Woke Week: Path-following as a Political Act

Note: This post is part of my “Woke Week,” series, where I’m making an effort to consider things that I read in the context of #BlackLivesMatter.

In The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Robert Macfarlane writes about walking in Palestine with Raja Shehadeh, a human-rights lawyer and “passionate path-follower.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Occasionally, Raja told me, walking allowed him briefly to forget the situation on the ground. He spoke of the pleasure he felt at being out beyond checkpoints, walls and barriers, of feeling ‘giddy with joy’ under a wide-open sky. Sometimes the evidence of the spans of geological history, the knowledge that he was walking on limestone which had formed as the bed of an ancestral sea, crushed his frustrations at the Palestinian predicament to a wafer. He had written a book about life in the West Bank called Palestinian Walks (2007), in which path-following figured as an explicitly political act and walking as a means of resistance.”

–Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways, page 213

The notion of “path-following as a political act” and “walking as an act of resistance” is highly descriptive of what we are seeing in today’s headlines all over the U.S. Here are three examples:

1.      “D.C. Mayor paints BLACK LIVES MATTER on protest route” (Path-making as a political act.)

“Black Lives Matter” painted on 16th Street near the White House on June 5, 2020.Daniel Slim / AFP – Getty Images

2. “Why is this black guy running? After Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing, African Americans Reconsider Fitness Routine” (Running as a political act.)

Members of Black Men Run at the Trenton Half Marathon in 2017. Image from Black Men Run

3.   “Peaceful Anti-Police Brutality Protests Continue Across the Country” (Marching as an act of resistance.)

Protesters and activists walk across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday in New York. Cities saw some of their biggest gatherings of the past two weeks on Saturday.
Craig Ruttle/AP via NPR


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