This Is Us

As a Black Man in America, I Am Done Running

The way white people see me is not how I see myself

Lumumba Shabazz
Human Parts
Published in
11 min readMay 31, 2020

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Photo: MirageC/Getty Images

You wanna know a secret? Whenever I get stressed, I work. I work a lot.

As a soldier during the first Gulf War, I volunteered to burn shit in huge drums of kerosene because it was the only duty that would allow me the freedom and time to ease the stresses on my brain in a wartime environment.

I am sitting now, after a day of running on the trails, mowing the yard, fixing the mower, and cooking dinner — all of this to avoid having to think about what was going on in Minneapolis and the rest of the country.

This morning as I was preparing to head out to the trails near my house, my 14-year-old daughter followed me around, asking why I couldn’t just exercise in the backyard. Then she started crying — I mean, really crying. Through her anguished cries, she blurted out that she was terrified of me going out because she was scared the prevailing mood in the country meant I could be in serious danger. Her fears shook me, and in that moment, I resented everything about this country for making me have to comfort my daughter so I could run.

Fourteen, after all, is still an age of innocence. It is a time of budding rebellion from the chains of parental control. A time of discovering a way past your own awkward interpretation of self into a world of teenage angst, new awakenings, and what pretends to be love. I am so angry she is not being afforded that opportunity, and it is not like my wife and I haven’t tried to shelter her from the ugliness of the world. We have worked really hard at it, but despite our best efforts, we keep falling short.

I hate that my daughter is being forced to grow up too quickly and that she has to defend her existence every single second of the day.

We fell short when we could not protect her from being called a monkey in school or being told by a middle-school classmate on the bus that his grandfather would have owned her grandfather. We fell short when we could not prevent her from the “nigger whispers,” something white middle-schoolers do when they want you to…

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