Running Shouldn’t Lead To My Death

Dmitri Julius,
Austin, TX

We really appreciate the work being done here. Keep it up. It’s incredibly important and so impactful when we are able to see one another. I wanted to share these thoughts with our team as it’s been weighing heavily on my heart these past few weeks. I woke up in tears and a cold sweat imagining my son coming to the same fate as the slain Georgia jogger, Ahmaud Arbery. *Trigger warning*

I’ve been contemplating sharing how these events have affected the community and my family but have struggled to find the words amidst the shock, pain, and anger I feel. Here is my attempt at sharing these thoughts. Hopefully, they can positively impact someone out there with a misconception of the African American experience.

Ahmaud Arbery was perused, questioned, judged, and ultimately executed while exercising in the suburbs as I often do. This tragic event occurred the day after my birthday, 2.23.2020. I usually take a birthday run as a reminder to self how lucky I am to have life and limb and how young I feel.

I often do it at dusk and at a brisk speed. I get honks and comments from passing cars (of both encouragement and anger). I never respond. I stick to my pace and power through with my headphones in. I can’t shake the feeling that he was me. Minding his business before he was brutally executed. For those who might say, “what business did he have in that partially built home?” I respond, I often check out the floor plans of unbuilt homes in my neighborhood. For those who ask If there was nothing to hide, why not just stop and talk?” I say anyone with enough ill will within them to murder you likely wasn’t asking politely to get your attention. Your gut reaction would not be to stop and talk. Instead, you would likely accelerate and get out of the situation. To those who say, “He fit the description of a man who was a thief, shouldn’t concerned citizens have the right to take action?” I say, ask any black man you know if they have ever been told they “fit the description.”

Please do not be surprised when they tell you a story of the time they were misidentified, harnessed, stopped, questioned, and placed in harm’s way because of a “misunderstanding. ” To those who say, “The video looks suspicious, he may be the suspected thief, how can you argue with that? “ I say our laws are built in such a way to allow citizens to remain innocent until guilt is proven. I also say petty theft isn’t and should NEVER be a cause for a death sentence. Even if it were, that sentence would be handed down in a court of law from a judge and jury, not “citizen making an arrest.” No human deserves to be hunted down like a rabid dog in the street. That simply isn’t a punishment in this great country of ours. The only reason this young man is dead is that he is black. The only reason those men roamed free for months is that they were white. If you disagree with that, I challenge you to imagine the situation in reverse. Do two black men get to follow a “potentially suspected” thief in their truck? Would it be permissible to kill him on the roadside under the suspicion of petty theft? Would they be granted flexibility remain free men for weeks with a special note from the DA (Jackie Johnson) stating not to arrest them? Does a video of undeniable unnecessary escalation of force need to go viral to lead to an arrest weeks later? I think not. Brass tax is this could have been me, my father, my best friend, or… my son.

I’m so tired of the senseless murder of black men in this country. I’m tired of the terror forced upon black mothers and families dealing with this reality daily. I’m tired of the black form being brutalized/eliminated and the BS justification that follows. I’m tired of the endless string of examples of police ineptitude and legal miscarriages of justice that often allow killers and racists to remain free. Black and brown lives aren’t given the same value as white ones in this country, and on behalf of every black man, woman, and child, I cry STOP KILLING US! Until that changes, we implore our white brother and sisters to be allies. That means to stop allowing the racist comments to linger at gatherings. That means engaging in meaningful conversations on the topic of race. That means interceding when you Witness racial injustice. That means confronting internal implicit biases held by yourself and others in positions of power and control. That means to stop blaming the victims and using tropes and stereotypes to condemn the victims to unjustified deaths and broken families. That means developing some understanding that we hurt, grieve, and cry when another member of our community is ripped away. You must know, we struggle daily to make you feel comfortable by not sharing our outrage at these continued transgressions! We are proud to be black, and that shouldn’t mean we might just die to coexist with you.


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