We have never met.
Today is your birthday.
This morning, I ran 2.23 miles. I did this to honor you and acknowledge the day you were killed, on February 23rd.
I am sorry.
I will never know what those last few moments must have been like for you.
I don’t know what it’s like to watch behind me when I run or worry someone out of nowhere may shoot me. I am a middle-aged white woman living in a small, suburban town, you see. The biggest thing I have to worry about when I run outside is coming upon some wild turkeys.
I don’t know what it’s like to be you.
But I do have a vulnerable child — one who is a statistic and a stereotype and a label. He is a cake-baker, and a glasses-wearer, and occasionally, a bike-rider.
He is judged, quickly and often — not for the color of his skin, but for the invisible wiring inside his brain.
This is a flimsy comparison, I know. After all, he does not suffer at the hands of blatant racism or discrimination. He will simply need to work harder than most to be seen and heard.
My name is Carrie.
I live in New Hampshire.
I have five kids and my second son, Jack, has autism.
Jack read about your story. He is having trouble grasping it.
Watching him try to process the news is like watching an ant try to eat a giant crumb of food. It’s too big. He can’t swallow it.
But slowly, over time, he begins to break it up into smaller pieces he can absorb and digest. He does this all on his own. It’s how his mind works. It’s mesmerizing to observe, to be honest.
‘Two men shot him. For not any reason.’
It was sunny in New Hampshire this morning. I ran a long stretch of empty road. I ran past a farm. I saw a row of colorful tulips poking through the damp ground.
I thought of you, and how never again will you feel the rush of air through your lungs, or your feet pound on pavement.
‘He was jogging. And now he has death.’
What was the last thing that went through your mind?
Were you shocked, to see two white men come up on you in a pickup truck?
Or had you expected it all your life?
It seems our country and our culture have failed so fundamentally, that young black men watch over their shoulders and wonder and worry that today could be the last.
That’s how I understand it, from where I stand here in my white skin in my rural New Hampshire town, anyway.
‘Do you wear sneakers. In heaven?’
I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t know how to contribute to the necessary, prudent change.
Do I send letters? Make calls? Hold up signs? Organize walks?
I thought about this, while I ran.
I decided I will do the same thing I do for my own vulnerable son. I will take the words from my head, polish them off a little, and share them.
I know it’s small in the face of such bigness. It’s a tiny gesture, these dumb words. But I offer them anyway. It’s all I have to give for now.
This is a picture of Jack. Tomorrow is his 16th birthday. He was born on Mother’s Day, just like you.
‘His mother. Must miss him a lot.’
‘Yes, Jack-a-boo. Yes.'”
Read more stories like this:
‘I am a black man who jogs. My wife won’t let me out of the house unless I wear enough colorful and ‘innocent’ clothing so as not to appear threatening.’: Man urges for compassion in wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s death
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