Monday, June 29, 2015

Young Bigots

I am always shocked when young people are ignorant.  When I see anyone under the age of 40 smoking I want to shake them.  Don't you know the risks?  Don't you know how awful you smell?  How your habit affects innocent people around you.  It's the same with all the "isms". 

I remember this stupid game that we would play where we would say who we would marry if you had to marry someone in the room.  In high school it was all very innocent.  Everyone named each other and giggled.  Maybe revealing secret crushes.  But it all changed in college. 

In my circle of friends I am almost always the only black face.  It's never an issue until someone makes it an issue.  I would live my life like everyone else and then WHAM, out of nowhere, racism.  During my first Habitat for Humanity spring break we were playing the who would you marry game.  A couple of guys said me which was nice.  But both of them immediately said "But not really.  My family or the people where I grew up wouldn't approve of that" or something similar.  It was a stupid game.  It wasn't a commitment.  But they had to make sure to declare that there was no possibility of marrying me, their friend, solely because I was black.  I will never forget that.

Or my former co-worker who whispered to me that his brother hated that he listened to rap music and called it n*gger music.  I don't even no where that comes from.  I don't know why he felt like he should tell me that or why he wasn't disgusted by his brother's use of the word.  But I know that I trusted him less after that.  If he was willing to tell me that to my face what sort of racism took place in that house, in his life outside of work.

As I watch all the posts on social media from people regarding police brutality and racial profiling, gay marriage and the president, I am shocked on a daily basis by how many young ignorant people there are in my life.  Some of these people hide behind the bible or some ridiculous claims from a right wing organization that say the president is taking away guns, the kids are going to be taught how to be gay in school and other completely insane things.  The worst of it is they believe what they are saying.  They believe that they are right.  That they are justified in this hatred or justification for hatred.  It is depressing. 

With every news report or documentary that I watch it is clear that we have a long way to go as a country.  The sad part is that these people have children that they are teaching to be ignorant.  That this hate will continue on for generations to come.  Maybe these people aren't directly responsible for all the tragedies that happen in this country but the people who are don't think that different from them.  Instead of just saying how much they hate a group of people they are going out and attacking those people.  Trying to eliminate them.  All it takes is one unstable person in a group of angry people to create a tragedy. 

For now all I can do is hide those people from my feed.  There is no reason to subject myself to their hate.  I can only hope that things do not get too much worse before they start to get better.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Love Hate Relationship with Road Races

When I first started running in road races, I was quite the loner.  I was often the only black person there and I was in the back of the pack.  Every once in a while I would make friends during the race.  People who ran around my pace and struck up a conversation during the race or in the recovery tent.  But generally I kept to myself.  I drove to races by myself.  I ran by myself.  After the race I ate my snacks alone, stretched alone and then drove home.

As my confidence increased and I noticed a lot more runners who looked like me and/or ran my pace or slower I loosened up.  I hung out longer after races.  I initiated conversations with people.   I even ran with other people every once in a while.  Occasionally,  I would choose the wrong person to talk to.   Some pseudo-elite runner would bristle at the nerve of someone like me to make a comment about the race or a suggestion about something he was complaining about.  But more often than not my experiences were positive.

For me running is meditation.   It is my time to clear my head, to fantasize, to work through my problems.   I have been told by people that they waved to me or yelled my name during a race but I ignored them.  I am so much in my head during a race that I often don't notice other people, landmarks and course markers.  Luckily I have only gotten lost twice!

Lately running has been less therapeutic and more stressful.  The local 5ks have become a place for families to gather.  For people to sight see and take pictures.  For large herds of inexperienced and rude people to block the paths of runners and turn a leisurely run into an obstacle race.

I find myself running off road to avoid people that are running 5-people across or swerving to avoid people who come to a dead stop in the middle of the road.  I waste energy passing these people or being angry at them.  I find myself tense and relieved when the race is over.

One solution is to line up closer to the front.  But then I risk making myself an obstacle for the faster runners.  I don't want to ruin anyone else's race.  A better solution is to take the local 5ks out of my rotation.  To only participate in longer or more difficult races that will not attract those people. 

This will take  me back to my loner days.  There will be more elite runners.  There will be less people that look like me.  I will be in the back if not last.  But I will have peace again.   I will be able to run my race with my shoulders relaxed and my head cleared.  It will be worth it.  I just hope my self esteem is strong enough to take it in stride.