Monday, January 16, 2023

Finding my running mojo: The Rise of Blaxican MMA

 As is often the case this blog post started from a conversation.  I was having a conversation with a friend about his goals for the year and he mentioned that not everyone does things with a goal in mind, implying I never do anything without a goal.  He pointed out that I run for races.  Now I have been saying that I haven't been running much because I needed a goal/race but that isn't really the issue.

So what was/is the issue.  Well when I took running up the last time, about 5 years ago, it was a way to get through the stress of my dad's colon cancer journey.  Thankfully he has been in remission for almost 4 years so what kept me going over the last 4 years?  Well the stress of my job and wanting to hit  certain mileage or races.  When I made the decision to finally change jobs to something with significantly less stress, my running also kinda dropped.  Now, the struggle for miles has been hard seemingly for everyone in 2022.  Both of my run partners worked through illness and injury.  None of us hit our mileage goals for the year.  The point is I wasn't alone but yes overall I had lost the motivation to run.  I had the least amount of miles since dad's diagnoses.

How do you reverse a trend, you want to actually change, especially when it is something that you use to love?  Well I started the year committeed to completing the None 2 Run program, again.  If you don't know this program I highly recommend it.  I completed C25K many years ago and let me tell you, None 2 Run is better.  Their app, newly released for Android, is wonderful!  Okay so I'm going to get back to running slowly.  Cool, right?  12 weeks to complete the program.  12 weeks to get back to consistently running 3 times a week.  Is that enough?

Yesterday, I decided to binge watch Harry and Megan on Netflix.  If you have been around at all in the 14 years of this blog then you know I have mixed-race children.  So listening to Megan Markle speaking about her experiences as a mixed-raced person, I tried to really listen not just hear but listen to her pain.  I got uncomfortable.  When her mother spoke about wishing she had taught her daughter what it is like to experience being Black, I felt a pang of terror.  I am not a Black woman.  My oldest daughter is Black presenting.  How do I prepare her to be Black when I have no clue?

How do I prepare a child who wants to enter the MMA ring when there aren't people like her in that space, at least not on the international stage?  How do I support her in her journey when I have no clue what that is like?  Now don't get me wrong, I know racism.  I grew up in deep East Texas as a 1st gen Mexican American.  I know what it is like to be called a wetback and told to go back to where you came from.  I know those.  It wasn't until I started working at an HBCU that I really began to understand that I don't know dick about being Black in America, that pain has deep roots.  I'm a newly formed American.  I am a rock in a shoe.  Black in America is the foundation of this country.  But like any foundation, the house doesn't acknowledge that without the foundation, it would fall.  The foundation takes all of the weight, the hits, the abuse and as long as it is quiet no one talks about the foundation.  How do I teach my daughters that?  

But to yesterday, I had just finished the next to the last episode of the Harry and Megan series and I just needed to run.  Run to think my way through the thoughts I don't feel like I can share with anyone because I don't know anyone who is doing this: navigating a Black-presenting MMA phenom on to the international stage.  It's not that I can't talk to people about it but who really understands?  Who can help me through the emotional side of the illogical (or maybe not illogical) arguement that I am a liablity to my daughter's career?

See the agruement in my head says that because she looks "like a Black girl" but isn't "all the way Black," Black-owned companies are not going to want to work with her.  Because she is Mexican but doesn't "look Mexican" then Latino-owned business aren't going to want to work with her.  Business need to invest in fighters that others can connect with.  Can the world connect with a fighter who doesn't match any of their sterotypes?

I have told my child that because of how she looks, she could in theory hide her Mexicaness.  She can exist as a Black woman but that she needs to be careful because you don't want your secret to be used against you.  I told her that and then created her figther social media account as Blaxican MMA (find her on Instagram).  I didn't give her a real choice because I don't want her career to be blown up by a "major revelation" that she isn't just Black.  

I have been to all of her major events and I haven't seen families like ours.  I have seen Black families and Latino families.  I have seen mixed families but not mixed like ours.  I watch MMA events, UFC, Bellaor, and ONE, and there aren't fighers like her.  What I have seen, mostly during UFC fights, is the hate thrown at the Black fighters.  How do I willingly put my child through that?

I have even seen it to some extent in her gym.  The teammates she trains with are creating personas that mimic popular UFC fighters, conservative White elite racist mysoginistic homophobic who play to the MAGA audience.  I have stopped following some of their accounts because I don't want their brand mixing with hers.  But y'all it isn't just about branding, it makes me question who is actually in her corner?  When people are throwing the "N-word" at her, will her teammates defend her or join in?  I have watch them use that word against other fighters.  So with the entire audience against her will they stand with her?  Y'all I don't know.  I honestly don't know and that scares me.

So how does that connect to running?  Well, one of the wonderful aspects of running for me is the freedom to process my thoughts and to cry freely.  No one questions why you are crying when you are running.  They assume you in pain and tears follow pain.  It is true, I am running through some pain.  The uncomfortableness of mile whatever helps me process whatever is going through in mind.  Where is the connection?  I ran yesterday to process these thoughts.  I need to talk (even if it is just to myself) about the terror that the Harry and Megan series brought up for me.  I need to work my way from I am a liabilty to my daughter's career to  my daughter's mixed heritage is a point of pride a selling point.  I need to remind myself that if a brand won't work with her because of her mixed-heritage then that is probably a brand we don't want to work with anyway.  I need miles on my feet to remind me that even if she never gets a sponsor and I have to take on more work to finance her career myself that doesn't mean she isn't a phenom.  Her skills and drive are worth any and all work I have to do.  I have to work on my mindset to be ready to stand with my daughter no matter the insults thrown at her or the opportunities that disappear because she doesn't fit a mold.  

I am no longer running to get through my dad's cancer journey.  I am no longer running to deal with job stress.  I am running to be a strong mom and help my daughter conquer MMA.  I am running through, to, for the rise of Blaxican MMA.