There is a big controversy in a small intersection of American current issues right now–marathon runners and some Black Lives Matters activists. It’s going around that Black Lives Matters protestors are intending to disrupt the Minneapolis Marathon runners this weekend. They will attempt to disrupt the race to get their message out in a way that can’t be ignored. I won’t get into whether I agree with this tactic or not. As a person of color who supports the #BLM movement AND as a distance runner, I can see both sides. What I can’t see is how runners can be SO vitriolic, hateful, racist, classist, and awful in their reactions to this possible action. There are many many examples of this online, but here are a few from a few Facebook groups I am part of.
People deriding this “peaceful” protest as not peaceful, but then threatening the protestors with violence.
Out of the hundreds of comments, I only saw a few that even attempted to engage with why people might feel the need to do this (first comment).
What hurt me more was that this was Facebook, not “anonymous” Internet comments. You have a name and picture attached to your comment (I debated not blurring them out, but i wasn’t sure what legal protocol was). And while I didn’t find the same violent reaction from one of my own local running groups, I did find a reticence to engage with the desperation to be heard and a desire to trump the rights of runners over the protestors–going so far as to call the action “sad and ridiculous.”
I can’t stand by and do nothing. I can’t talk about my sympathies with the movement and not address the ugliness of some of the running community’s response to this. I’m not running the Minneapolis Marathon, so I can only speculate what I would do if the race got stopped by protestors. I would like to think I would stop and march alongside. It is one race. One race in a lifetime of races. A lifetime that people like Michael Brown don’t have anymore. A race that some people can’t even afford the registration for to “jump in and run alongside.” But I AM running Chicago. And I have the opportunity to show that I can be a runner AND raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter cause. So I’m going to run the Chicago Marathon with a black arm band with #BLM. And I ask those of you who believe this issue is an important one to run your next race with one as well. In fact, bring others. Let the world know that not all runners are so awful and hateful. That we can also work and run for peace and justice.