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Jogging While Black

Sociologist Rashawn Ray speaks out about the fears that keep many African Americans from exercising

The Winston-Salem Chronicle reported about MPRC Faculty Associate Rashawn Ray’s recent talk at Wake Forest University. Ray presented the results of a national survey that he conducted in order to learn why African Americans are less active than their white counterparts. He spoke about the fears that prevent many African Americans from getting enough exercise.

Black men who live in predominantly white neighborhoods often avoid exercising outdoors because of fears that others will misunderstand their presence in the neighborhood. “Being black and male subjectively infers being criminal,” Ray stated. He went onto explain that black men have a legitimate reason to fear the prejudices of their neighbors. The kind of racial distrust that causes some people to assume that black men must be dangerous can have serious consequences, as in the widely publicized shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jonathan Ferrell. As a result, black men who live in white neighborhoods exercise less often than they otherwise would, Ray found.

Black women face a different difficulty. When black women live in predominantly black neighborhoods, they exercise less often because they feel unsafe. Black neighborhoods have fewer gyms, parks, and lighted sidewalks. Women worry about being sexually objectified if they exercise in public areas, or if they try to join into male-dominated forms of exercise like basketball.

Fifty percent of black adults do not exercise at all, compared to one third of whites, Ray said.

Read the complete Winston-Salem Chronicle article