More Leni-isms: “Run Like A Black Man”

4 Oct

If you’ve been reading along, you know my twelve year-old daughter, Leni, is a muse for me when it comes to writing on race and race relations.  Here’s her latest…We’re driving down Thayer Street, the busy college kid hang-out strip, lined with spots  for cheap-eats, clothes shopping, fro-yo, and art-house movies.  Leni spots a young, white college kid running down the street.

She shouts out inside the car, “Run like a black man!”

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“You know what it means–you, of  all people,” Leni answers back, with a puff of her lips.

“No.  Tell me what you mean.”

“Well, everyone knows there’s the stereotype that all black people can run fast.”

“Oh, okay,” I said.  She’s learning, I thought.  She learning about stereotypes and social constructs.


When we arrived home a few minutes later, Leni shared again.

“Mom, I have a new black friend in my gymnastics class.  Aren’t you proud of me?”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

‘Tara” (not her real name).  She goes to my school, too.  And, she’s in three of my classes.  Oh, and another girl, a black girl in my class, has the same birthday as me,” Leni said, excitedly.

My younger daughter, Darla, added, …”and you have the same birthday as Jay-Z, too, Leni.”

“I know, I share my birthday with all black people.  I don’t know one white person that shares my birthday.”

As we walked upstairs, my two girls were putting together some kind of contrived birthday scenario that involved Leni, Beyonce and Jay-Z.

“Wait, I forget,” I began, “you have the same birthday as Beyonce?”

“No,” Leni answered, “you have the same birthday as Beyonce, and I have the same birthday as Jay-Z.”

“Oh yeah, cool,” and I began to imagine my own fantasy scenario of all of us having birthday cake together, joking about how white people think all black people can run fast, and Jay-Z confessing he didn’t get picked to be on his high school track team because he ran as slow as a white guy.

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