Posted on May 18, 2020

‘Why Is This Black Guy Running?’: After Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing, African Americans Reconsider Fitness Routines

Erik Ortiz, NBC News, May 15, 2020

Every time Edward Walton laces up his running shoes, no matter where he is, there is a calculus he takes into consideration: What time of the day is it? What neighborhood will I run in? What am I wearing?

And when he’s outdoors, he says, it adds up again: Am I running too fast? Does it look like I’m fleeing from someone?

“It’s the math,” Walton, 51, a cybersecurity architect and consultant in metro Atlanta, said, “of running while black.”

The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who his family says was out for a jog when he was chased and fatally shot by two white men in late February, has renewed a national conversation about racial profiling and when black Americans, in particular, are accused of criminal behavior in the midst of routine, everyday activities, such as mowing a lawn or waiting inside a Starbucks.


“When I’m running, people give me two looks,” Walton said. “Why is this black guy running? What is he running from? What did he do?”


Seven years ago, Walton co-founded a group in Atlanta called Black Men Run, which he says has grown to 55 chapters in 35 states, as well as internationally in London and Paris.

It was conceived as a way for black men, facing their own health disparities and challenges, to unite in fellowship and help one another become accountable for their physical well-being. {snip}

But incidents like Arbery’s killing have also shifted the group’s focus to becoming more activist-driven. Last week, members participated in a 2.23-mile jog in Arbery’s honor, marking the day of his death, as part of a social media campaign. {snip}


Kristea Cancel, a runner from North Carolina, said she recently tracked her 13-year-old son’s run using an app because she was uncomfortable not knowing where he was. The next day, she went running with him.

She recalled how a few years ago while running in Tennessee, someone in a white pickup truck threw their drink in her face and screamed at her on a busy street in broad daylight. Nothing had been out of the ordinary until that moment, she said — it had been a routine run.

“When will it be OK to just be shopping, running, in the park and not be feared or criminalized by people who can’t just let us be human beings, enjoying life as they are entitled to do?” Cancel asked. “No mother should be worried a run or walk may end their son’s life.”