I finally get it.
After completing my first half-marathon in April 2018, I began to take running more seriously and even started to train for a second half-marathon in November 2018. My mama bought me a reflection vest and told me to wear it for “safety reasons,” especially since I would run before sunrise. I, of course, told her “thank you” but put the vest in the bottom of my fitness bag, with no intention to use it because:
- It didn’t match my running outfits.
- I am a tall Black man. Not many people bother me, especially when I am running.
- I didn’t want any extra weight or gear slowing down my times.
But now I get it. She did not gift me the vest because I was a runner. She gave me the vest because I am a Black man who runs. She recognized that even her Black son could be harmed while doing something that he loves and brings him peace. Almost two years later, I am blessed to say that I have never been harmed or in immediate danger while running, but that’s not true for our Black king, Ahmaud Arbery.
To be honest, I do not know exactly what happened.
I have not read any articles and I damn sure have not watched any videos that have been circulating on the internet. But what I do know is that an unarmed Black man was lynched and murdered by white people while running. Over the last decade, we have shared hashtags naming the unarmed Black men and women who have been murdered by the hands of white people, including but limited to law enforcement and white terrorists. I have tweeted #TrayvonMartin, #SandraBland, and #BlackLivesMatter and have spent ample time reflecting on the racial divide in America.
Yet this murder felt different. This one was personal.
I had been told my entire life to “be careful” while driving. I learned to take off my hood before entering gas stations and was told to always make eye contact with police officers. I have been racially profiled many times, including while at work. Living in fear as Black person is nothing new. In fact, it is a survival tactic.
Fitness, especially running, is my happy place. It is my peace.
And to read and hear that a Black man was murdered while in my happy place brought amplified anxiety to “it could have been me.”
Over the last several days, I have been struggling. I have struggled to name the emotions I feel in my heart and I have grappled with how we have responded as a country, particularly on digital platforms. As a Black community, we continue to harmonize and speak loudly against the injustices towards our people. And it has been refreshing to see white people share their “2.23mi” posts on social media in support. But where was this energy when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling during the National Anthem?
The same people walking 2.23mi to honor Ahmaud Arbery are the same ones who tweet #AllLivesMatter and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.
I may not say anything, but please believe – I see you.
I have done a great job suppressing my feelings of the countless murders before #AhmaudArbery but I cannot hold it in any longer. I am hurt and I am hurting. Maybe I will heal one day? But I hope the chronic pain never goes away. This pain I feel today has added fuel to my fire to dismantle every fucked up system and policy that has disparate impacts on the Black community. Everything I do in this life was for the Bryson family. And in May 2020, I have added another name: Ahmaud Arbery.
No matter how scared I am, I will never stop running. Running will forever be my peace and now it has new meaning.
Rest in Heaven, Ahmaud. I got you down here.
Encourage somebody to be great today.