Yes, It Is About Race

If you are on social media and you live in a Baltimore suburb, you have been reading about the protests in our fair city.

You have also been reading the comments, because you just can’t resist. Actually – you can’t escape them. There are comments (and judgments) in every other status update coming up on your feed.

And somewhere among the jumble of opinions, someone has made the argument that this “isn’t about race.” More accurately, that the thousands of black people protesting on the streets are protesting something irrelevant. That this latest killing of a young man by police has nothing to do with the color of his skin. That institutional racism ended a long time ago.

The reasons why “this isn’t about race” will vary. Someone will share a CNN screenshot with raw numbers of people killed in police custody, “proving” that, technically, more whites than blacks are killed by police.

Someone else will bring up the fact that the Baltimore police department is way more diverse than that of Ferguson, so clearly it can’t be influenced by the race of the people it serves.

Black-on-black crime will come up, because it always does. And, of course, someone will bring in the trump card of Affirmative Action, whether it makes sense or not.


Ultimately, the insinuation will be that the pain, anger, and frustration protesters are saying they feel is invalid or, at best, misdirected. The fact that largely black communities are statistically more likely to have high rates of cyclical poverty and crime is attributed to something inherently wrong in those communities – absentee fathers, welfare-addicted mothers, drugs, gangs – denying even the possibility that the system treats blacks differently than it treats whites.

That, my friends, is racism.

When you have a minority population begging to be heard and a majority population refusing to hear them, you have systemic injustice.

The people protesting on the streets of Baltimore this week aren’t asking us for much.  They aren’t looking for a reason to break laws or injure police. (The few do not define the many.) They aren’t asking for special privileges or for a free ride through life.

They are asking us to listen to them. They are asking us to acknowledge that they have experienced pain and injustice because of the color of their skin. They are asking us to believe them when they say that the injustices they have faced aren’t isolated experiences but a fundamental part of their daily lives. They are asking us to imagine what it would be like not to have the benefit of the doubt, to be mistrusted and judged the moment people look at you.

They are asking us to see them as people with a right to define the narrative of our society.

CORRECTION Suspect Dies Baltimore

It Got Done By Me

Or, Stories From Before the Finish Line

My last post was my pre-race post, and now I’m returning from the other side of the finish line. I took on the Baltimore Half Marathon, and I won.

At least, that’s what I told my daughter who, when she saw my medal, said, “Mommy!!! You got a prize! Did you WIN?” So I said, “Well, sort of. Aren’t you proud of me for running so far? I ran a really, really long time, but I could do it because I worked super hard.” And then she said, “Well…I’m proud of you if you won, mommy.”

So of course, I said, “Heck yeah I won!” Finishing the race is winning the race, at least in my book.

This is how my race day went:


10:05: CRAP, it’s actually starting!

10:06: I think I need to go to the bathroom.

Mile 2: I’m passing people! This is awesome! People are being passed by me! I am so FAST. If I were a Pony, I’d be Rainbow Dash. What I mean is, I basically have wings on my back.

Mile 3: I’m really concerned about this whole bathroom thing. What if I really have to go? What if I pee myself? What if I get trampled trying to cross to the side of the course where the porta-potties are?

Mile 4: Ha! Look at that sign! It says, “Smile if you peed a little!” That’s so funny! Wait — I was smiling but that doesn’t mean anything. IT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING!

Mile 4.5: I love Baltimore so much! Yeah, we may be running through streets I’d be kind of scared to walk through during the daytime, but where else does the homeless population come out to cheer on their city’s runners? You guys ROOOCK!

Mile 5: Oh, a hill. This isn’t so bad. I don’t know what people were talking about when they said there were some bad hills in this course.

Miles 5.5 – 7: OH GOD IN HEAVEN WHY? WHY DID YOU CREATE HILLS? IT’S BECAUSE YOU HATE ME, ISN’T IT? Admit it, the earth isn’t one continuous flat surface because YOU HATE ME!

Mile 7: Ok, that wasn’t so bad.

Mile 8: We’ve been running on a flat course for awhile now. It’s kind of boring. I like a little elevational variety in my runs. Variety is a good thing.

Mile 9: Seriously brain, did you just say you like “elevational variety.” I HATE you.

Mile 10: Am I still running? I think I may have just fallen asleep. Maybe I was in the zone? Can I go back? Things are starting to hurt.

Mile 11: I thought it was all supposed to be downhill after mile 7. This is NOT downhill.

Mile 11.5: Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running…

Mile 12: Oh look! A woman is handing out water! Or is it Gatorade? I don’t know what it is but I should definitely drink it… Wait a second, is this beer? It is! It’s Natty Boh! I love Baltimore. Oh wait… it’s BEER. I can’t drink beer. I have celiac disease…

Mile 12.5: If my intestines explode before the finish line because I just drank a cup of liquid gluten I am going to HURT somebody.

Mile 13: Where’s the finish like? Why can’t I see the finish line? Why are people WALKING this close to the end? Seriously people, I’m not stopping if I knock you down.

Mile 13.1: I DID IT. I ACTUALLY DID IT! THE WHOLE WORLD IS WONDERFUL! I LOVE LIFE! I LOVE HILLS! I LOVE EVERYTHING! Now give me some water and my medal before I collapse.

Me and my medal

Like my glowing green goddess shirt? I do!

T-23 Hours

It’s 10:00 am on Friday, October 11. By this time tomorrow, I will be 15 minutes into my first half-marathon race.

I have spent the last five months preparing for this event at the Baltimore Running Festival and now my training is officially over. I ran my practice 13.1 miles three weeks ago, and I did it with minimal suffering. Two weeks ago, I set a long-distance personal record in a 9.3 mile race, and then I did it again in my final training run.

I’ve spent the last few days stuffing myself with carbs and protein. I’m hydrated to the point where I have had to bring up the savant-like mental map of local public restrooms that I developed during my pregnancies. My iTunes playlist is almost complete.

I have my race bib, my energy drink coupons and freebies, and my all-important (neon green) race tee shirt.

And yesterday afternoon, I completed my final prerace workout, a gentle, core-stretching and -strengthening session of Pilates. Oddly enough, after 5 months of some pretty challenging runs, it was this last, non-running workout that served as the best reminder of my most necessary race-day accessory: a strong, focused mind.

Actually, I suppose this reminder really came courtesy of my children, who were both home and awake when I finally got a chance to squeeze the workout in.

While my five-year-old yelled questions down to me from her bedroom upstairs, my two-year-old was busy helping me get the most out of my exercising. She started by adding extra weight to my moves — she sat on my back while I was trying to plank and on my legs when I was trying to lift them. When that got boring, she sat on my head.

Then, she must have decided I wasn’t properly accessorized for my workout because she brought a cowgirl hat for my head and a necklace for my arm. After that, she turned her efforts to ensuring I was properly entertained, hauling a bag of board books over to me and dropping each one on my chest.

Finally, she asked for an apple, which bought me a few minutes of peaceful core crunching before she climbed out of her booster seat and came over to deposit some “gis-gusting” apple skin on my face.

Through all of this, I somehow managed to keep the important part of my  brain focused on my workout. I isolated muscles and maintained (mostly) proper form. Moreover, I successfully ignored the best efforts of a two-year-old to distract me from my purpose. Talk about the eye of the tiger — I was the eye of the hurricane. Or something like that.

This is why we moms are so good at endurance events. We’ve done pregnancy. We’ve done labor. We’ve done hours of pacing with colicky newborns. We’ve done endless playing with annoying musical toys. We’ve done Barney and Caillou. We can ignore the toddler human, which is possibly the most annoying force on the planet. If we can get through all that, we can fly through a couple of hours of running.

Race day is almost here, and I’m feeling good. My body is strong; my mind is stronger. I’ve got this.