Being Black in America: a personal story by Garland Days

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I love my life, my job, and my family. I enjoy participating in TRL running events and being on the TRL Board. Do I like being Black in America? Eh…not always. Like most Blacks, I constantly live with the fear that I will be unfairly judged because of the color of my skin, which means I might never be 100% happy in America.

My first experience with racism happened when I was a child at the age of 12. I was traveling in my Mom’s car heading home from the grocery store. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood in suburban Maryland right outside of DC. About a mile away from home, we noticed a police car following us. The police car followed us all the way home and eventually pulled into our driveway right behind us. My Mom and I got out of our car, and we started grabbing our groceries. Then, the police officer, pulled out her gun, pointed it at us, and yelled, “is this your house?” My Mom said,” yes.” The police officer then pointed at me and yelled, “who is that passenger with you?” My Mom calmly said, “that’s my son.” The police officer said, “we’ve had some recent carjackings in the area and your son fits the description we have of the suspect.” My Mom responded back by saying, “he’s no suspect, he’s my son.” The police officer then said, “OK, just doing my job, Ma’am.” My mom said “OK.” The police officer got back into her car and pulled out of our driveway. Shaken and scared, my Mom and I walked into our house.

Throughout my teenage years and into adulthood, I’ve experienced similar painful incidences of racism. Some were overt, but most were micro-aggressions. What is it like being Black in America? You are always living with an underlying twinge of discomfort. It’s the notion that people are going to be more critical of you because of the color of your skin, so you overcompensate by attempting to be better at everything, never displaying any anger, and avoiding Black stereotypes for fear of being judged.

There is tremendous turmoil and unrest throughout our country. The tragic deaths of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, together with the demonstrations and unrest sweeping our nation, are tearing at us. We cannot lose sight of why people are protesting. The confederate flag, Washington Redskins, constant police killings of young black men: these issues are obviously painful, real, and triggering for people of color. Is ending systemic racism a subject that really needs debating? I just don’t understand why people still harbor racist ideas and intentions despite the fact that there are numerous examples of smart, talented people of color who have made positive contributions to American society.

As a runner and an Oregonian, I enjoy running in beautiful places like the Banks-Vernonia and Crown Zellerbach trails. However, similar to women running alone, I sometimes feel afraid whenever I’m by myself in remote areas. I must remain vigilant and watch out for guys in pick-up trucks who might target me like Ahmaud Arbery.

I love being a Red Lizard. Even though I’m the only active black member of the group, I feel comfortable at all TRL activities, including at the Board level. I believe whenever we promote activities in the TRL community, it should always come from a foundation that encourages and celebrates diversity, inclusion, and equity. Communities big and small must acknowledge that racial injustice still exists. Being silent is not an option anymore and there’s plenty of work to be done to end systemic racism. If you notice acts of racism in your community, now’s the time to speak up against it. I hope you will become an ally in this pursuit to end racial injustice. The responsibility lies with all of us.

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