As the Twin Cities Marathon approaches with consistent news coverage of the Black Lives Matters intent to disrupt it, you might look at the title of this article and ask yourself “Who’s Nathan?” and wondering if his marathon is any more or less important than the marathon of any other registrants. Which is what is inherently wrong with Black Lives Matter in the first place. While this Sunday represents a long-awaited and worked for event for Nathan, it is that for many others as well and to pretend that he is more or less important than the other nameless competitors would be wrong and counterproductive. I’ll tell you who Nathan is. He is family man on the twilight end of his thirties. He has a daughter he dotes on, a wife he adores and a son who is a high school athlete recovering from a season changing injury. This is not his first Twin Cities Marathon, he runs to improve his health, set and achieve goals and role model to his family the value of perseverance. Like most who run the Twin Cities Marathon (described as the most beautiful urban marathon in the country) he is not running against others in the field, he is running with them and competing against his own times and personal expectations. His achievement on Sunday will not increase or diminish the accomplishments of any other man or woman who is participating.
I am a woman, a wife, a mother and a college graduate. I am white, over 50 and make my home in the Midwest. While each of these traits contribute to who I am, not one of them define me. None of my personal attributes should be taken as evidence that I am either superior or inferior to others. The trouble with a grouping of people trying to make blanket assumptions about others based on singular characteristics is that there is simply no validity to it. I am not a fan of the moniker “Black Lives Matter” because saying it somehow lends credence to the suggestion that some believe they don’t. I don’t want to offer any credibility to such a narrow and bigoted premise. Such generalizations are lazy and take less thinking and effort than getting specific on what your point is and what you would like to accomplish.
The news media for the last week has given attention to a group referring to themselves as the St. Paul Chapter of Black Lives Matters and their intention to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon and the leader expressing hopefulness that runners will embrace their cause. Depending on the interview there is the hope the runners won’t be mad and the contrasting reports they hope to anger the runners. Both ideas are poorly orchestrated and misguided. So far we have seen various groupings of individuals identifying themselves as BLM participating in disrupting shopping at the Mall of America on a notoriously busy holiday shopping day in December of 2014, an attempt to disrupt the State Fair that resulted in a poorly attended march where participants chanted “Pigs in a blanket, let them fry.” at the Police Officers assigned to maintain order and safety at a family oriented event. There was a recent attempt to disrupt light rail transportation prior to a Viking’s game and now a desire to interfere in an internationally recognized local event. All of this effort, which to the best of my knowledge has actually taken people who are sympathetic to issues such as police brutality, racism and other valid issues and made them angry and in opposition to their poorly articulated cause. People don’t need to be made “aware” of anything, they want to see positive actions and efforts toward achieving commonly held goals. These demonstrations have been nothing but disruptive actions that wasted valuable resources and advanced no cause. Minnesota is not alone in the Black Lives Matter protests, Portland had some media covered Sunday brunch interruptions, as if Eggs Benedict with friends were somehow an oppressive activity. The takeaway message from all of it for me is there is a group of people who feel frustrated with a variety of issues and the best strategy they came up with is rather than articulating their expectations is to create chaos for others.
I am frustrated for the organizers of the Twin Cities marathon, I am angry on behalf of those who are registered to participate, I am disappointed for the kids whose parents will opt to keep them away from the tradition, I am saddened for all the volunteers who selflessly give of their time to make this event a success. This is not a one day event, this is a year of planning, an enormous grouping of events and a phenomenal orchestration of volunteers and workers from police to medical and trash professionals. Do the Black Lives Matters give any thought to the fact that over the past twenty years, in addition to winners from the United States we have seen victors from Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgystan, Ethiopia, Mexico and Kenya? There is a financial burden to many who participate. Others use their times to qualify for other marathons. The entire course is flanked with well wishers, some cheering on friends and family, as well as total strangers shouting encouragement. A group or individual would have to be very selfish to intentionally ruin such an event. After the Boston Marathon bombing it seems highly insensitive to take a wholesome event like a marathon and threaten to disrupt it.
Over the past twenty years I have been near the 10 mile mark of the marathon, along the picturesque Minnehaha Parkway, drinking coffee and cheering on the competitors from the first wheelchair to the last walker. I have watched runners in costumes, barefoot and carrying flags. I have witnessed the marathon in heat, rain and flurries. The runners are prepared for physical stresses and meteorological challenges, they should not have to put up with man-made-mayhem from a group whose grievance has nothing to do with the event they are disrupting.
I would encourage Rashad Turner (identified in some articles as the organizations leader) to go peacefully to the finish line of the TC Marathon and wait patiently for the wheelchair competitors to arrive, any of the competitors for that matter. If you want to learn how to constructively achieve your goals then simply say to anyone of them “I see that life has presented you with some challenges. Rather than simply being angry about your situation it appears you have found some constructive ways to overcome them, set goals and achieve them, work hard and make something of your life. Can you tell me how you did that?”. That shows greater character and a more sincere desire to achieve an objective than all of the other gestures covered by the media to this point.
Group goals are great but to try to achieve them by denying individuals their own personal goals is mean-spirited and will not gain support for your organization or objective. Nathan’s marathon matters and so does every other one this Sunday. If Black Lives Matters wishes to be relevant they will stand down and applaud the efforts of those of all colors who start the race. Good luck to Nathan and all the other runners this weekend, may the wind be at your back!