Black men can’t catch a break. There is no level of pretending, disguise or personal adjustment that can totally dismantle their perceived threat against White America. Jogging, walking a dog, taking a stroll in a park- it doesn’t matter what they are doing. Black men can’t even “be.” Their Black skin, their negroid features, their very existence send shivers up the spines of our society.
It’s ironic that the same qualities that I find beautiful in my Black men scare White America to death. Literally. The death of Ahmaud Arbery serves as a microcosm of how their very being drives people to kill and silence the beautiful Black bodies and souls I love.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood while he jogged in a Georgia neighborhood. At their baseline, Black men are already seen as aggressive, violent, threatening to the rest of the world. Running, exercising, or engaging in any athletic behavior further heightens and magnifies these qualities to those who see them as inherently problematic.
White people have the unique and unadulterated privilege to exist in their natural state because society sees them as inherently good, safe and trustworthy. On the contrary, Black men often (and begrudgingly) are forced to walk a tight line between being their authentic selves, and a greatly reformatted version that they present to White America…if to just live to see another day. Whether it’s smiling through a face mask in a pandemic, slowing down their walking pace to appear friendlier in a park, or attaching a bike rack to the back of their vehicles to avoid constantly being profiled and appear like a nice driver….they literally have to deconstruct themselves to stay alive on a daily basis.
And even that isn’t enough.
Ahmaud died because white men thought he was a robbery suspect. He died over a cliche we are all familiar with. My husband was accused of being a robbery suspect once while he was shopping for a Christmas gift for me. In fact, 33 years ago, my own father was on his way to my litter sister’s preschool graduation when he became the number one suspect in a robbery he had not committed. He had been racially profiled by police and pulled over because of his Black skin. In actuality, he had just finished attending a dissertation defense at the University of Michigan and only wanted to watch my little sister walk across the stage.
33 years later, same story, different day. Except Ahmaud died. We are living in a horrific cycle. We are intertwined in a web of a racist cliches we did not create, nor can we escape. Ahmaud didn’t live to tell us his story. He did not get the public apology my father received. However, his suffering will not be in vain because WE KNOW. We see it, we won’t ignore it.
On this day, Ahmaud’s birthday, we take a collective stance in his memory. We are going his distance, 2.23 miles to be exact. We are walking in his shoes, jogging his path, and standing for justice on his behalf.
Today I jogged the most meaningful 2.23 miles of my life. A run for Ahmaud, a run for my father, a run for endangered Black men around the world.
Join the Jog #irunwithmaud