Author | Coach Frank
In October of 2014, my cousin was getting married in Georgia. I had just moved from Detroit to DC that year and was so excited to travel to see my extended family. Since they live in Atlanta I thought the wedding would be closer to the city, but it was actually in Madison, GA which was about an hour outside of Atlanta. It’s one of those “Freeway towns” you see when doing long drives between major metropolitan areas. It’s the one-exit off the freeway town where there is a McDonalds, a few hotels, a Walmart, and the main part of the town is 2-3 miles down a single road. We pulled right off the freeway to the hotel and found that the wedding was “downtown” in a barn about 3 miles away.
Like many runners, I make it a point to run in every city I go to. It helps me learn the city, explore the terrain, and clear my head. So I put down my bags and decided to find the wedding location on foot. So I leave to go exploring as I do anytime I travel.
“What is a simple jog for a white person, can be a life gambling situation for a black person. “
I vividly remember this run feeling different than others. It wasn’t the fact that this was a different city, but it was the fact that I quickly realized that I was the only black person around. Every car that passed me turned and looked. The optimistic part of me thought “they must not have many runners around here,” but I knew what the real reason was—it was because I was black.
As I ran farther and farther there were fewer and fewer buildings, leaving just me, the road, and cars. Every car passing me, stared as they made their way down the road. My thoughts continued to spiral as I kept going back and forth trying to rationalize, what was so interesting that kept them staring. Ultimately, I was trying not to accept the truth that I already knew. But I kept running. It wasn’t until a pick-up truck passed me, revealing the same confusion from the drivers before, pulled over ahead, and made a U-turn that my thoughts about my current safety as a black man running went from bad to worse. My heart sinks, the questions in my mind go crazy, “Is he coming back for me?” “Is this man going to mess with me?” “Is this the moment I always feared as a black man?”.
I didn’t know what to think and as he got closer and closer I felt myself trying to stay focused and run faster so I can get past him as quickly as possible. Our eyes met as he slowed down to look at me. The glare was all too familiar to me because I have seen that look before. It was the same look I got on my first day of college when a pick-up truck drove past, made that same U-turn, and pulled up aside me and my friends to tell us to “Go back to Detriot NIGGERS.”
This time the truck kept going and I made it to the barn. But that didn’t happen for young Ahmaud Arbery. His truck followed him, hunted him, chased him, and murdered him. Ahmaud Arbery’s murder feels different because it is yet another reminder that doing anything while black is dangerous. Walking, running, driving, eating, whistling, bbq-ing, sitting on your own couch in your residence, the list goes on and on.
What we…what I can no longer do is stay silent about injustices like this. Black men are targeted in this country and each of us has a story about how we made it out of one of those life-threatening situations. You know, the moment all Black men fear.
What is a simple jog for a white person, can be a life gambling situation for a black person.
Today, I pray for Ahmaud’s family because that fear from my run through Madison, Georgia has never left me –I can only imagine how he felt when he realized that his truck was going to be the one that didn’t just drive by. Remember that every single moment Black men breathe, we are constantly trying to avoid being the next Black name, hashtagged, and honored for being killed. While his killers, Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael, have finally been arrested, that is only a small win in the battle of this injustice. Not only should they be charged and convicted, but we also have to find a way to stop these types of incidents altogether. This has to change!
To my DC Run Crew family, we exist to bring all people together; we have a responsibility to each other. We must also understand the challenges Black people in America face each and every day. We will only support each other when we truly understand that “your problems are also MY problems.” Ahmaud’s story could have easily been one of our members….it could have easily been me…it could have easily been you. We must never forget that.