Abby Hoffman, Pete Townshend, and Black Lives Matters

Not having much interest in marathons, we’re content to stand on the sidelines and watch the face-off between its participants and Black Lives Matter, which says it may disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend.

But we award big points today to one Kevin Alldredge of St. Paul, whose analogy using Woodstock, Pete Townshend and Abby Hoffman wins on style in today’s letter to the editor in the Star Tribune.

He says this moment (Caution: It’s Woodstock. It’s the ’60s. You bet there are obscenities in this!) provides a perfect analogy to what BLM is trying to do. BLM is Abby Hoffman. Pete Townshend, who clocked Hoffman on the head with his guitar, is the marathoners.

(Audio here)

During the Who’s performance at Woodstock, Abbie Hoffman jumped onstage and commandeered a microphone to rally the crowd to the cause of activist John Sinclair. Guitarist Pete Towns­hend, in a different context, no doubt would have been entirely sympathetic to the issue. Instead, Townshend bashed Hoffman over the head with his guitar, sending him hobbling off, humiliated by the blow to both his noggin and credibility.

Rashad Turner says that threats of runner retaliation against Black Lives Matter demonstrators at the marathon is further evidence of how little white America values blacks’ lives. Don’t kid yourself, friend. I and 11,500 of my fellow runners, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers and spectators (probably about the size of the Woodstock crowd), will be on our stage Sunday. And I, for one, have trained too hard to let some huckster cavalierly and thoughtlessly destroy my performance and the reputation of a fantastic inclusive event that so many people have spent so many years building to make our community proud and stronger.

Unbelievably, the letter wasn’t selected to be the letter of the day. That honor went to Gin Eckert of Minneapolis, who said the whiteness of the marathoners is its own metaphor.

African-Americans make up 13 percent of Americans, so why isn’t the number of black marathoners comparable? Is it because black people don’t want to run? I don’t think so. If you visit the urban neighborhoods that see much of the police brutality that Black Lives Matter is protesting, you don’t see many people out for a jog. Lack of a safe space for exercise is a strong barrier. I also think that economic barriers might be a factor. Twenty-seven percent of African-Americans live in poverty.

The cost of registration for the Twin Cities Marathon alone is $165, not to mention the hundreds of dollars that the typical marathoner spends on running gear. With the high rate of poverty in urban communities, I think that lack of time for vigorous exercise also plays a part. For this demographic, earning an income and taking care of their children (the rate of single motherhood for African-Americans soars way higher than that of any other demographic) is much more important than hours and hours of exercise.

Perhaps new divisions in the marathon based on income would be one solution.