In a powerful viral post, author and dad Shola Richards shared the heartbreaking reality of needing his daughters to accompany him on walks, as he would otherwise be deemed a threat. 

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Shola Richards is an author, activist, speaker, and father who, like most parents, enjoys nothing more than to take a leisurely stroll with his children and dog. But bringing his daughters on a walk isn’t so much a choice for Richards as it is a necessity. In a viral Facebook post, the 45-year-old dad of two girls, Kaya, 11, and Nia, 8, explains that the reality of being a “6’2” athletically-built black man” in this country translates to feeling “scared to death” to walk alone in his Los Angeles neighborhood.

On May 29, alongside a sweet image of the proud father, his daughter, and their dog named Ace, Richards wrote, “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. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will).”

He continued, “Sure, some of you may read that and think that I’m being melodramatic or that I’m ‘playing the race card’ (I still have no clue what that means), but this is my reality. 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.” 

father walking with daughter and pet dog outside
Credit: Shola Richards

Richards explained that without his daughter by his side, his presence could be perceived as menacing. “Almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks,” he wrote. “Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted.”

The activist and speaker noted that anyone is surprised by this, they shouldn’t be. “We live in a world where there is a sizable amount of people who actually believe that racism isn’t a thing, and that White Privilege is a made-up fantasy to be politically-correct,” wrote Richards. “Yes, even despite George Floyd, Christian Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor (and countless other examples before them, and many to come afterward), some people still don’t seem to get it.”

That said, he went on to offer “some common sense points”:

1. Understand White Privilege

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. Case in point, if it never crossed your mind that you could have the cops called on you (or worse, possibly killed) for simply bird watching then know that is a privilege that many black/brown people (myself included) don’t currently enjoy.

2. Don't Say "All Lives Matter"

"Responding to ‘Black Lives Matter’ by saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter."

The author later elaborated on his second point about “All Lives Matter” in the comments, writing, “If I broke my ankle playing basketball, and I went to the doctor for medical attention, and his response was, ‘ALL bones matter’ and then sent me home, that would be pretty dismissive (if not, outright malpractice), right? Yes, my ribs, my wrist and my skull all matter—that’s obvious. But right now? It’s my effing ankle that’s broken and in need of immediate attention. This is not the time to bring up any other bone, because at this moment, only one bone is in crisis. I know that some people learn concepts easier through metaphors, and this is the best I can do at the moment.”

3. Racism Is Everywhere.

"Racism is very real, and please don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s limited to the fringes of the hardcore MAGA crowd," he wrote. "As Amy Cooper proved, it’s just as prevalent in liberal America as it is anywhere else."

4. Reverse Racism Is Not Real.

"While racism is real, reverse-racism is not," Richards explained. "Please don’t use that term, ever."

5. If You're White, Be an Ally.

"In order for racism to get better, white allies are absolutely critical. If you’re white and you’ve read this far, hopefully, you care enough to be one of those allies. Please continue to speak up (despite some of your friends and family rolling their eyes at you), because your voices matter to PoC now more than ever. Special shoutouts to many of my friends for doing it so well."

6. And Don't Be Silent.

Richards says: "And if you’re white, and you’re still choosing to stay silent about this, then I honestly don’t know what to say. If these atrocities won’t get you to speak up, then honestly, what will? Also, it’s worth asking, why would you choose to follow me? 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 (or my mission to create a kinder world) in the first place.”

The dad concluded, “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. I know that sounds backward, but that’s the world that we’re living in these days. #BlackLivesMatter”

Since Richards published his moving post late last week, it has garnered over 2K comments and 39K shares. After it went viral, he was inspired to write a follow-up post on LinkedIn, entitled “Your Difficult Questions About Race In America, Answered.” Sharing that he has been “blown away by the incredibly kind and heartwarming responses” to his Facebook post, he went on to respond to FAQs like, “I don't see color in people, and I consider myself colorblind. What's wrong with that?" and “If you're so scared to live in your awful neighborhood, why don't you just move?"

The dad of two tells that he hopes his posts inspire action. “Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines,” says Richards. “Not being a racist is not good enough. In order to change the world it is required that good people actively stand in opposition to racism when they see it, and teach their kids to do the same. I believe that if more people did this, we can heal this world, together.”