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Amhaud Arbery's killing isn't just sad — it is infuriating

So many times during this pandemic, I have thanked my lucky stars I've been able to get outside and go for a run or a walk.

The weather has been good a vast majority of days -- it's so very unlike Oklahoma weather to cooperate, but we'll take it -- and while my neighborhood has almost no sidewalks, the streets are relatively safe. Wide enough for drivers and runners. Quiet enough, too.

Running has become a way to break cabin fever these past few weeks. Social distancing is not difficult while  on a run, so it's been a safe space. 

An escape. 

Earlier this week, I was reminded many of my fellow Americans don't feel the same way about going for a run. They don't feel safe doing it. They don't see it as an escape.

The killing of Ahmaud Arbery showed all of us that.

Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who went for a run one day in late February. He was about 2 miles away from his home in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was confronted by two white men, one of which had a shotgun. 

The men would later say they saw Arbery running and thought he was a burglary suspect.

Arbery was shot and killed.

The details of what happened are readily available. So is a video; sadly, it is the only reason the world beyond Brunswick knows so much about Arbery. Without that video, we wouldn't have known that he was gunned down on a residential street in broad daylight. That the men who chased him and killed him went free for more than two months; they were finally arrested and charged with murder.

The details of the case shocked me. Shocked me into silence.

I wasn't sure what to do when I heard about Arbery. On Friday -- what would've been his birthday -- I ran in his memory. Posted about it on social media. Used the widely circulated hashtags.

I said I stand with those who face racism.

But it wasn't enough.

I have been complicit in not using this space sooner to call out the injustice that was done not only to Ahmaud Arbery but also to so many of my friends. How can I be silent in the face of such hatred and racism? How can I let such evil to go unchecked?

My humanity demands it.

But this is more than even that. Those racists in Georgia turned an activity I love into a reason to track someone down and shoot them. They added one more thing to the list that people with black and brown skin must fear.

Driving. Wearing a hoodie. Holding a cellphone. On and on the list of activities go that have ended with a black person being killed in this country.

Now, running. 

When I go out on a run, I worry about safety. Loose dogs are a concern. So are absent-minded drivers. And being a woman, I try to stay to well-traveled streets, and I avoid running before sunrise or after sunset. 

There are other things I worry about when I run. If I look like a goof; I'm guessing I'm more Phoebe than Flo Jo. If I might trip and fall. If the battery on my iPod might run down.  

But I never worry that my skin color might cause a problem.

I never feel like I'm being watched. No one stops weeding their flower beds to watch me. No one stares as I cross in front of their car. No one assumes I am running because I have done something wrong. Me running on the sidewalk or down the street doesn't cause any kind of reaction.

That, my friends, is white privilege.

I recognize it. It isn't why I am writing this. This isn't coming from a place of guilt. 

It's coming from a place of rage.

I am appalled at what black and brown people must endure in our country. I am enraged at what they have to consider before doing something as simple as going for a run. Should they go through a certain neighborhood? Should they wear sunglasses? Should they carry a phone?

It's infuriating.

For several days, I said nothing about what happened to Ahmaud Arbery. That was a mistake. My mistake. My failing.

I can't do anything to bring him back, but I can call out racism. I can call out hatred. I can stand with people who see what happened to Ahmaud and say, "Yeah, welcome to my reality."

I can ask, "What can I do to change this?"

Like going for a run, sometimes the toughest part is just getting started.

Related Photos
Amhaud Arbery. [USA TODAY]

Amhaud Arbery. [USA TODAY]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Amhaud Arbery. [USA TODAY]" title="Amhaud Arbery. [USA TODAY]"><figcaption>Amhaud Arbery. [USA TODAY]</figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›