A Q&A with David Leaverton of Undivided Nation
Editor’s Note: “What would it take to bring unity to America?” That’s the powerful question that has guided the Undivided Nation tour. Here’s a video that talks about the decision to quit jobs, sell the family home and buy an RV to tour the United States.
In October, David Leaverton and his family visited Colorado, the 38th state on the national tour. While in Denver, David stopped by the National Civic League offices and told us about his journey thus far. We thought you might find his experiences inspiring. He agreed to do a Q&A about his family’s Undivided Nation tour of all 50 states. He answered our questions from Montana.
Question: What were you and your family like before you embarked on this journey?
Answer: We were a fairly typical Dallas white middle-class family, working hard, paying our bills, and raising our three kids. We lived and worked in a bubble and rarely ventured outside it. As I look back on our life before this journey, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described our life accurately in his letter from the Birmingham Jail:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”
We were white moderates who enjoyed our “order” more than we did about seeing liberty and justice for all.
Q: What has been the funniest experience you have had so far?
A: Living on a 400-square-foot RV with three children has been quite an experience. Not a week goes by where we don’t have something not go as planned. In our family, there are certain jobs that have been assigned to me (David). One of those is dealing with our family’s sewage. When you live in a house, you rarely have to worry about what happens after you flush the toilet. When you live on an RV, you don’t have that luxury. I don’t want to get into the putrid details here, but if anyone has any grand dreams about selling everything and travelling the country in an RV, be aware that you will become intimately involved with your family’s waste stream.
Q: Seeing the nation sounds like an exciting adventure. How has it changed how you view our divided nation?
A: I knew our nation was divided before we set out on this journey, but I didn’t understand the depths and root causes of our divisions. I thought the most challenging divisions in our land revolved around the fact that Republicans and Democrats can’t get along. Starting with the first state in our journey, we came face to face with the institution of race and the commonly held belief in a hierarchy of human value. These factors have been woven into the foundation of our nation beginning with the colonization of the indigenous people inhabiting this land and continuing with the enslavement of millions of people of African descent. These issues run much deeper than our political system and will require something significant to bring about justice and healing in our nation.
Q: Based on your journey of discoveries, what lesson would you share with individuals or organizations (faith institutions, political parties, elected officials, etc.)?
A: I learned that my experience as a white man in America is very different than the lived experiences of others in this country we call home. It has been transformational for me to step outside of my segregated community with humility to connect with people who I have had no deep interaction with. Their stories have given me a new perspective on issues like education, justice, health care, immigration, economy, and crime among others.
Q: What does the future look like after you and your family complete this journey?
A: We don’t have a very good idea what we will do when this journey to all 50 states is finished. We don’t have a house to go back to – we sold it. We don’t have jobs to go back to – we quit those. I know we can no longer be the “white moderate” as MLK described. Neutrality in these matters of national significance help the oppressor and not the oppressed.