Usually, going for a run does not warrant worry that you’ll make it safely back home.
We know it was different for Ahmaud Arbery.
As video emerged of the 25-year-old jogger and former football player being shot and killed back in February on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga., we cried out in grief and anger in response to another life taken away.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
Sadly, it’s a familiar narrative Black people in this country know too well. An unarmed Black person dies a public death and is blamed for their own demise, polarized debates and protest reveal a nation divided, and some semblance of justice is pursued within a broken criminal legal system while parents make funeral arrangements for sons and daughters whom the world knows only because their death was recorded on a cell phone, captured on video, or broadcast live on social media.
Black people across the country pray to not have their death televised on a 24-hour news loop or have a hashtag put in front of their names by playing a perpetual chess game, making constant mental calculations in order to navigate a world that sees Black skin as sinister outside of a sports uniform.
Black people live with the reality of knowing that doing the ordinary could be deadly.
- Asking for roadside assistance.
- Driving to work.
- Eating ice cream on the couch.
- Going to Bible study.
- Playing in the park.
- Playing video games with family.
- Shopping at a supermarket.
- Sleeping in the bed.
- Standing in the hallway of an apartment building.
- Walking home with Skittles and iced tea.
All ordinary things that turned deadly.
Sadly, history tells us that we will have to live with the grief of more incidents where an unarmed Black person is seen as a threat rather than an image bearer of God. The family of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville EMT killed in her home by police, currently has to deal with this reality. But we refuse to live in terror.
So to protest injustice to honor a young man’s memory, we defiantly did the ordinary. We ran.
Last weekend we laced up our shoes and hit the pavement to #RunWithMaud, dedicating 2.23 miles to Ahmaud on what would’ve been his 26th birthday.
Many may be wondering what else to do to actively fight against racism and inequality. Here’s some ways to continue sharing God’s heart for justice.
What Can We Do Now?
Continue To Be a Lifelong Learner
Ahmaud’s death is not an isolated incident. Learn the history of how people of color have experienced life in this country along with knowing your own life experience. Hear from a number of diverse voices advocating for the marginalized and oppressed.
One of the most accessible ways to do this is to build a podcast listening library. Approach learning about different cultures with a posture of humility. Continue having conversations around race and racism even when it’s uncomfortable.
Look, you may make mistakes or unintentionally offend others in your attempt to gain understanding. When it happens, apologize directly and resist getting defensive. Acknowledge the impact of your words rather than articulate what your intentions were, and commit to making steps to grow.
One way to push back on racist and insensitive rhetoric is to ask questions. When someone’s comments around race bother you, ask questions of the person who commented to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from. It also gives them a chance to think about what they’re actually saying and gives you a chance to engage gracefully with them.
You can ask questions like:
“What made you say that?”
“Why do you feel that way?”
“Why do you think that’s funny?”
“Where did you get that information?”
It’s also helpful to ask yourself what you’re willing to risk. Some of your relationships and friendships may change because of your commitment to reflect God’s heart for justice and racial reconciliation. Pray and brace yourself for that reality.
Ask Your Church Leaders About Racial Justice
Racism and prejudice in all its forms is sin, is contrary to the gospel, and goes against the heart of God. Our Creator made all of us in the image of God, calling our ethnicity and cultural identity good. The belief that people of one ethnic group are better and more worthy than another is a lie from the pit of hell.
Ask your ministry leaders about how they’re talking about white supremacy, and how they plan to pursue the church’s imperative of racial justice, as well as how they plan to address structural and systemic barriers by dismantling supremacist ideology through the preached word and through service to the community.
Join In Ongoing Work
Chances are there are issues of inequity and inequality in your neighborhood, city or state. And chances are there are already people working to advocate for the oppressed and to see God’s kingdom on earth. Do some research and get involved.
A great place to start would be to attend public city or school meetings. I know, going to meetings may sound like a snooze fest (sometimes it is), but important decisions are made in them that impact your neighbors. Engage those in positions of power about their response to issues of injustice.
Continue To Use Your Platform
Whether it’s making a statement on the field or stepping away from the field to make systemic change, find your way of expressing God’s heart for justice and oneness through your influence on your team, within your sport community, or with the younger athletes who follow you.
Share your platform to amplify voices often unheard, have the courage to call out wrongs or continue to #RunWithMaud. However you decide to show up for those who are different from you, just know that you have power in helping others see people of other ethnicities the way God sees them.
Know that you have a part to play in helping reveal God’s heart for justice and peace so the Ahmauds of the world (and the people who look like him) can live and do the ordinary: run and make it safely back home.