Black father explains why he won't walk alone in his neighbourhood: 'If you're surprised by this, don't be'

Chelsea Ritschel

A father has opened up about his fears of walking alone as a black man, and why he always walks with his daughters, even in his own neighbourhood.

Last week, Shola Richards, an author and keynote speaker from Los Angeles, California, described his reality as a black man living in America on Facebook.

In the post, which has since gone viral, Richards explained that he walks his dog Ace around his neighbourhood twice a day, always accompanied by one or both of his daughters.

“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 wrote.

According to Richards, he only walks if he is with his daughters, Kaya, 11, and Nia, eight, and his dog because it means he is perceived as a “loving dad” rather than a “threat”.

Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem...

Posted by
Shola MRichards
Thursday, May 28, 2020

“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 said. “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).”

The fear that he cannot walk alone is “equal parts exhausting and depressing,” according to Richards, who used the rest of his post to inform his followers about the meaning of white privilege, the prevalence of racism in America, and the “insensitivity” of stating “all lives matter” in response to “black lives matter”.

"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.

Richards’ post, which comes amid widespread protests in honour of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer, and outrage over a white woman who called the police on a black man in Central Park, has resonated with thousands of people.

On Facebook, where the post was liked more than 445,000 times, and shared more than 550,000 times, hundreds have expressed their support for Richards.

“I’m sorry. I see you. I hear you. I stand with you. Thank you for sharing. We will work so your daughters and their husbands and children don’t have the same fears and worries. Love from Florida,” one person commented.

Another said: “I wish your reality were different… I hope we see meaningful and permanent change in our lifetime. I'm striving to do my part.”

“I stand with you and your family and all people who have faced discrimination at the hands of white privilege. I want to do better; I am trying to learn how,” someone else wrote.

As for what Richards hopes will come out of his post, he told Today: “I’m all about positive change, 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."

The 45-year-old also implored people to stand up against racism, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

“Not being a racist is not good enough," he said. "We need as many good white people as possible who are actively standing in opposition of racism.”

Read more

What sparked George Floyd protests – and what happens next?