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SCOT BELAVIA: Running Up Against The Lived Experience Argument

I’m reading an interview with the author of “Running While Black.” Without even seeing the cover, I know what the book’s about: the toxicity of whiteness, systemic oppression, internalized racism, and the ilk.

Running is my personal hobby so I have a dog in the fight. Also, I’m curious because both opponents and proponents of critical race theory have socialized me to tune in whenever it’s presented. I’ve been conditioned to perk my ears toward that like I’ve been taught to open my ears to “people who don’t think or look like me.” And I do want that, so here I go.

The immediate hurdle I face reading the interview is the imbalance of not letting one black person’s lived experience speak for every black person and the truth that any person with a following speaks for their followers. It’s an irony we must accept. The author must recognize this too, surely.

So, I’m reading, I’m reading. Okay, here’s a problem. She talks about white supremacy like it’s a given. “As long as we live in a world steeped in white supremacy—and we do—…” Nope, if you’re going to present an alternative view of traditional history, it’s your responsibility to prove your claims. That interjection “—and we do—“,attempts to establish your case without offering any proof.  Do you see?

Anyway, I won’t accept that we live in a world operating on white supremacy. It’s an audacious take and I’ve never heard logic follow it.

Let’s see, what’s next? There’s that CRT, that everything is explained by the color of our skin. I just can’t get on board with it. There’s simply greater diversity to the human race than our diverse races.

Next up. Yes, I accept that, as a woman, she feels unsafe running in certain parts of town, even rightly fearing for her life.  Yet, in that regard, her lived experience isn’t unique to black people. In fact, she heightens her own fears by seeing her blackness. To feel vulnerable running past certain political signs is to think the worst of the sign owners same as she assumes they think the worst of her.

Okay now, this stuff about the stereotypical body of a runner. Sure, have more models of color in advertising but anyone who runs is going to have a leaner body the more miles they put in. That’s just the science of metabolism. Am I allowed to say that?  Compare a Kenyan marathoner to an American sprinter; there’s body diversity for you.

Listen here, you can’t be a runner and lambast the Boston Marathon. It is not racist to have a barrier to enter that race; that’s the point of it. Is it not something to do with Black and white culture rather than eugenics that sprinting is dominated by blacks and distance by whites? If Boston were opened up to satisfy demographic quotas, it’d lose its integrity and luster. In 2022, is anyone actually going to pull a black runner from the route like they did Kathrine Switzer? A three-hour marathoner is a three-hour marathoner, no matter their height, weight, sex, or ethnicity.

If I ever ran with this author, I don’t think we’d have a thing in common to talk about.

The whole time, she talks about the white narrative. Now…that sounds like how I talk about the Left’s narrative…if I’m honest. That’s something for both of us to think about. I think “narrative” is an academic word that really means “conspiracy theory.”

So, wait. What if she’s telling the truth? There is such a thing as “her truth,” more accurately called “perspective.” What can she see from where she stands, or runs, that I don’t?

It would make sense that she feels like an outsider in Boston because of the city’s history of colonialism, something she’s researched and I haven’t. I hadn’t ever thought of that.

And it’s starting to make sense that someone wouldn’t feel welcome to participate if they don’t see others that look like them represented in its promotion. Surely not all bodies metabolize the same, so I could see someone being embarrassed to lace up their shoes. Which is a shame, because the joy of running is that anyone should be able to do It anywhere.

She says she feels like she’s in genuine danger running certain places. Now, I’ve felt that when I’ve been lost in the woods. What a tragedy to feel that way in a crowd of people.

And I’ll admit it: I do let first assumptions rule my thoughts if I meet someone who isn’t white. It’s not always negative but I am going to interact with them in a different style, as I would a woman versus a man. I wonder how I could make my interactions more equitable.

Why are my opinions the standard against which I understand others? Christ is the plumb line I ought to use to measure a lived experience, not me. I am not, cannot be, the neutral position. If I were to run with this author, I think we’d have a few things to talk about.

– Scot Bellavia

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