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A California man has gone viral after revealing he is “scared to death” to walk in his neighbourhood alone as a Black man.
“Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighbourhood with one, or both, of my girls,” Richards, a father of two, began. “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 neighbourhood alone (and probably never will).”
Richards clarified that although his statement may seem over-dramatic to some or appear as though he’s “playing the race card” many people won’t see him as potentially dangerous if he’s with his children.
“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,” he wrote. “But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. 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 neighbourhood). It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted.”
Richards continued by encouraging white and non-Black allies to take action and help support the Black Lives Matter movement - and not reply to protesters by saying “all lives matter.”
“Having white privilege doesn’t mean that your life isn’t difficult, it simply means that your skin colour isn’t one of the things contributing to your life difficulties,” Richards wrote. “...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.”
Richards urged white people to speak up, and use their voice because “your voices matter to POC (people of colour) now more than ever.”
“As for me, I’ll continue to walk these streets holding my eight-year-old daughter’s hand, in hopes that she’ll continue to keep her daddy safe from harm,” he concluded. “I know that sounds backward, but that’s the world that we’re living in these days.”
The post received more than 500,000 shares and more than 70,000 comments from people commending Richards for his powerful, poignant and heartbreaking words.
“I wrote this post out of complete exasperation," Richards told TODAY. "The recent news stories of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper, and George Floyd broke me, emotionally. As a Black man, hearing about these stories over and over again, it felt like 'death by a thousand paper cuts.' It honestly felt soul-destroying. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was losing significant weight. Many of my very well-meaning white friends were unable to understand the depths of my grief, so I wanted to put my own experiences in writing in hopes that it could be useful to them, and cathartic for me.”
Richards said that he has received hundreds of “incredibly kind, supportive and heartwarming messages” from people around the world, many of whom thanked him for inspiring them to become “active allies” and recognize the role they have to play in fighting racism.
“I’m all about positive change,” Richards added, “and if this post played a small role in helping people to share more kindness, empathy and love with their fellow humans, regardless of race, then I would be thrilled.”