I don’t think I really care one way or the other what the outcome of this story is. It doesn’t change the fact that it made me very happy to be part of the running “community” and also to be somewhat accepted into my actual community. This is not one of my three posts about running, but it is a post about running. And about life. It’s very deep and not very deep at all.
I was out for my run today, sweating up a storm and probably very stinky. A heavier black woman was crossing the street toward me, and when she got onto the grass next to me she started to jog. I had earphones in and couldn’t really tell if she was mocking me or encouraging me. And this is the point where I admit something: It is my knee jerk reaction when I’m at home that I will be treated poorly because I’m white. The Hippy and I are decidedly the minority in our neighborhood, which is fine, but we’ve had far too many experiences of having people yell racial slurs to truly feel comfortable.
And this is the point where I say that I’ve listened to the apologists ad nauseam, and I refuse to give people of any situation a pass for being racist. Racism is racism is racism, and nothing will change if we allow people to have different standards. I get that the majority of black people have gotten a really raw deal in terms of chances in life. And it’s really fucking hard to get ahead when you start out poor. But that’s no excuse for racism. It just isn’t.
And now back to our regularly scheduled story….
After a few seconds she yelled “Hold up! Hold up! Hold up! I need to start running; give me your number.” And I was still pretty taken aback, and not really sure what to make of it. She went on, “I need to lose, like, ten pounds, and that seems like really great exercise. And you already look really good, so don’t lose too much weight okay? People are going to think you’re a crackhead if you lose too much weight.” She handed me her phone and had me add my name and number in. And I did. Honestly, with my phone number I’ve got very little to lose. Maybe I end up getting a ton of crank calls, but so what? I have unlimited, and eventually she’ll lose steam. But if she does contact me, she and I have everything to gain.
She told me she has two kids and she wants them to start running too. I could change the lives of three people. I could make a new friend. I could make a friend in my neighborhood, which, The Hippy excluded, I have none. I could learn to teach people something, and in turn build more confidence in myself. I could have someone to run with, someone to hold accountable, and someone to hold me accountable.
And really, most days I wouldn’t comment on race. But it’s been on my mind a lot lately, and this place has me a little jaded. This neighborhood has simultaneously made me both more and less sympathetic. I see more sides to things, but I also see just how far we still have left to go. But getting people to find things they have or might have in common seems like a pretty good way to start. I don’t really want to sound all hippy-dippy, but we’ve gotta start with something, because pretending race is a thing of the past, or that some people have a right to be racist because the world has handed them a raw deal just isn’t working. Everyone has to rise up and choose to participate in the communities around them.