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RWB: Running with Black

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One year in grad school I was training for the Columbus Marathon with fellow student and runner Tony. I am white, Tony is black. While doing a training run on the course, a police car pulled up behind us and flashed its lights. We stopped running and turned to face the officer. We had been running within the law, so I initially had no idea why we were being stopped. Getting out of his car, the officer called to us “what are you boys doing?” I replied with the obvious, “running.” He wittily replied, “running from what?” On runs back home in Maine, I had interacted with the police. One of our high school distance coaches was a police officer; he was a patient guy and a good coach. So those were all positive interactions. I was once before stopped by the police while running; the officer stopped to tell me I should not be running on the sidewalk. So, I got into the street to run. She stopped me again and said that I should not be running in the street. She let me go. That was not scary, just confusing—I assumed she was just “playing” with me or something. But this situation in Ohio was the first time I felt afraid of the police. I had the thought, which might have been mistaken, that Tony and I might get shot or at least arrested for something. It felt that the situation could easily go very badly if we did not navigate it just right. What we did was stay calm and explain that we were training for the Marathon. I added that Tony was trying to qualify for the US Olympic team. This seemed to make a difference; perhaps it changed us from boys in the wrong neighborhood for a black man and a skinny white runner to athletes who might be representing the red, white, and blue. Eventually he let us go; I recall him making some sort of vague warning about running in the right places. After that, we were careful to avoid that neighborhood and we were never stopped by the police again. I ended up running a 2:45 marathon, Tony had a bad race and got a disappointing 2:36. Over the. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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