My wife and I bought a school bus almost exactly a year ago. It's now since transformed into a twenty-two-foot-long, one-bedroom, half-bathroom apartment that's primarily used for escaping from COVID-isolation. It's green with a little purple, and you can't miss it. That's why we drove it across the country and back with the words, "No Room For Hate On This Bus – Black Lives Matter" painted on the rear window.
It started out in frustration. We doubted our right to help speak for other people. "This is an opportunity to send a message," we thought.
As everyone who wishes to support this cause knows, COVID-19 has created such an enormous pull that parallels or eclipses other important topics in the news. Our own president eclipses important topics in the news. In many ways, this is a perfect storm of preventing people from being heard. You'd have to get out of the house, gear-up, mask-up, and protest on foot. Social gatherings are a touchy subject even without the mention of a protest demonstration.
Maybe instead, you'd reach out to friends on social media, telling them to do the same and creating a platform for donations. I know plenty of other white people like myself who constantly navigate awkward, abrasive, but necessary conversations with their family members. Everyone is reinventing how they support this cause. Unfortunately, during our trip, other people across the country had something much worse to add to the conversation.
Most of what they gave instead came in the form of a certain finger held up, followed by all of the assumed bumper stickers you'd imagine as they sped away. I'd usually go with my window down while driving the bus, which is a disappointment when someone wanted to discuss equality in America while they shout inaudible nonsense from behind the glass. The best part was the extra anger piled on when they saw two white people inside. We even had folks in Montana yelling, “Yankee!” at us.
Luckily for us, and more so for humanity, all of that hate could never eclipse the amount of brief, but positive experiences we had. We spent three weeks on and off the road, camping alone in forests, so it naturally came in the form of drive-by honks, followed by fists out the window, or sometimes a peace sign. We even pulled some smiles and waves out of the people not paying attention. There were points in Chicago where it felt like we had a tiny, minute-long parade of a dozen cars, each one honking and cheering, each hand out the window a different color.
The support is out there. If you reach for it you will find a hand reaching back and you can make a difference in more people's lives than you think. You can find a way. Look at every single way the virus impacted our lives and how we constantly keep adapting to it. We can all harness that same effort to affect change and ultimately make some really good friends.
By Andrew Wiechert
Photo by Andrew Wiechert