One of my favorite parts about pedal the pacific has been the conversations that I’ve been able to have with strangers. Even the littlest interactions of having cars cheer for us on the road bring me joy. Almost every single rest stop I’ve taken while biking, somebody has come up to me or my team and asked what we are doing. Every time, I walk away with a renewed sense of appreciation and motivation after seeing strangers rally around the fight against sex trafficking.
However, there was one conversation that rubbed me the wrong way.
This one particular interaction started out very encouraging. I had a great conversation with them, but one thing they said I still vividly remember. “You guys are heroes, and I look up to you.”
At first glance, I felt very honored to be called a hero. However, upon reflection, I am now taken aback by this statement.
While I know the sentence was meant to be the highest compliment, I am here to vehemently exclaim that I am NOT a hero.
I feel like calling me a hero completely disregards the whole point of pedal the pacific. I am not a hero for deciding to learn more about the injustices of sex trafficking. I am not a hero for raising awareness about people who have been trafficked. I am not a hero for caring.
Pedal the Pacific is advocating for a world where everybody cares and wants to learn about sex trafficking. Calling me a hero means that caring and wanting to learn isn’t the standard. Caring should be the standard.
So, I am here because I want to flip the narrative. I’m not disregarding the hard work that me and my teammates have poured into this journey for the past eight months of being part of Pedal the Pacific. I am constantly inspired and in awe about how lucky I feel to be able to learn from them everyday. But, calling us heroes draws the attention towards us and away from the brave, and dare I say, heroic survivors of human sex trafficking. Our job is to amplify their voices and their stories.
I didn’t apply to pedal because I wanted my community to praise me for taking on an adventure outside my comfort zone. I applied for pedal because I wanted to learn about how I could help educate my community about the fight against sex trafficking. I wanted to learn from survivors and organizations that are directly helping survivors. Pedal the Pacific is all about advocating for a world where wanting to learn about the injustices of sex trafficking is not heroic, but the standard.