Taking action for greater personal and collective wellbeing within the bus life community, and the world.
This article is a collaboration between Bunny White and Christina Hadly. Bunny and her husband Nathan have spent two years slowly converting their skoolie. Once it’s complete they will be moving onto their off-grid property to build up a permaculture homestead and steward the land. Christina is a writer, thru-hiker, and nomadic bus-dweller. After quitting her corporate job in 2018, she hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail, bought a bus, renovated it, and has traveled over 20,000 miles around the western US.
Bunny: To start this conversation, Christina and I would each like to share a bit of background on what has informed and motivated us to write this article. I would like to first bring your attention to the many positive words associated with the bus life community. Words like creative, kind, free, helpful, outgoing, and welcoming. I know we take immense pride in such descriptions and how they speak to the joy that is so commonplace within the bus life adventure. We fight for this joy when we make the choice to handcraft a life that goes against Western societal norms. We are rewarded with this joy each time we overcome a technical challenge related to converting a bus into a home. And we protect this joy as we live out bus life and continue to redefine what health, wealth, and happiness look like. This joy is really the promise of bus life, and it is our reward for taking the risk.
So it is with great discomfort, but also great purpose and much love, that I risk interrupting that joy to deliver a message this community still needs to hear. To remind us there is still much work to be done in order to live up to the virtues we so proudly proclaim. And in order to continue dismantling a legacy of oppression still experienced by those with marginalized identities. I risk interrupting that joy to make space for more joy.
To do this we must first be open to considering that there’s a story here we’re unfamiliar with (and possibly unaccepting of). One that explains how erroneous discrimination and prejudice is perpetuated by everyday people like you and I. A story that details the normalization of whiteness, and a near blinding accommodation of, and preference for, the success and joy of white people.
As racism gets called out at the level we’re currently seeing, as marginalized people of all kinds increasingly demand, claim, and create liberation from oppressive forces, and as we collectively evolve our understanding of ourselves and of the world, I’m personally starting to feel a previously unknown freedom to fully be who I amー as a biracial Black woman and as someone with other marginalized identities. I’m horrified by what it’s taken for us to get here, and it’s clear to me that we've got a long way to go. But I’m hopeful. And I’m committed to doing the multidimensional work involved in building a future that doesn’t inherit the deeply flawed and dangerous value system of our recent past or present.
Christina: We all have an opportunity to experience greater freedom by entering into anti-racism work and releasing the ways in which the systems of oppression have taught us to see everyone else, and ourselves. With that comes the chance to expand our understanding of who we are and re-establish who we want to be. But, diving into, or even dipping a toe into anti-racism work can feel scary. I can empathize. As a white woman, writing my portion of this article feels scary even though I’ve been investing in my own anti-racism education and actions for a few years now. Publicly participating in this conversation, on the record, is intimidating. A voice in my head nags me: “What could I possibly have to contribute when so many people of color have already spoken out about racism?” I procrastinated on writing this for many days, a procrastination I know is born out of fear. It’s a fear many white people can relate to. We’re scared of messing up or saying the wrong thing or, heaven forbid, being racist.
But here’s the thing—we’re all racist. We were born into and raised in a society that rewards whiteness. We’ve all absorbed racial messaging and stereotypes. We were steeped in this tea. We’ve spent a lifetime in this water. And as white people continue to talk in hushed voices amongst ourselves, or proclaim that we “don’t see color”, people of color continue to be harassed, discriminated against, arrested, beaten, and heartbreakingly, killed. When we’re just starting out on our unlearning journeys, this can be hard to read. But it’s important to bear witness. And while we’re getting our feelings in order, people are dying. Racism is a life-and-death issue. This is a human rights crisis.
We didn’t have a choice about our skin color or the society we were born into, but we have a choice now. We can choose to look around, see what isn’t working, and work to build a radically different future.
The Skoolie Alliance
As part of building that future right here in the bus life community, we’d like to extend a special invitation for you to join us in co-creating an official bus life alliance. A proposal for this alliance was drafted in direct response to witnessing racism surface within online bus life spaces, and it introduces a vision to help us do better in a multitude of ways that are not limited to the offenses of racism itself. The proposal imagines a holistic and revolutionary way of organizing ourselves, of identifying our collective needs and wants, of maximizing our pool of resources, of distributing decision-making rights and responsibilities to all members, and of increasing the wellbeing and potential of our unique community.
You can view and vote on the proposal by visiting www.TheSkoolieAlliance.com. While the site will remain up for an extended period of time, the poll will close August 31. If you would like to help get this project off the ground please review the proposal, share your feedback in the poll, help us spread the word, follow @TheSkoolieAlliance on Instagram to stay updated on progress, and consider joining the “founding circle”.
Charting Your Course Through Anti-Racism Work
Anti-racism work is about taking action to end systemic oppression and the worldview that supports it, because that is the source of racism (as well as numerous other forms of oppression suffered by many marginalized groups of people). By engaging in this work we can start to address racism within the bus community, and help to strengthen the shared foundation on which we aim to build The Skoolie Alliance. And we understand that it’s a lot to navigate. But if we take some time to consider the broader scope of anti-racism and how we’re each personally suited to participate in it, we position ourselves to be better at it.
So let’s now explore a few frameworks that provide us with greater perspective and a heightened sense of direction. These models are like maps, and when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, especially somewhere that feels threatening, a map is surely an invaluable resource.
To continue the metaphor, if our ongoing destination is anti-racism, then our vehicle would be all the educational anti-racism materials that exist, and our map would provide a contextual overview of the anti-racism landscape we’re traveling. Just like a geographical map, ours would pinpoint where we currently are at various scales, and help us decide which path we want to take to get to where we’re going.
* The images that illustrate each model below can be viewed more closely by visiting the links provided in each section, or by opening the image in a new window and zooming in.
I. Equation of Allyship and the Becoming Anti-Racist Framework
At the micro scale, we have two helpful models that deal directly with racism. First, there’s anti-racist academic and activist Rachel Cargle with her ‘Equation of Allyship’. This framework expertly illustrates the relationship between the domains of Knowledge, Empathy, and Action, thereby demonstrating how a truly supportive and effective ally exists at the intersection of all three areas.
Then there is the ‘Becoming Anti-Racist’ framework which was inspired by the work of Ibram X. Kendi and originally illustrated by Dr. Andrew M. Ibrahim. The three domains of this model are the Fear Zone, Learning Zone, and Growth Zone. Identifying yourself within these zones is intended to illuminate where you are in the process of becoming anti-racist and help keep you accountable.
B: Understanding that these models are really aimed at white people, I hesitated to offer personal reflections on these frameworks as a mixed-race Black woman. But, I recognize that there isn’t just one type of privilege and white people looking to be actively anti-racist aren’t the only ones being asked to learn what it means to be a good and effective ally. The reality is that these models are a great gauge in general for personal integrity, growth, and accountability. So with Rachel’s model, I find myself highest in Empathy and about equal in Knowledge and Action. I’m definitely putting a lot more energy into those two areas lately, and this entire article speaks to my interest in being able to sustain that work. For the Kendi/Ibrahim model, I’ve got one foot in the Learning Zone and one in the Growth Zone. I’m zero percent interested in hanging out in the Fear Zone and have really made it a priority over the last year or so to recognize when I’m in the grip of illegitimate fear, and overcome it.
C: Over time, I’ve found myself in all areas of these models, depending on where I was in my anti-racism journey. Currently, I’m in the Growth Zone of Kendi and Ibrahim’s model, although I know the Learning Zone is my comfort zone, so it will take life-long work and education to continue growing. I can’t get too comfortable or start patting myself on the back. In Rachel Cargle’s equation, Empathy and Knowledge are my comfort zones. They’re where I’m most strongly rooted. Over the past 4 years, I’ve worked to make Action a habit. As an introvert who easily gets exhausted from calling representatives or going to protests, I have to push myself to make sure I’m finding different ways to take action instead of simply letting myself off the hook. If you’re just finding your footing in either of these models, please don’t be discouraged. We’re glad you’re here. We need you. I share my story in hopes of illustrating how this work is an ever-evolving, life-long process. Let’s get to work.
II. Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem
At the meso scale, there is a model like the one developed by Deepa Iyer of the Building Movement Project. This framework for ‘Mapping Our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem’ presents 10 archetypes that describe various roles we may occupy in the “pursuit of equity, shared liberation, inclusion, and justice”. Obviously we all have different energy and aptitude for taking certain actions in times of crisis. This model helps us identify the roles that are a natural and energizing fit for us. In the process, it can reveal how we’ve misplaced our efforts, explain why we’ve been stuck or stagnant, and realign us to our purpose.
B: I identify most as a Weaver and a Visionary. I’m a multi-passionate person who loves to learn and a problem-solver who is naturally drawn to focus on the source level, or root cause, of issues. And I’m highly engaged by the process of learning, organizing, and designingー whether it be to create something physical like the skoolie my husband and I are building, organizational like my proposal for The Skoolie Alliance, or informational like this article. I have difficulty with the roles of Frontline Responder and Caregiver, so if that’s what’s being asked of me I will exhibit the most resistance in those areas (even though personal experience has shown me that I’m good at handling emergency situations).
C: First and foremost, I think I am a Storyteller. As a writer, it’s a role I’ve naturally found myself in as I’ve shared and educated by crafting stories. At times, I also see myself as a Weaver and a Caregiver, since the more I learn, the more it’s apparent to me that everything in our society is connected. In turn, I tie these insights back to my storytelling and the connections I foster as a Caregiver. So, interconnectedness (Weaver) leads to nourishing connection (Caregiver), leads to sharing stories (Storyteller).
III. Three Spheres of Activism
The last model zooms out to the macro scale and invites us to consider a much bigger picture. Numerous authors and scholars have coined the term “The Great Turning” in reference to “the global shift from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization”. Also introduced as the “Three Spheres of Activism” by Troy Wiley of World Summit, this framework states that “in order for this Great Turning to be accomplished, work needs to be done in the following three distinct areas:” Holding Actions, Structural Change, and Shift in Consciousness.
The domain of Holding Actions is where we find most all traditional forms of activism as they pertain to halting “the destructive and unjust practices that are taking place on the planet”. But the problems addressed in this domain are symptoms of an underlying oppressive and unsustainable system. So this is where Structural Change comes into play. In this domain we don’t focus our energy on minimizing the damage of the current systems, instead, we imagine and create new ones. And yet still, "These structural alternatives cannot take root and survive without deeply ingrained values to sustain them.” That, in turn, requires “a profound shift in our perception of reality”, which is represented by the Shift in Consciousness domain.
The idea here is to be aware of these interrelated domains and understand the value of their various roles. Then, on an individual level, to recognize our relationship with each domain (where we focus most of our energy or actions, and if we feel an affinity with one sphere over another). Finally, it’s to determine if there is currently a pressing need in the world for our attention and action in a particular domain.
B: It only took me a few experiences with activism in the domain of Holding Actions to realize that’s not where I feel I’m of the most service (nor have I felt particularly needed until recently since there’s already so much activity in this area). I would say my heart has always had me engaged in the Shift in Consciousness domain, and my outward actions have significantly been in the area of Structural Changes. This can be seen in how I’ve proposed to establish The Skoolie Alliance as a Teal organization.
C: Because I don’t consider myself a visionary, I’ve participated the most in the Holding Actions domain. Even though I know we need Structural Changes and I deeply want them, I’m not the best at imagining what those Structural Changes can be. Once I’m introduced to the ideas of someone else and evaluate them, I’m on board completely and start championing for Structural Changes. As the model explains, we also need Shifts in Consciousness in order to achieve those Structural Changes. I spend time and energy self-reflecting and educating myself so I can make my own Shifts in Consciousness. These shifts don’t always come easily to me, but they sow rewards in so many areas of my life.
Let’s Reimagine A Better Future
A global paradigm shift is well underway and a new world is emerging. Right now we have an opportunity to make choices that aren’t merely reflections of the old worldview. We get to participate in the revolutionary creative act of reimagining. This is clearly something that appeals to all of us in the bus life community. It’s something we’re already doing. We reimagine what home, work, or retirement can be. We’ve looked at the status quo and decided no, I want something different. I want something more. Let’s now harness our imaginations and our creativity for something even larger. We get to radically reimagine inclusivity, representation, diversity, safety, support, leadership, resource sharing, and our collective wellbeing.
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