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Your Black Teammate

By Kamilah Journét

Sometimes I wish I didn’t notice. I wish it wasn’t so clear that I was the only Black woman donning my school’s uniform or that I continue to be one of few Black faces at the start line, at the trailhead, or logging miles with my friends. But I’ve always noticed, because our country makes it blatantly obvious that I am different. Those who look like me are murdered in the street. And recently, a young man who looked like me decided he would go for a run, and never came back. While running should be a space where I can simply be, somehow, I find myself being reminded that being Black is never simple.

I remember when my feed was full of my friends running 2.23 miles for Ahmaud. I tapped through Instagram stories featuring a home-cooked meal, a screenshot of a short Strava loop, and a freshly baked loaf of bread. His memory simply squeezed into their daily content plans. I tried to stay positive knowing there was good intention behind this physical action, but the fact is, in my network nearly all of my friends run at least 2.23 miles anyway. It may have been shocking for them to hear that simply going for a run can lead to a racist encounter, but it wasn’t for me. 

I was 14 when someone yelled “Run n!gger, run” when I ran by with my teammates. They remained silent as we continued down the road. I was 16 when my Dad approached our school bus with my forgotten lunch and my teammates screamed as he tapped on the door. “That’s my Dad,” I replied. I was 18 when I was told repeatedly that I wasn’t 'really’' Black by my college teammates. But when I was 19, UCSD started hanging my photos around campus because I was in fact Black, and possibly the only Black woman in a fall sport. I could go on and on, but I’m 28 now and I still don’t feel comfortable running in “nice” neighborhoods without squeezing a friendly hello between breaths to appear as if I belong.

And guess what? While I share these examples of existing in spaces where I run, I try to appear as if I belong everywhere I go, every single day. Everywhere. Every day. Not just when another Black life is taken. I was 5 when my kindergarten friend’s mom made us stay in the yard because she simply didn’t allow Black people inside her home. I was 27 when a young woman approached me after yoga and petted my arm because she wanted to know what my skin felt like. Is this progress?

I’m not even 30 but I know that racism isn’t a problem of the past generations. I know that I’m a lot of peoples' “Black friend,” but to a lot more people I’m just Black. And to a lot of people, that means when push comes to shove my life doesn’t matter. 

As runners know, change doesn’t come easy. I hope your discomfort leads you to growth. To those who aren’t Black, have the hard conversations even when there hasn’t been an incident on the news. Black people are being murdered. Do more than run for a hashtag. Do more than repost something for 24 hours. Do your own research on the systems in place that lead to injustice. Then do the actions necessary to leave a lasting positive impact on your community. Make a difference. Your Black teammate is begging you. #blacklivesmatter

Kamilah is a member of Hare A.C. and a marketer from Southern California. Together, we'll be supporting the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an organization that has dedicated their work to fighting for racial justice for decades and has been involved in more cases before the US Supreme Court than any organization except the US Department of Justice.