Addressing the pink elephant in the room requires for me to admit that I've abandoned new entries on Running Fat Chef since May 2020 and it was not about a lighthearted adventure in the outdoors. I spoke about racial inequality, being profiled while on the run, allyship and a deep dive exploration on what happens when everyone forgets Black struggle until it's convenient. Alas, we've approached the cusp of Black History Month -- a mere 28 or sometimes 29 days where people botch up Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes to make themselves appear woke AF while not paying homage to Black people's stolen AAVE - African American Vernacular English - that White people once weaponized as Ebonics. But here's one for you: If you don't know me nor earned me in my everyday life, let's start with not calling me "sis." And before you start celebrating living Black athletes on your next "list of inspiring Black athletes to follow" or reminding me that today is Ted Corbitt's birthday then demanding me to make a performative post on social media like your imagination expect me to do, I'd rather stay true to myself by flexing some viewpoints that I've vocalized but refrained from writing on here for damn near eight months.
28 Days Will Never Cover Every Black Athlete So Keep Your Goodreads List Away from Me
Since we've last talked on here, I managed to be featured on at least ten platforms on some kind of advocate list of "Black Athletes to Follow" and in turn, I've woke up to binders full of exciting White people that just learned about slavery. Whilst I don't find the lists to be too problematic or the unexpected cover on November 2020's Runner's World, depending on who placed me on them, I found it quite disturbing how these series of events instructed some White and non-Black people of color to demand diversity, equity and inclusion information every day on my social media feed while running, cycling, doing pushups or making a sandwich in my kitchen. I was exceptionally humored receiving turn off notices from people that followed me for two weeks, three days and fifteen hours to notify me that their Black education courses were past due and if I didn't render payment, they would be forced to terminate my unpaid services. The absolute privileged audacity to not catch the lesson that my way of teaching Black history sometimes come from not teaching trauma porn at all but demonstrating my unapologetic Black AF happiness. And if these things weren't problematic, I was extended reading suggestions of books that sit in my home that I should read to further my assumed lack of information about Black people -- all of this mentioned and not included are as problematic as an overcooked piece of okra in my pan.
Maybe it's no shade to anyone that just learned about the Clarksville, Tennessee gazelle Wilma Rudolph or those whom frequently confused me for my beloved Black, plus-size and less profanity laced ultrarunner buddy Mirna Valerio because we clearly DON'T look like each other but y'know y'all both from Brooklyn, happen to be real life friends, are Black, fat and probably the only ones that look like y'all on a course (and yes ::drink my sarcasm laced run on sentence here::) doesn't mean I want to entertain your new required reading --ahem respectfully speaking.
To clue you in on a secret, some of us Black folks (and dare I insert Indigenous, Asian and Latinx people) desperately sought out to learn about these incredible people because of the lack of diverse representation afforded to us by mainstream media or even in our textbooks. Before your black square did the Harlem Shake with a #BlackLivesMatter hashtag for a day and replaced it for a gold participation star, a lot of us had no choice but to do the work to seek others already in these respective sports. Haven't you heard the statement throughout 2020 that "it's hard to be something you don't see" thrown around from every new unintentional or deliberate activist? Well imagine feeling like your body is a protest every single day for showing up to a start line like yourself; the anxiety that lurks in your throat as your hair becoming a headline; the innocence of your curvaceous shape illustrated as a loaded gun; your passion for sports are a war crime committed against sports purists that frequently chant that "the outdoors is for everyone." Despite my confidence, I feel that weight clutching tight to my 270 lb. frame that is already problematic in the running space but would probably be worshipped as a Black male football player.
Please make those purchases from your Amazon list -- I have some great ones on their myself that I welcome you to check out and buy but you don't have to share them with to prove that you're "one of the good ones." I assure you that it's the most condescending, backhanded compliment that I can ever give you like when people love harping to me that they "don't see color."
For Colored People Who Considered Turning Off Their Social Media/When the Brands Thought Exposure Was Enough Written by The Comment Section
A golden piece of advice that I've received since moonwalking on the fitness and wellness scene is to not entertain the comment section. We're not going to deep dive into the countless offers that Black folks probably got bitch smacked with in the last month in preparation of everyone's favorite 28 days.
If you happen to be a current, former or potential partner reading this long-winded passion post, remember to continue running me my money. And if this was never an issue, I commend you for doing something that a lot of places neglect doing while treating me like a telemarketer. Listen: This work ain't free. I even trolled my social media account with the #silhouettechallenge to emphasize my point. But sticking to the financial element is probably super basic and allows a gateway for some of you to further gaslight me with payments in forms of exposure while playing from the tiniest violin about limited budgets as you buy out other companies. Because, of course, this is to demonstrate to other people or companies what your best impression of Jeff Bezos looks like. I truly adore reminders about Zoom webinars means that I don't have to travel as you neglect to remember that my research on a particular topic further increased as we battle a whole ass pandemic. And when some influencers, content creators, writers, activists and artists are forced to accept your underwhelming pay - especially those without contract lawyers or publicists - you don't even defend them in the comment sections. Surely well versed publicists, spin doctors and media trainers will tell you ignore and not engage from an emotional standpoint as you fight to maintain your professionalism on slave wages. Admittedly I haven't mastered that uncanny ability to not feel, lose my ability to read and learn how to deflect assassinations of my character by clicking my heels three times shouting "eff the haters" to an Eight Mile track produced by oppression.
The sheer impudence of brands and companies to not consider openly defending or at least screening through the comment section to defend your "Black Athletes to Follow" demonstrates the lack of respect that you have for us or yourselves in an already performative space. Doing the work is not easy by no means. You don't get to prep for three months, hire us for 28 days and pull out your on-call list when the next Black person is killed, attacked or literally running scared with a platform then pat us on the head to commend us for being the help. I am tickled by your tactical marketing as produce sales while your company lands on the next Fast Company, Forbes or Black Enterprise feature. After all, we're in 2020 Jr. and most of you have a social media manager or director. Is it too much for them to address hecklers and trolls to keep their bigoted comments to themselves or else they'll be reported in to the respective social media platform and/or blocked from your accounts?
As of recent, I watched true allyship play out without prompt from a feature of me on the Trek Bikes Instagram page. One of the first ten comments that surface underneath a shot of me was the word "nigger." The word doesn't hurt me; it's the attempt of an emboldened individual that hasn't learned, earned or made an attempt to know me tried to inflict onto more than just me. The smugness of this individual's contempt for my Black body being reduced down to the word "nigger" reminds me of the battles that many Black people encounter daily.
When a company allows statements to thrive on their social media posts unaddressed at any capacity,. it sends a message to Black and non-Black people alike: We are simply a trend to White America and it's okay to disrespect us.
When I saw that a large company like Trek Bikes could advocate for me - even with a few sentences to address vitriol left in the comment section - to even going further to apologize to me in private, I know it can be done. What appears as a small ounce of humanity, I feel a bit better about revisiting and/or to continue exploring opportunities with the people behind these brands. By proxy, my audience will not only see but feel my passion through posts, commentary and all in between because they're not a forced relationship. Even if it's just "marketing" with all of these causes, I hope that you always remember the humans, their backstories and their vulnerability to share it with your community. Brands, don't be disillusioned: This is a mutually benefitting agreement, not a one sided come up for your contracted worker.
Popular Question: How Can I Help Black Athletes in the Fitness + Wellness Space?
Really Simplistic Answer: Help and educate yourselves first - daily. That is just a blip to a major issue. Your answer to this loaded but seemingly mild mannered question will not be found through one basic Google search. Some answers will surface through self-discovery, checking your own unknown or very known biases and reading the entire room at times in a what if scenario. If you find yourself clutching your purse in a Black or Brown neighborhood without any realistic reason to be fearful, you have a bias. And because of racial stereotypes, I will honestly express that I actually have a horrible biased fear stemming from White supremacy about running through Trump/MAGA confederate flag filled neighborhoods while receiving ominous stares. The January 6, 2021 insurrection didn't make me feel extra welcome in the outdoor space. We both have work to do but you might have just a tad bit more than me when my fears are loaded with visual and intentionally suppressed history.
Without knowing it, many Black, Brown and Indigenous people don't need a White history lesson when it's already afforded to us daily. Before we walk into a space, the sounds of our names, music we may or may not play and even the subdivision of the sport that we play (i.e. cross country versus track and field) are already profiled. Some people that may or may not share my skin complexion will straighten their hair, abandon their accents, change up their vernacular and overly articulate their words in efforts of not being reduced to the word "ghetto."
How can you help us? Acknowledge that there's a race and overbearing Whiteness issue in the athletic space. This means not deflecting this statement with comments like "stick to running," "politics don't belong in sports" while singing the national anthem or being another whiny poster questioning the purpose of intersectionality.
For the "Why does everything have to be about race" crowd because you don't see color or racially based crimes while bitching in the comment section under every article that involves commentary about Black, Brown and Indigenous people, we all see you. I can only imagine that your words wreaks of funky underarms festering from your ancestors in your mother's basement.
When I hear questions like "how can we help Black athletes feel safe," I wonder why do these things always fall on marginalized communities to answer instead of brainstorming or assessing what's missing in your 90 or possibly 100 percent fitness groups. But for the sake of not nitpicking, a great start might be leaving your community. If you don't venture off into different areas than the ones that you know, how can you learn anything different from your echo chamber?
Another obvious to me approach is to share more Black stories in mainstream and local media beyond the countless days that we're being killed. Expand your palate beyond the five Black athletes that you love to follow and quote. For my fellow journalists, please research us before asking generic questions that 60 interviews already covered. P.S. We are more than DEI work. Do some research on how our skin was politicized before people like me took their first breath. For those that are relocating to neighborhoods with a diverse and/or marginalized community, don't Christopher Columbus occupied areas and demand that we change the way that we move. If you feel uncomfortable or it "scares you," check your biases at the nearest train stop. It is beyond menacing to have the police called on you because you're deemed as suspicious.
A great one to consider is not placing so much effort in appearing right or centering yourself in a narrative when a Black person is expressing intended or unintended pain on them about something. Regardless of your race, a lot of people go straight into defense mode when someone confronts you on how you feel. It is most likely not a personal attack; take in the damn lesson. Your lack of humility in a situation can shift a misunderstanding into you being completely on the wrong side while talking yourself into a cringeworthy apology tour.
And just as an observation from my own inbox: Please save the invites to your run groups as a diversity hire if you don't even know if you'll like my attitude. I actually want to earn you and for you to do the same before making an in person event turn awkward for both of us. Just in case you don't like me as a person doesn't qualify me to call you a racist. Assuming that we have to be friends because you invited the Black girl is just weird. Being overly nice to me while being quiet when a situation arises to be an ally in a racially centered situation might make your lack of action exceptionally hostile to me.
If you sit in a position of privilege and power, explore ways to place inclusive and equitable practices into play. P.S. Don't choose the only Black person as the automatic go to person to show you how to be inclusive in your run or cross fit group. Not many people like showing up to meeting learning five minutes prior that they're the keynote speaker for today's discussion on "How to Make Us Look Inclusive." Your latest podcast, books and anti-racism education list will not provide all of the tools to make you a better human being overnight as I will not become a White people expert just because I lived around White people all of my life.
While donations to Black organizations are great, you cannot finance your way out of White supremacy. Running 2.23 miles with your favorite run group is dope but if you center yourself in the narrative and learned nothing, all you did was run 2.23 miles and played yourself when the watch stopped.
As I am prematurely cringing from the half assed empty brand statements that always appear during these times, I am striving to remain hopeful and an optimist that people like me will not be turned into a monolith, a one-month marketing technique without a better story line or tokenized -- all of which I'm not a stranger to being in the fitness and wellness space. If you are smacking yourself across the head because you read one of these statements and currently feel embarrassed from doing one of these acts, sit on your metaphorical porcelain throne for a bit to think it over. I'm not here to tell you it's okay nor if it's forgiven -- I don't speak for all Black people. Your actions speak louder than muddled apologies. An incredible Black runner once said "I wanted to quit because I was suffering. That is not a good enough reason." I'm sure this was referenced to the physical act but who said good quotes cannot apply in other places. With that said, happy birthday Mr. Ted Corbitt. Thank you for opportunities for big mouthed Black runners like me.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
If you want to donate to my one woman operation, please feel free to donate below. All funds will help me keep the blog running smoothly.