In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, a Black author and father shared a moving post about why he’s been afraid to walk alone in his Los Angeles neighborhood.
On May 28, Shola Richards, author of “Making Work Work,” shared a lengthy post in which he described his fear of walking around without his daughters and dog.
“Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem noteworthy, but here’s something that I must admit: I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog,” Richards wrote. “In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will).”
Though Richards acknowledged that some might assume he is being “melodramatic” or “playing the race card,” he maintained that his unease is well founded.
“When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling,” the father explained. “But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks.”
Richards said, without his two girls, he is seen in his area as “a 6’2″ athletically built [Black] man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong.”
“It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted,” he lamented.
The father went on to challenge the perception that white privilege doesn’t exist, arguing that the term isn’t mean to dismiss the struggles that white people may have. Instead, Richards said, white privilege aims to highlight the different challenges that Black and brown people experience that white people necessarily don’t.
“Having white privilege doesn’t mean that your life isn’t difficult, it simply means that your skin color isn’t one of the things contributing to your life difficulties,” Richards wrote. “Case in point, if it never crossed your mind that you could have the cops called on you (or worse, killed) for simply bird watching then know that is a privilege that many black/brown people (myself included) don’t currently enjoy.”
The father also addressed the controversy surrounding “All Lives Matter” — a phrase commonly used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Responding to ‘Black Lives Matter’ by saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb,” Richards continued. “All lives can’t matter until [Black] lives matter.”
The father additionally took his white peers to task, challenging them to use their voice to speak out against police brutality and systemic racism toward the Black community.
“In order for racism to get better, white allies are absolutely critical,” Richards wrote. “If you’re white and you’ve read this far, hopefully you care enough to be one of those allies.”
In reiterating his point, Richards then questioned those who have chosen to remain silent.
“If these atrocities won’t get you to speak up, then honestly, what will?” he asked. “Also, it’s worth asking, why be my friend? If you aren’t willing to take a stand against actions that could get me hurt or killed, it’s hard to believe that you ever cared about me in the first place.”
“As for me, I’ll continue to walk these streets holding my 8-year-old daughter’s hand, in hopes that she’ll continue to keep her daddy safe from harm,” Richards ended his post. “I know that sounds backward, but that’s the world that we’re living in these days.”
The father’s post has since gone viral, receiving nearly 500,000 reactions and over 79,000 comments, many of which were supportive. It was also shared nearly 600,000 times on Facebook.
“Thank you for sharing,” one person wrote. “I cannot imagine what this must be like but I am sorry and ashamed that anyone could make you feel like this.”
“I can relate to this on several levels,” another added. “For him to feel this way in theses times is very telling. On top of that, having two young daughters that he has to raise and protect … that is a lot.”
In a follow-up post on LinkedIn, Richards acknowledged that he was overwhelmed by the response he got on Facebook and took time to answer several commonly asked questions he had since received. One question, for example, asked why he couldn’t just move to a different neighborhood.
“I never said that my neighborhood is ‘awful’ — if anything, it’s just like pretty much any neighborhood in America,” Richards clarified in his LinkedIn post. “What I did say though, is that I would be scared to walk alone in my neighborhood.”
The father also elaborated on the definition of “racism,” following assertions from some readers that Black people can be racist as well.
“Not to get too deep into this, but racism is much more than prejudice,” he pointed out. “Racism also requires systemic power that comes from a long history of being a racial majority.”
And Richards isn’t wrong. Though Merriam-Webster currently defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race,” the dictionary’s editors recently agreed to update the term’s definition to include systematic oppression, after a recent college graduate requested the change.
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