The assumption that hitchhiking or walking across the country is not a ‘black’ thing to do goes way back to what it means to be an American and which Americans have the right to travel, to enjoy traveling, and not just on an Amtrak or a Greyhound bus but also on the road, crossing property lines, sleeping in contested lots somewhere between public and private space.
Here’s a piece I’d been working on for some three years now, I suppose. Back in 2013, right after the news dropped that Robert Zimmerman wasn’t going to face any charges for killing Trayvon Martin (a black teenager whose mistake was to walk through Zimmerman’s neighborhood), I went on a hitchhiking trip from Denver to Portland without a real tent, literally surviving off white privilege, walking through suburban neighborhoods and asking residents if I could sleep in their yards. It worked. It was a beautiful thing, but also overshadowed with a morbid irony. Would these same people trust a black person to sleep in their back yard or sometimes even their homes (where I was once invited)? Actually, maybe they would. That’s why I couldn’t quite write an article about race and hitchhiking from my perspective. I tried. The Guardian took my draft and said they liked it, but asked if I could cut out everything I said about race. So I ended up with a very different article (here). Finally, three years later, I realized I’d have to tell the story a different way, and instead of cutting out the issue of race, I cut out the issue of myself, and ended up with this here essay for Scalawag magazine. It’s the story of the Great American Adventure and how one’s ability to travel rough and live life on the road is colored by one’s skin color. (To read the article, head over to Scalawag magazine by clicking the image below.)