A black runner speaks out on Ahmaud Arbery, racism and healing
When I learned about the death of Ahmaud Arbery, I was struck with a mix of anger and fear for some of my friends in real life and on social media who are black runners. Corey Queen of Louisville was among them.
While the senseless shooting of an unarmed black man left me with unanswered questions, it obviously hit closer to home to people like Queen, a black man who regularly runs solo.
“When I heard the news about Ahmaud, it hurt my heart,” Queen says. “It also instilled a stronger sense of fear as a black male, a lone runner, who lives in a predominantly white area. Those three monsters took it upon themselves to hunt down and kill this man. Judge and jury. The man, as we have found out, was innocent. They even videotaped it, because it was sport to them, it was obviously familiar. Then it took the public outcry of seeing this released video, MONTHS later, for action to be taken.”
Sadly, this is nothing new. There is a long list of innocent victims targeted simply because of the color of their skin.
“I learned a long time ago, as a black runner, to take the same route every day,” Queen says. “This way no one can say they have never seen me around before, so they felt the ‘need’ to call the police or pervert their 2nd Amendment rights. These are the extra steps I have to take as a black runner, that most reading this don’t ever think of/consider when they lace up their shoes and head out the door.”
Pain and scars
Queen started his running journey 10 years ago for medical reasons. He was about 100 pounds heavier and “wanted to still be around for my wife and our children.” He and his wife, Damary, are now the parents of four “blessings.”
While Queen is a lone runner he is active in the virtual running community. He frequently shares his experiences on social media and hosts a podcast. His digital connections helped him come back after spinal surgery cost him a year of running in 2019.
“Running is hard,” he says. “Especially after having to take an entire year off recovering from spinal surgery. Running teaches me that I can handle what life throws at me. Being a survivor of childhood abuse, I am (unfortunately) programmed to take in pain.”
And the pain from racism is a constant.
Just a few days ago during an early morning run, Queen was subjected to racism.
“Without exaggeration, I experience racism from those outside the running community, both overt and passive aggressive,” he says. “Earlier this week, I was passing a school where two construction workers were taking a break. I waved and said, ‘Good morning!’ The only reply I received was one of them saying, ‘Black people live out HERE?!?” I have been profiled, followed and stopped by police, while I see my white counterparts run and not get stopped in the same spot. In the 10 years that I have been a runner, I have over 520 examples that I could share. And that doesn’t include the ones I am sure that I have forgotten because it is so commonplace.”
While the running community is known for being welcoming, there are indirect examples of racism. As an example, Queen says in a large road race (10,000 to 16,000 runners,) there may be 100 to 200 black women and around 50 black men.
“I don’t think the average person realizes the uncomfortableness that feels like,” he says. “Races as a whole, running stores, running shoe and apparel companies do not target black runners. It shows at every start line across the nation.”
What needs to change
And it’s not that hard, Queen laments. Market to them, and they will come.
“We can’t even be viewed as an equal group, so the idea of races/companies spending their marketing dollars on us never happens because ‘historically’ (I use air quotes because if it has never been done, how is there a history of it failing?) we spend the money. If you want to see more minorities represented in races/running stores/running company ads/running groups, then market to them, the same way. I can go to ALL running shoe/apparel companies and see NOTHING but white representatives. The message is that they are telling me that they don’t want me in. Maybe that is subconsciously why I wear Skechers shoes for their embrace of Meb Keflezighi.”
As a white male around the same age as Queen, I am fully aware of the white privilege I was born into. I support Black Lives Matter and equality but that's not something that can be determined just by looking at me. So I asked a common question that similar-minded folks are asking during this time of civil change: How can I show support without coming off the wrong way?
“I have been asked this question so many times, and I have to remind myself that means that people are trying, which is a wonderful start,” he says. “And let me say, I do not speak for all black people ... and please stop asking the one or two black friends that you may have to speak for our entire race and culture. I make this analogy: Can I listen to what President Trump says and assume every white person feels exactly like he does? That would be dangerous and foolish of me to do so. My humble answer is when you are with your majority white friends and you see systemic racism (look that up if you are unsure what that means and what it is), speak up.”
He also offers a good example to gauge how customer service employees treat different people.
“If you are in a store and see one or two black people come in, PAY ATTENTION! See if they are being profiled by the store employees. Listen to see if they ask a question and what answer they get, wait five minutes and ask the employee the same question to see if you get the same answer, or the black person got a different answer. Then call them out. Use social media for more than, ‘What Disney character am I?,’ and post the experience on there. Racism can be passive aggressive, but fighting it cannot be.”
Show your support
Frequently runners encourage, help and show support for each other. It’s a lesson that could easily be applied in the real world, too.
“Instead of asking black people what you can do to help, be a helping hand of healing,” Queen says. “Reach out to them and let them know that you are TRULY there for them. When you see someone post a Black Lives Matter, or equality in general, statement/link/etc. on their own social media pages and someone, in their infinite wisdom tries to combat them on it, stick up for them with facts on how that person who posted it is right. Show PUBLIC unity.”
Last but not least, Queen says, it’s time to stop the enabling of racists. Phrases such as “They don’t know any better,” “that’s how they were raised” and others are unacceptable.
“If you have been protecting someone who is racist by using those phrases, stop and call them out on it. We are all adults and have the ability and intelligence to learn more than what our parents taught us.
"Being non-racist isn’t good enough … We must be ANTI-racist.”
Name: Corey T. Queen
Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
Number of years running: 10 years and 2 months
How many miles a week do you typically run: I spent all of 2019 unable to run as I was recovering from spinal surgery. So I don’t track mileage anymore. I am just grateful to run,
Favorite race distance: The full marathon. I am tested, mind, body and soul.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Bagel with crunchy peanut butter
Favorite piece of gear: My Apple Watch, Series 5
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “Walk on Water” - 30 Seconds to Mars, and “Guts Over Fear” - Eminem (we share the exact same birthdate!)
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “Adjust your cape, Corey. We got work to do.”
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
FB: just search my name, I am like the only one, seriously
Podcast: The Dad Bod Podcast (available on all podcast platforms). also search for The Dad Bod Podcast on IG/Twitter/Facebook.