Dear Commons Community,
The message below appeared on a Facebook page and was written by Shola Richards, an African-American. I was made aware of it by my colleague, Patsy Moskal, from the University of Central Florida.
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).
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 the hell 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.
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 neighborhood). It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted.
If you’re surprised by this, don’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. 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.
So, let me share some common sense points:
1) 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, killed) for simply bird watching then know that is a privilege that many black/brown people (myself included) don’t currently enjoy.
2) 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.
3) Racism is very real, and please don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s limited to the fringes of the hardcore MAGA crowd. As Amy Cooper proved, it’s just as prevalent in liberal America as it is anywhere else.
4) While racism is real, reverse-racism is not. Please don’t use that term, ever.
5) 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 my friends Becky, Catherine, Dory, Elizabeth, Greta, Jessica, Kayte, Kurt, Peter, Sharri, and Teri (and anyone else who I missed) for doing it so well.
6) 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 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.
I know that sounds backward, but that’s the world that we’re living in these days