My friend Carol and I are hiking Glen Cove creek, happy to happen on an undiscovered waterfall to add to the many we have creek-walked around Ithaca.
We find many cans and bottles left by others; I must pick them up despite it not being my assigned Adopt-a-Highway area. Carol fills her arms as well. I ask: Why do you think people leave their trash along the roads or creeks?
Carol: “Because they are lazy.”
My spiritual husband joins me on most waterfall hikes around New York state, as we feel nurtured by nature, especially by the flow of waterfalls, gently or roaring. When I ask WHY some blacks do not join the work force and collect welfare, he says, “because they are lazy.” I become impatient while seeking understanding that they have been oppressed ever since employed by slaves. Still, they are treated disrespectfully, covered by the trash of inequalities and inequities, as Black Lives Matter protests across the world now recognize police brutality: George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Michael Brown, and many more.
As a seventy-four-year-old female raised in a lower middle-class family, I enjoy the white privilege, especially adopted by a father who loves me enough that I feel special. I try to pay the love forward, as a Marriage and Family Therapist; dad being one of the few men who volunteered for Suicide Prevention in the 1970s. My father who hiked his three children into nature on Sundays, once carving a wooden paddle-wheel (tears) turned by a small grassy stream in our back fields.
Maybe that memory connects with my ability to place each of my legs on either side of the grassy roadside ditches (ditch yoga😊) from which I gather bags full of cans and bottles thrown from vehicles, easy to recycle, a total of 80 plus dollars in 2020. I wish it was as easy to recycle the easy answers, like “lazy,” blinded by the light of whiteness – when the answer might be simple: WHY should people care about Mother Earth? If they do not have someone to care about them? To love them.
Addendum: Between 2013 and 2020, black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people (Newsweek 2021)