Guest Post: ‘Bout Time: The Experiences of a Black Girl Runner and Her Shirt
December 23, 2011
By Kimberly Glenn
Last week, I rocked my BGR! shirt to the employee gym. An older white gentleman with a balding top and shorts that were about two-inches too short peered at my shirt with squinted eyes as we passed one another. He looked at the shirt, then up at me, un-squinted his eyes and said “ ‘Bout time”.
Most of us have received comments, positive and/or negative, while wearing our BGR! shirts. On the drive home after the gym that day, I began to think about the comments and how it has affected how and when I wear my shirt. Some of the not-so-cheerful comments (e.g. “that’s racist”, “yeah, they do…to McDonald’s”, “okay, but how far are they running?”) have made me think twice before I don the shirt.
At a run meet-up for one of the larger running groups in Nashville, a well-meaning White lady came up to me and warmly warned “Wearing something like that can do more to separate you from the group than really bring you in”. It wasn’t until I looked down that I realized she was pointing to my BGR! shirt. Separate me? No! These blazin’ Caucasians are open-minded, free-spirited and welcoming. I’d come there several times and I hadn’t had any problems. But as the chatter continued around me, it dawned on me that no one spoke to me like they had before. When I went to meet eyes with others, they looked and then looked away. Now anyone who knows me knows that I’m nothing close to shy or timid. But throughout the run and after, with no one but the cautious White lady saying anything to me but a word or two, I felt alone and more separated than ever before.
Even though I felt lonely and like I was the victim of self-imposed segregation, this is the very reason BGR! needs to be more visible. We need to keep wearing our shirts and being proud to do so in even the most non-Black, racially homogenous of environments. I’m going to return to that running group again and again – with shirts, sweatshirts, long-sleeve shirts, and whatnot. And I’m going to think of that old man every time I get a strange look and just say to myself “ ‘Bout time”.