I slumped into a ball on my couch and cried.
A few days later, my son started our run by asking if we could take his favorite route. It winds its way through the immaculately manicured neighborhoods nearby. They felt even more separated. Running there now felt like being in a fishbowl, way too far out, way too much, as if we were objects being watched.
No, I said to him. “I promise another time.” I just couldn’t take it.
Make no mistake Run during black The streets of Seattle don’t feel like a place like St. Louis, where I jogged on a work trip last year and immediately felt that the racial tensions were stronger and more evident. Nor is it like hammering on the sidewalks of Fayetteville, NC, where Sonoyia Largent is called a growing chapter of a statewide support group Black girls run. When we talked last week, Largent spoke of how racism is so close to cooking in her community that she has considered buying a gun that is small enough to stay in her training kit.
I am not that concerned but we live in America and my son and I are part of a movement now. According to Largent and several other running organizers from across the country, the number of black recreational joggers has increased during the pandemic. It was called a boom. Everyone spoke of a paradox. We stand up for health, a feeling of freedom and joy, also as an homage to Arbery – in order to fully claim our unbending dignity. But we do it carefully.
For me, this caution comes from personal history. My parents helped integrate the part of the city in which I live from the 1950s onwards. You raised four sons here. We had a lot of friends. And a lot of neighbors who want to show their hatred. During my elementary school years in the 1970s, racist epithets were routinely directed in my direction. I always had to be ready to fight.
The city is different now. Far richer, far less provincial. Outward racism is less common.
But Seattle remains one of the whitest major cities in the country, and is in a region that has long been white supremacists.
As I run, I think about the present and don’t forget the past. I stay on my guard, scan every street and am aware of every person on every corner and porch. All it takes is an 911 call from someone who thinks I’m following the neighborhood and suddenly I might be surrounded by the police. Then what?
It’s not just people that I worry about. As many black bishops can attest, objects become powerful symbols.