Molly Davis —
There is this logging road we hike once or twice a week. Over the course of 1.7 miles we gain 1000’ in elevation while hiking through three different ecosystems—Douglas fir and pine forest, Oregon white oak woodland, and meadow. The road climbs straight up to the top, with one very short reprieve thanks to a switchback near the summit.
Our goals are fairly simple. The first time up it took 46 minutes. Over time we decreased that to 29 minutes and 46 seconds. Even though we are both in good physical condition, it always seemed to be a bit easier for me than for my husband. Now granted, he has worn the small backpack that carries two bottle of water, a collapsable dog bowl, and a fleece or extra shirt. It weighs just under 10 pounds. One day as we neared the top, he wondered aloud if I would still be the one leading the charge if I wore the pack instead of him. I’ve been the one pushing to see if we can shave a few more seconds off of our time, which we always manage to do. How much difference could the addition of that small pack on my back make?
I decided to find out.
It didn’t take long to realize that even a small amount of additional weight can be a game changer. Yes, I made it to the top, but it required more of me. My breathing was more labored, every step was harder, I had to stop along the way, and it took me longer to recover.
It was the same logging road, covered in the same 2445 steps, over the same 1.7 miles, climbing the same 1000’ in elevation. The only difference was a small backpack that weighed less than 10 pounds.
Somewhere along the way, as I labored to keep up with Tom along our shared trail, it hit me. Throughout my life I have assumed that I would have access to quality healthcare, good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean air and water, healthy food, police protection, the voting process, home ownership, professional advancement, a fair trial, and the countless other things that I take so for granted that I can’t even see them. As a white person in America, I haven’t had to carry the additional weight that has burdened Black and Indigenous peoples for centuries. A burden so heavy it can’t be measured. And the systems upon which this nation was built, and that continue to sustain it today, are made possible because other people carry the load so that I don’t have to.
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