We Need To Discuss 'Racism From The Perspective Of A Non-Threatening Black Man'

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
TEDx Talks/Youtube

Doyin Richards was grabbing some coffee, bringing along his young daughter who was in her stroller. The barista noticed the pair, saying to Richards, “It’s not often I see Black men out with their kids.” Following this with, “I hope you stay involved in that little girl’s life.” Doyin and his daughter are both Black, and their experience is unfortunately quite common.

Richards further explores what it’s like to be a Black man in America in his TEDx talk, Racism From the Perspective of a Non-Threatening Black Man. In it, he introduces us to some of his most intimate and horrifying experiences with racism. He recalls the first time he was called the n-word, the white girl who wouldn’t date him because her parents didn’t approve, and how he was always trying to be more—smarter, better dressed, more polite—to earn the respect of white people. At one point he says, “Nothing makes sense if you’re a Black man in America—nothing.”

Doyin is 46 years old and resides in Los Angeles with his family—his wife and their nine-year-old and seven-year-old daughters. He’s the founder of the Anti-Racism Fight Club, which he describes as “a hard-hitting anti-racism training for adults, kiddos, and corporations.” He’s also a parenting advice columnist for Slate, and he runs Daddy Doin’ Work, a social media platform showcasing fathers and their children.

Daddy Doin’ Work kickstarted Doyin’s success seven years ago. His goal? “I wanted to show the world that I wasn’t a unicorn. There are so many active, involved, kick-ass dads out there doin’ work and I wanted to shed a light on them.” He adds, “I especially wanted to highlight dads of color because there’s so much nonsense out there about how we don’t give a shit about parenting, but in reality, we are some of the best dads in the world.”

In his TEDx talk, he shares that to this day, he works to be non-threatening – in everything from how he dresses to singing Frozen songs in the parking lot to make white people feel safe around him. Yet he also says that the constant work is “soul destroying,” driving him to consider suicide three years ago. Richards told Scary Mommy, “As a Black man, I constantly have to be ‘on’—and being on means doing things to make white people feel comfortable to ensure I make it home to my family in one piece.”

In his TEDx talk, he shared that his nine-year-old daughter expressed her fear that her dad would be shot. Richards references “trauma porn,” the constant videos and images of Black bodies being harmed or murdered, smattered all over the media. He readily admits that he lied to his daughter, saying, “Everything will be OK,” even though, “all evidence points to the opposite.” He added, “How messed up is that?”

The reality is that for Richards, and for many Black Americans, fear is the default setting, as Richards shares in his talk. Whether he is taking his puppy for a walk, talking to white people, shopping, or driving, he’s in danger. The most normal, mundane task can turn dangerous, because racism is pervasive. We’ve seen numerous examples in 2020 alone, including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. He shared with Scary Mommy that he has chosen to “be open about my battles with depression because my hope is that other men of color will begin to do so as well. Because adulting in America as a BIPOC in 2020 is unprecedentedly difficult and every one of us (BIPOC) are struggling right now.”

As far as raising his daughters, he said, “I try to shield my daughters from the horrors of the racism that I deal with, but it’s impossible to keep everything from them. I tell them that I’m working day and night to create a more equitable world for my kids who look like them, and to focus as much as possible on being kids.” He added that when they are older “they can truly understand the racist shitshow we endured in 2020, they can look back and say that their dad fought against it as best he could.”

Toward the end of his talk, Richards names five things white people can do now to be anti-racist including standing up for Black colleagues, calling out racism (both at home and on social media), understanding what Black lives matter truly is, and raise their kids to be anti-racist so that children learn “anti-racism as the norm, not the exception.” He told Scary Mommy that he also wants to add that when he, or any other Black person, shares a racist experience, they should be believed. “For some reason, people think we’re just pulling out some mythical ‘race card’ in order to garner sympathy, but that’s not a thing. We aren’t making this shit up.” He added, “When we talk about how debilitating and demoralizing racism is, we need to be believed at face value. Not buts, or whataboutisms.”

Go watch Richards’ entire TEDx talk for yourself. You can also look forward to his upcoming children’s book Watch Me which focuses on immigration. He told Scary Mommy, “There’s SO much work to do, but it starts with creating awareness about racial justice and then using that newfound awareness to foster behavioral change. I’ll keep showing up to fight the good fight for as long as it takes. There’s too much at stake not to.” We couldn’t agree more.

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