On this inauguration day and Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, there is a lot of conversation about race, where the black community has been and where we are going. As it relates to who we are and what we do, that conversation centers around why there's a need for an organization called Black Girls RUN!. So in honor of progress , change, and open dialogue here's a repost from last year highlighting my thoughts on a 2011 article featured in Runner's World and our thoughts about why running is so white. For another perspective check out Another Mother Runner's thoughts as she also explores the issue.
Earlier this year, I blogged about my awkward experience at my local YMCA when a white attendant appeared offended by my Black Girls RUN! hoodie. Just earlier that month we launched Black Girls RUN! running groups across the nation so I was feeling especially good about the direction the organization was taking. But it’s always moments like these that make you second guess yourself and in this case our vision of tackling all of the health issues in the African-American community head on. Ironically, just a few months later, we were contacted by Jay Jennings who told us he was writing a story for Runner’s World about the lack of diversity in distance running and wanted to discuss how Black Girls RUN! was helping to change that. First of all, I must admit we were shocked, floored and extremely flattered. After all, since I fell in love with running, I’ve been a subscriber of the magazine. To think that we would be featured was nothing short of a miracle orchestrated by God.
But secondly, it reaffirmed that something was wrong with one of my favorite pastimes and we weren’t the only ones that recognized it. Finally, the issue was getting some attention. Fast forward to this past week. The December 2011 issue finally hit newsstands with the article “Why is running so white?”. Ashley and I along with the entire BGR! camp was extremely excited. I didn’t have any expectations about the piece, but I knew it was going to be interesting.
I can’t tell you how many times I have re-read the story. I’ve had several people ask how I feel about the article, was there anything misconstrued, etc. Overall, we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. While fully engrossed in this topic every day, it was a completely new learning experience for me too. (Seriously, the founding president of New York Road Runners, Ted Corbitt was a black American. He also helped found the Road Runners Club of America yet he’s virtually non-existent in their history). If you haven’t bought it, go buy it now.
But one thing I realized, is that some corporations and those integral decision-makers will never understand why organizations like ours and the National Black Marathoners are so important and the potential we have to “fix” everything that’s wrong with the health of the minority populations that are well on it’s way to becoming the majority. After all, it’s really about the bigger picture, not just “Oh, we’re not represented. Sad for us.”
According to a 2006-2008 study by the Center’s for Disease Control, blacks in the United States had a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity compared with whites. Blacks have a 77 percent higher risk of diabetes than whites. The list goes on and on. To quote one of my favorite songs by De la Soul, “the stakes are high.” Yet, the co-race director of The Little Rock Marathon, Geneva Hampton (with an American-Indian lineage), said “We haven’t tried to target any population. Color’s not one thing we really look at. What I love about marathoning is the road doesn’t care what color you are.” How sad. Especially since the city’s 2010 census found that the population is comprised of 48.9 percent whites and 42.3 percent blacks. If nothing else, the race isn’t representative of the city’s own population yet the organizers don’t seem to care.
We, Black Girls RUN!, face that in our own way. We’ve been shot down by large organizations and companies left and right who 1.) Don’t seem to understand the value in working with us, yet want access to our very coveted demographic 2.) Would rather pump money into celebrities. And let’s face it, is not a very profitable marketing ploy. Everyone would rather complain about the skyrocketing obesity rates, yet no one wants to step to the plate, take responsibility and make a change.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The article in Runner’s World is a testament to that. While I have my own qualms with the publication, them shedding light on the problem is a step in the right direction.
And remember that post I wrote earlier this year about being confronted about Black Girls RUN! hoodie? Someone posted the comment below not too long ago. It renewed my faith in humanity and made me realize that some people get it. Actually a lot of people get it. But we often don’t get to hear that from people who don’t look like us.
p.s. Thank you to Jay Jennings and others at Runner’s World. You have started a dialogue on a very important topic and for that we’re grateful.