White privilege on the running trail

Years ago, long before I became aware of how much my whiteness obtained things for me without my asking, my friend who was adopted from Korea regularly schooled me on ways people of color adapted to people like me.

I would debate her about how non-racist I was, how I came from an immigrant family, how I was a woman, how I had been a victim. None of that mattered because, for her, it was about how I showed up day to day as a white person, regardless of how much personal trauma or baggage or therapy I carried with me.

Here is what I did that made me oblivious:

I went first. I didn’t move out of the way first when a person of color approached me. I interrupted her, a lot. I got the final word. I made most of the decisions in the friendship.

When you realize this about yourself as a white person, you see it everywhere and it makes you angry. Here is where I see it the most: Lake Harriet.

Several mornings a week, my neighbor and I run around Lake Harriet. I love this ritual and I love my neighbor, who is a good friend and also is a person of color.

My neighbor and I will approach large group of runners (as in three or more). Sometimes they are all women, sometimes all men, sometimes a mix of men and women, sometimes there are dogs on very long leads along for the run. They have always been all white (appearing), and they have never once moved over a single inch for my friend and me who are running the opposite direction.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. I even stay on the running path and play chicken with these people and, nope, no movement. I have taken to actually saying something, but I think it doesn’t get heard in the din of voices and fast heartbeats.

But, I gotta say: Check yourself! I will do the same.


Kim Kolstad


  • TK

    You’ve been brainwashed into ethno-masochism, and it isn’t pretty.

  • jeri

    Kim, this happens to me almost every day. I am a white woman. This happens to me at Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Summit Avenue in St Paul- all the places I walk. I stand my ground and they run around me. I’ve been run into should-to-shoulder a few times too. So it isn’t a white privilege issue but maybe these runners are used to walkers giving up their right-of-way. It also happens with groups of walkers against a lone walker. The groups coming at me expect me to move out of the way of their four abreast group.

  • MyNickel

    Yup, older white woman and I am constantly forced to be the polite one and step off. My husband and I often encounter groups walking 3 or 4 across who are so self involved and entitled I swear they are not even AWARE of the existence of anyone else on the trail until they run into me! Some days I refuse to move and I often either startle the oncoming traffic that they have to move or they actually run into me! Incredibly rude and self centered.

  • Kim Kolstad

    Nothing like the courage of your convictions “TK”. In addition, please note that race and ethnicity are different.

  • Kim Kolstad

    I understand what you are saying but have to respectfully disagree with the race part. I think it does matter because we don’t have to use white privilege with races that are different than our own to exercise it’s impact. My 2 cents:)

  • TK

    According to the Holy Progressive Gospel, race doesn’t exist, but thanks for the attempt at correcting me.

    They simultaneously argue that “race” is only a “social construct,” yet “racism” is everywhere.

    SO dumb.

    A forensic technician could determine a skull’s continental ancestry but would be completely incapable of determining whether that skull ever harbored “racist” thoughts. The true “social construct” here is the idiotically demonized “racism,” which is a way of saying “a natural evolutionary tribal instinct among whites is a mortal sin.”

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