Run Journal: Running while black? #Irunwithmaud

3:36 PM

I type quickly and I don't know where this is going to go.  But I know this is going to be a long one.  So grab a cup of coffee or a spot of tea.





Black...

I remember being confused by this title as it was confusing to me.  How was I black?  My little box of crayons had a color labeled  black that did not resemble the color of my skin.  So how was this an identifier of who "I" am?



I was told there were a group of people who were "white".  They too didn't resemble the color in my crayon box.  Nor identifiers of "yellow" or "red".    They are "RED" people!?!?? [confusion set in]

Who da fuck comes up with these generalizations!?!?!  Okay I didn't think that last statement as a kid, but to say I was confused is an understatement.  Because there were further revelations that made all of this southern segmentation crazy to anyone with common sense.

The rainbow coalition known as my immediate family.  The skin tones covered the entire spectrum with physical features ranging from easily passing for a person of Caucasian decent (my Caucasian cousins), to others who had all out native features, to various degrees of African features. 

The more I learned about history, the more confused I became.  This labelled bestowed upon me to limit my freedom, to enslave me mentally to the minimum of standards, confining me to the stereotypes of "people of your kind".

Codified in the laws of my home state of Alabama was this concept of hypodescentism.  Many states had hypodescent laws.  A concept which automatically assigns people based on the ideology or belief that one group is superior to another group.  The infamous one drop laws which sought to strip "blacks" who didn't appear black of any semblance of the American dream.  So I was "black".  Or brown as I would so often tell myself. 

Along with this "blackness" came the burdens of segregation, stereotypes, hatred, and community lowered self-esteem, the mindset we as a group are limited in some fashion because...  "black".

Yet, there was also a sense of pride that came with this label.  The despite of being "black" pride...  Which itself is a crazy psychological play on words which is entrapment in and of itself, yet it is a form of survival to the labelled.  

I remember when one of my elementary school teachers proclaimed none of us would be successful.  "We were good for nu'thing", in her words.  We would live and die in this horrible state of being.  I remember her name.  I remember that day.  Because it would be the first of many interactions where I would be told by the "dominant" that I didn't and couldn't measure up. 

In the grade after lady hopeless, I had a teacher who was younger.  Who had hope.  Who tried to inspire.  She was a Caucasian cousin, but unfortunately for her, she came with this message of hope one grade too late.  Her counterpart had already planted a seed which was starting to bear fruit with many of my schoolmates.

Not to say we were exposed to hopeless souls throughout.  Fortunately I had several other elementary or junior high teachers who wouldn't accept less than or limitations because... "black".  To this day I smile when I properly use preposterous in a sentence.  Thanks Mrs. Smith.  And a big thanks to Mr. Cook who helped me understand subject verb agreement, and the rules of pronoun antecedent agreement.

But consider for a moment the amount of hopelessness inserted into children's minds at such a young an age all because of their ethnic background, color of their skin, gender, neighborhood, or financial circumstances.  It can become overwhelming and ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Not to mention the collapse of our society as a result of the crack epidemic.  Or the fact we lived in a community, a state, a region of the country where segregation and slavery was only a conversation away because people were only 10 years removed from widespread signs that read "Whites only"!

There was still signs visible during my childhood that reminded folks of my kind to "Don't get caught here after the sun goes down".

My folks would teach me the quiet rules in an attempt to keep me from being beat by police (who at the time where filled with ex-Klansman), killed for being on the wrong side of town, being polite not to incite any situations between myself or "others" of other ethnic backgrounds...

In short I was being programmed in an attempt to keep me safe, but also limit my potential.  To not stand out.  To not bring attention to myself.  To only achieve enough to fit in but not overly bring attention to myself.

It's a conversation that is held in every household of people of certain ethnic backgrounds.  Unfortunately those conversations are still had to this day.

I digress.

But is running while being a person of color in this country really something for people to fear.  Is this really a thing?

Yes.

I've always been a quiet rebellious spirit.  Being interested in things which would be considered in my circle of youth "outside the norm".   I didn't like this box.  I didn't and still don't understand these imposed stereotypes where I'm judged based upon my appearance.

How somehow I'm identified as a threat only because of a DNA sequence not in my control which controls the amount of melanin which is released when my skin is exposed to sunlight.  Or how broad my nose maybe or the color of my eyes.  I didn't write those DNA instructions.

People love to say how we're in a post-racial society because of...  [insert whatever example you want here] when In MY lifetime, I've seen with MY EYES 👀 the KKK raise money on the street corner publicly in their robes.  I've been pulled over by police because...  Yeah.  You and I both know why.  The car isn't stolen.  It's mine.  It's insured.  No I don't have any warrants officer. 

I've been questioned by police while doing my job wearing company apparel in a company vehicle with company decals on the side when in certain neighborhoods.  The apparel didn't tell the story.  So I had to produce my company ID and Drivers License while I waited patiently for them to run the company car plates, to be told  have to be sure because there's been a lot of break-ins in this area since the storms.

Yeah, I'm sure.

You even have seen them to, but they are simply explained away behind the flag of patriotism to preserve the rights of "true" Americans through expression of their rights.  Which last I remembered rights afforded to ALL Americans to protect Americans from the very .  Right?

But this is supposed to be about running.  Ed, we don't want to or need to read about all of these other incidences which have nothing to do about the running community or the fact running is something which is post-racial.

Bullshit!

I've read the comments.  I've seen the social media posts.  And that's why I'm typing this longer than normal literary commentary on the state of America and the lost ideology of unfettered American citizenship in this "post-racial" society!

People proclaiming, we wouldn't be here if he would have simply stopped and talked to these folks he wouldn't have been killed.  Or why was he trying to run away from the vehicle so erratically?  That only made things more suspicious.  All he had to do was calmly engage them and prove he was only running.

To that I say why?  Why did he have to prove all he was doing was running?  To a civilian at that!  He was running!  Running in the street!  Running by himself in a neighborhood.

I don't remember seeing a you got to live here in order to run sign in non-gated communities (which is a whole next level of social distancing).  

So what if he looked at or in a house under construction.  I do that shit too!  There's a house down the fucking street from me under renovations, I look!  Like every one of my neighbors look! 

Don't see anyone questioning anyone of a particular ethnic background if they are stealing when they look!  But I digress, again.  [woosah]


I stand with women and others because I know what it is like to run in fear.

Let me be clear when I say these words.  I've been followed while running.  And it's fucking terrifying y'all.

There's no other way to state that in English.  I can't begin to describe the feelings being a person of color not knowing if you're about to go to jail or killed because someone misidentified you for someone that "fit the description".

When people marginalize the experience of females, the LGBTQ community, or other ethnic minorities here in America it infuriates me to no end.  Because unless you've felt that fear, you don't know what it's like.

I fault everyone of you who sit idle while your children, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, friends, or coworkers make a "oh they just being them" statement which in its roots is racist and demoralizing to another group or gender.  A statement of general superiority which perpetuates the myth of hypodescentism.

Ignorance provides a breading ground for stupidity.  Silence is fuel for continued bigotry.  Apathy is the cancer of equality, which brings the death of any society.

Running has helped me is so many ways.

I have been able to temporarily run away from my problems, only to run head on into them.  I've been able to quiet my soul and begin healing my wounds of life.  Running has helped me bring balance to my soul in ways I could never find on the pews of a church. 

Running has brought me to a community, who openly see my differences, but accepts me as who I am.  My running tribe is deep of varied social, economic, ethnic, nationalities, religions, political views, beliefs, and sexual orientation.  And I love these fuckers.  Albeit I have my introvert moments they have to deal with.  Still love y'all.

Few Pics from the past year: 2019-2020

Running also reminds me every now and then through the ignorance and craziness of some backward ass unfortunate soul who believes my life is not worth theirs only because of the color of my skin.

I rarely do vocal commentary but before I went out on my run, I made this plea on Facebook.   I'm glad I did because it all fell apart after I set out for #runstreakday 1590. 

I broke completely down after my run.  Quietly.  To myself.  I cried at my desk, looking at the work cursor while my mema slept quietly in her room. 

Why?  Because for a moment, while running I thought back to the last time I was followed.  I imagined for a moment being in Ahmaud's running shoes and I was running for my life.  That fear came back.  I understood.  You either outrun your hunter, or you reserve energy to turn and face your hunter if only to buy another opportunity to run to safety.

I imagined it was that night I was followed, except this time while taking a quick glance to see if they were still there.  Slowly following me through the neighborhood.  Instead of an SUV, it's a pickup truck with someone standing in the bed.

Wait, is that a gun?!?  WTF?  Oh shit!  

My pace quicken.  My heart raced.  Adrenaline pumped.  I ran back and forth across the street erratically.  The emotions flooded through me.  The pinch of pain penetrating my body. 

It shouldn't be like this.  No one!  Man or Woman.  Creed, color, sexual preference, ethnic background, religious affiliation should feel this way.  We are all Americans.  We are all human.

We treat our pets better than we treat each other.  And we're neighbors!  Sharing this life existence together.  

Right?   

I know the danger is out there.  I know there's a calculated risk. 

When on the trails a chance encounter with a rattle snake would be bad.  A hungry mountain lion is only following instincts, despite not much meat on these bones.  Javelina are mean but a lot of times it's just a territorial misunderstanding right?  And when running in urban areas, near or far, someone may be having a bad day and decide I "fit the description" only because I'm running while black.

The older I get the more I understand why the memory of my grandfather crying to himself some nights is so powerful and strong in my mind.  It's hard y'all to keep upright daily, constantly in the face of people who want to see you fail. To know there are folks who will look you in your eyes with a smile yet in their mind consider you as lessor than. 

But you can't let them see you cry.  You can't let them see you bend.  You can't give them that satisfaction.  So you go to your quiet place with your burdens of just being.  Just existing.  

Yet you have to get up again and do it all over tomorrow.   You just want to be seen as a person.  You just want to be able to run, just like "them" without all the burdens that come with the package.  

I know it will happen again.  If not to me, to someone.  To someone of color.  A woman.  To someone of a different faith other than Christian.  To someone of Asian decent maybe, just because.   

Maybe someone will read this and realize justice and equality for all doesn't start in the courthouse, but in everyday conversations and interactions.  

When silent people become strong enough to stand up and say enough to their friends, family, and coworkers...  Then maybe then, we'll all see the justice and equality promised to us as humble Americans.  

In the meantime I will keep running anyway.  Despite being "black".  Proudly!


Happy Birthday Ahmaud.  I will keep your legacy alive and run as long as I am physically able to where ever and when ever I can.  These 2.23 miles are in your honor.  I ran them in my neighborhood, with my hoodie up.  And I stopped by that house under construction this morning for you.   #irunwithahmaud


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