “Stay in your lane” and it is rooted in dynamics of power and privilege… and honestly...my own bias.
If a man, more specifically, a white man*, tells me to “stay in your lane,” I interpret it as a way of silencing me, or keeping me in my place. I interpret that as trying to be controlled. That’s the hate part.
If BIPOC folks, or LGBTQ+ folks, or folks of non-Christian faiths (or others showing up in marginalization) tell me to “stay in your lane” I interpret it as a warning. Like “hey there, I sense you venturing into territory where you don't’ yet have knowledge or skills. And you could create dangerous circumstances for those around you.” That’s the appreciation part.
*Yes, I am generalizing here. Not all white men there are variables and nuance to consider - context of the conversation, the relationship, or lack there of, with that person, and so on. It all matters and still, I hold to my distinctions.
In terms of my anti-racist development, which is an on-going journey, there are times when I’m on a “bike path.” Where conversations and interactions with others (white and non-white folks) require thoughtful attention, but I have the skills and knowledge to engage without too much effort. It’s pleasant
Sometimes I’m on the “train”. Where I have to chart my plan of how to navigate the congestion of multiple voices who may have differing and even opposing opinions, knowledge and personalities. Often engaging with folks who take space, instead of share it, who hold barriers to connection, either consciously or unconsciously. This requires more effort, more intention, and thoughtful choices about how and where to take this discussion. There’s a level of challenge that might prompt that internal voice to ask, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
And there are times when I’m in the “street”, advanced territory where I am not yet clearly prepared or equipped for how to engage in content that is beyond my understanding.
So many new phrases or terminology, unrecognized acronyms or symbolism, a heightened intensity of discussion, stories of lives and circumstances I have never, and likely will never experience in this body, in this socio-economic class, in who I love, in my citizenship…
(I could go on, but I hope you are getting where I’m going)
“SHIT! I don’t know what to do or say. FUCK! I think I said something that pushed someone’s pain points. I don’t want to do that! How do I get out of this?”
At some point, someone with more experience (either their own lived circumstances or further on the anti-racism journey) reminds me “Stay in your lane.” The reminders might come in the form of gentle nudges, a knowing glance or side-eye, they may come as direct and strong demands to“check your privilege” and anything in between.
If/when I can be mindful in my discomfort, I remember to appreciate the warning- IN WHATEVER FORM IT TAKES - “ Hey there, you are getting in over your head, beyond your place and you could likely create harm or danger for those around you.” I don’t want to be that person.
If I am swirling/panicked in discomfort, my ego and pride are bruised and I might run. I also don’t want to be that person.
ENCOURAGING TAKE AWAY: Knowing my lane helps me to show up in my values and be effective with others along my anti-racism journey, while doing as little harm as possible. And I won't stay there forever. As the journey progresses, knowledge and learning make way for the lane to widen. The same can be true for you.
To be continued...