Shola Richards is a best-selling author, a TEDx speaker, and a father of two daughters. But there is one thing Shola will never do. He will never go out for a walk in his own neighborhood totally alone. Because he is a Black man, and he is afraid that others will find him threatening solely because of his race.
In a viral post on Facebook, Shola shares a photo of him walking with his daughter and his dog, Ace. In the caption, he explains that he walks his dog twice a day around his neighborhood, which might not mean a lot to most, but it does to him.
"I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog," he writes. "In fact, in the four years of living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will)."
He goes on to explain that when he's walking with them, he is seen as a "loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling." But if he were to walk the sidewalks alone, he writes, "I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks."
"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)," he continues. "It's equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can't walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted."
He writes that, despite the countless examples of Black people being oppressed and murdered simply for being Black, many white people deny that racism exists. So he graciously uses the rest of his post to explain some "common sense points" white people need to understand.
First, he addresses 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." Next, he writes, "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."
"Racism is very real," he then writes. "As Amy Cooper proved, it's just as prevalent in liberal America as it is anywhere else." Racism is embedded in all our institutions. It's structural. Racists aren't just conservative white people who proudly fly the Confederate flag.
Racism is built into the foundation of the United States and the way it functions today. If the effort remains on convincing individuals not to be outwardly racist, we, (I'm speaking now to white people who've been complicit in this system) aren't doing the work that needs to be done.
Shola then points out a very important distinction. "While racism is real," he writes, "reverse-racism is not." Period. Next, Shola writes that true white allies are integral to dismantling racism. Racism is not a problem for Black people to fix. White people built it; white people must tear it down.
Finally, Shola writes, "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 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."
He concludes the post by saying that, for now, he has to walk in the neighborhood in which he lives with his dog and his daughter to shield himself from danger. It's backward, and it's wrong, but he does it for survival.
Shola's post resonated with many, gaining nearly 500,000 reactions, and almost 600,000 shares on Facebook alone. The vast majority of commenters were thankful that Shola shared his experience and moved by his description of his unfortunate reality as a Black man in the United States.
Shola tells Parents that he hopes his post inspires others to act. "Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines," he says. "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."
If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.