It was April 28th when I read a news article from The Burton Wire that Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men while jogging in a predominantly white neighborhood. My first reaction to the story was why haven’t the guys been arrested? Why did it take two months for this story to come to light, and if they blame Ahmaud for being a murderer like many other black innocent men, what other actions will our community take besides a protest? I didn’t watch the video that surfaced on social media because I knew the outcome and I was tired of the same racist bullshit we see time and time again. But seeing the comments and reactions of so many black people who take daily runs in neighborhoods just like Ahmaud’s, made me realize that they have another fear to add to their ever growing list. Running While Black…
For many, such as myself, running is a joy not only because it’s an active exercise, but because it has become mental and physical therapy, which helps us get through our day to day. Now that Ahmaud’s incident has alerted so many of us on the potential dangers of running while black, many black runners have already changed their routines. For example, I live in a well blended community in the suburbs of metro-Atlanta. I noticed many of the black runners who I would see run every day now have a buddy system and they do not run as much alone as they used to. I saw on my Facebook feed that now many black runners are alerting each other with messages like “be careful bruh, watch your back, and make sure you’re safe,” if they see each other in passing as they run.
This opened an opportunity for me to speak with some black runners and ask them questions to try to understand their fears better.
What was your first response when you saw the video or heard about the Ahmaud Arbery killing in the news?
Not again! It’s even more disturbing that the guy was going about his normal routine and not disturbing anyone.
How does this situation, along with the other senseless black hate crimes affect your everyday moves? (Mental and Physical)
Mentally, I have to make sure I act in a way white people will accept my actions. Physically, I shouldn’t have a beard, or spontaneously run in public without a probable cause.
Do you feel the need to have a talk with the family about “running while black” safety procedures?
I don’t usually run with anyone, but whenever any of my friends decide to join me in the future, we are going to have a conversation about the new procedures to running while black; staying alert and possibly having to come to a sudden walk and/or turning around when things seem even a little bit sketchy. Also, driving the route before running it just to be safe. My mom is a Baby Boomer and I was present when she gave my brother the “You are a black boy growing up to be a black man in America” speech/talk. It’s really sad and disheartening that till this day this speech is still being given to the little black boys with the added caveat that if something happens the only thing that will make or break your case will have to be video footage from a phone that may more than likely go viral.
After this, do you still want to run?
Absolutely, but I will be more alert of my surroundings and run in places with high foot traffic.
From this conversation I realized a few key things. Firstly, Black runners are tired just like every other black person of senseless murders of innocent black men. Doing normal activities and having norming routines, as we would say minding the business that pays our bills, is now a problem. That’s crazy. Secondly, they have a new mental stigma that they are enduring as they run. They have to mentally strategize every move they make for safety and perception. Thirdly, more black runners will be implementing buddy systems and taking proactive steps to check their running routes to see if they are safe. If not, they’ll be the next viral video of a hate crime. Most say they will continue to run, but know they have a target on their back, and who wants to run with a target on their back?
Even though there’s been an arrest of Ahmaud’s killers and a dedication run in his honor, the fear for many is still lingering. Now we ask ourselves what’s next. How will we move until there’s a conviction? Well while we wait, we have to be alert of our surroundings, continue to have “these are the things that will happen to you to while your black in America” conversations with our sons and daughters, making sure we have our phones on us at all times and even our own legal protection when we run or walk, and remember to fight for Maud.
Words by: Kinyana Mccoy