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Running While Black: Has It Become A Death Sentence?

Last week a video surfaced of Ahmaud Arbery being shot and killed by two white men while going for a jog. Fear of black men is a systemic problem that has gone on for too long and is ultimately costing us our lives.

On February 23rd, 2020 Ahmaud Arbery, a 26-year-old black man went for a run and was approached by two white-armed gunmen Gregory and Travis McMichael. It was an altercation that turned out to be fatal for Arbery. According to Gregory McMichael ( a former police officer), the two pursued Arbery after believing he fit the description of a burglar said to be breaking into local houses. The incident echoed the killing of Trayvon Martin when neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman also pursued the teen which resulted in his murder. In both cases, both young men were killed due to suspicion and as a result, did not receive justice because their pursuers were acting in "self-defense." So the question becomes, whether you're driving, walking, or going for a run, has "Running While Black" become a death sentence?

In the wake of Arbery's death, American lawyer and Politician Kamala Harris said, "Exercising While Black Should Not Be A Death Sentence." It's a statement that rings home for anyone who's black. Racial profiling is something that has plagued the black community for years. From law enforcement to gun-toting white Americans chasing down any black male that "fits the description", all coming full circle. So the biggest issue now is if you're a black person, "How safe am I when going for a run?"

One of the most frustrating things I found in life, was having to explain that as a black man the reasons I have to move defensively in the world around me. Whether being followed in a department store, being pulled over by law enforcement, how I wear my clothes, and speak, are all actions that can work against me during these encounters. In every single scenario, you're perceived as a threat before you even open your mouth. So our survival always relied on how we dealt with each situation. As a black man who runs, I often see myself in Ahmaud's scenario and in an attempt to defend myself, being found guilty of my actions even if it results in my death. It's a situation not only myself but black people have to be concerned with.

In order for society to move forward, we need to stop shifting the blame and shaming victims. "He should have complied, don't resist, what was he doing in that neighborhood?" These are all narratives that are shared and transparent evidence of prejudices against minorities. Ahmaud Arbery didn't stop for two white men with guns because he shouldn't have to. He didn't commit a crime nor was he required to explain himself to his pursuers. As an unarmed black man, he also had the right to defend himself. The sad realization of his tragic death is that black lives don't matter and we are often "guilty before proven innocent" even if we are going out for a run.

By: Jay Denson

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