[The below essay was originally published May 7th, 2020.]
Almost every other day, I run from my house through one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world. I pass the houses of Tom Brady (you can't see it from the road), Robert Kraft (the Patriots owner), John Henry (the owner of the Boston Globe and the Red Sox), the former home of the founder of Reebok that went on the market recently for more than $80 million. They're all quite close to one another. Near one of them, there is a construction site for a new home that could pass as a small liberal arts college (except those are going out of business and this home owner is most certainly not). Today, I was waved through the site by a cop, then by a couple of construction guys after I paused because it looked like I may interfere if I passed. I appreciated the wave through and the friendly gesture.
So striking is this gesture today, on the day that the media, then the running world, elevated the tragic story of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The 25 year old was gunned down by a father and son while running in Georgia. Ahmaud is Black, the father and son white. You can read some of the details here.
I often wonder when I run through this swanky Boston neighborhood, if people tolerate my presence, knowing I don't belong. Or, do they assume I'm a neighbor out on a jog? I was raised in a hard working blue-collar household so, I feel a little out of place. I can tell you one thing I know for sure: I don't fear for my life. Never. And, the comic curiosity that I have about whether I appear to fit in is a privilege of my skin color.
I think about these issues often and even more when the worst, most despicable tragedies like this occur. As the Globe reported on this today calling it a modern day lynching, the story highlights an outrage and injustice that people of color always know and carry a keen awareness of. As a white person, not having to know it all the time, just when the outrage spikes, is what's known as "privilege". It can feel polarizing to some white people when they are accused of owning some "white privilage" when they worked their way to a status of which they're proud. I get that. I'm proud of what I've done. But, I think we all know how much harder opening a running store would be, getting a lease, getting a second lease, (etc) would be if I were Black. The comic curiosity I feel when I wonder if I'm fooling anyone running through a neighborhood where I don't belong is the purest simplest distillation of this privilege. Our Black friends don't get to enjoy that and too often, they pay with their lives.
A murder is the starkest example of the scourge of racisism. But, the wave through the construction site that I experienced is another contrast to the daily skepticism, prejudices, dismissals, and aggression experienced by Black people and people of color.
This week, we run with Ahmaud. #justiceforahmaud #blacklivesmatter
More info here: https://www.runwithmaud.com/