The hashtag has become synonymous with a weekly terrorist attack, police shooting, or social media debate. Let’s be honest, we are tired of the hashtag. I am tired of the hashtag. Please allow me to clarify, I am tired of what is behind the hashtag. It would be naïve of me to think that evil and attacking each other constantly began a few years ago. It would be naïve of me to think that everyone was raised in a family that was taught to accept those that are different from you, or that you seek to understand others even if you don’t agree with them. The hashtag has become society’s way to process it all or debate it all.
I have come to understand being raised by a mother and family that emphasized our moral obligation to be accepting and compassionate towards others is both a gift and a curse. The gift is that I build connection with friends and strangers that are equivalent to a United Nations assembly. The curse is that you feel a lot. A WHOLE LOT. You are the eight-year-old that asks your mom if she can pull her car into the parking lot so you can ask the Klan members a few questions about why they don’t like the representation of me as they marched past my future high school. In case you were wondering, she didn’t. You were the child that videotaped Peter Jennings’ ABC News “Growing Up in the Age of AIDS” special, and passionately demanded your teacher show it in class because this was important to raise awareness and educate. She did show parts of it. You were the adult friend that cried with your friend when he told you that he was rejected for coming out to his family, and we ended every conversation with I love you.
The last month has been overwhelming.
I have awakened most mornings to NPR’s “Morning Edition” sharing news about the killing of 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the shooting of 5 police officers in Dallas, TX. The tears flowed and messages of love sent to friends, and begging people to find it in their hearts to understand why there are protests in the streets. People are tired of the actions behind the hashtags…ENOUGH. It’s too much. It’s really just too much.
I needed an escape and search for a place that would defy the actions of the hashtags. I was looking for a space and place to process because it had become too overwhelming, and I had reached my breaking point.
Who knew that hanging with a small army of MINI Coopers would be that space and place? That Saturday morning just before day break, I pulled into the Atlanta Motor Speedway to begin a journey with a community of cars that celebrated differences. Remember, no 2 MINIs are the same. Just like our cars, we were each different with a different journey…different life experiences…we didn’t care about what made us different. From Germany, from the west coast,from the middle of America, drivers of adaptive cars, drivers traveling with family, drivers traveling with pets, or motoring solo. However, that morning we were united. As the sun rose over the horizon and filled the track with sunlight, the hashtags that symbolized pain and loss were replaced by the most meaningful hashtag – #DefyLabels.
Together, our family of label defiers were solely focused on #MTTS2016 (Mini Takes The States) and #DefyHunger (a partnership with Feeding America). As my baby sister and I started on our journey through towns that time seemed to have forgotten, we listed to Kendrick Lamar to process. I don’t know what my fellow motorist were listening to, and to be honest I didn’t care. I don’t know who they are voting for in November. We were traveling along curves and quiet towns each processing our own thoughts. Now, I understand why the great novels involve a road trip. What I do know for sure is that for a few days, I journeyed with a group of people that unapologetically #DefyLabels.
Unfortunately, the hashtags will continue. We will continue to label each other. We will selectively have compassion towards one another. I had to hop off the journey in Richmond, VA, but what brought a smile to my face on the journey home is owning that I’m most comfortable existing outside the labels laid at my feet. Having chosen to embrace my defiance of labels, I will turn the question to you: What labels do you need to smash to live your true self?
Lauren – #DefyLabels driver since 2010