+
What's it like for a Black man to train white folks to be anti-racist?
Doyin Richards

Doyin Richards started off as "the dad guy talking about fatherhood" with his blog, Daddy Doin' Work. He spent several years sharing his fatherhood experiences, had a photo of him combing his 2-year-old's hair while wearing his baby in a baby carrier go viral in 2014, and published a book about dads empowering moms that same year.

"Then the world changed in 2016," Richards says. "It's not that the world changed—this stuff has always been bubbling under the surface—but then it just exploded."

Richards had always been an anti-racist activist, but when the Black Lives Matter movement pushed anti-racism into the mainstream, he started using his platform more and more to help move anti-racism education and activism along.

It hasn't been an easy road. Richards is open about his mental health struggles and the depression that took him to a "dark, dark place" a couple of years ago. When he found himself seriously contemplating suicide, he recognized he had a problem and got help. Now, he writes about all of it—fatherhood, mental health, racism, and even his new puppy—on his Facebook page.


Richards and his two daughters.Doyin Richards

In June, Richards launched a training program for white Americans who are new to anti-racism activism—the Anti-Racism Fight Club. For adults, the Fight Club "initiation" is a 90-minute live video training, including a 30-minute Q & A. For kids, it's 60 minutes, with a 20-minute question portion. In the training, attendees learn about the nuances of systemic racism, effective strategies for raising anti-racist children, bulletproof comebacks for common racist talking points, strategies for how to deal with racism in person and online, and more.

Upworthy spoke with Richards about the Anti-Racism Fight Club and what it's like to be a Black man educating white people about racism in America, even though it's not his responsibility to do so. (Interview lightly edited for clarity.)

Q: How did the idea for an Anti-Racism Fight Club come about?

A: After recent history with Amy Cooper and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery—and the list goes on and on—I realized that there's a movement and a strong energy around anti-racism. Then I thought, you know, there is an opportunity here to help educate white people on what it is to be a true anti-racist. I have 15 years of training and development experience, so I know how to create really impactful training modules, and I also have my decades of experience being a Black anti-racist in America. So, combine those two things, and I was like, alright, it's time for me to create this Anti-Racism Fight Club.

And the reason why I call it that is because being anti-racist is a contact sport. Maybe not literally, but it's not something that you can just sit on the sideline and go, 'Oh, I'm an anti-racist.' No, you have to get into it. It's confrontational. It's uncomfortable. It's loud. It's in your face sometimes. But it's never quiet and it's never passive.

And that's part of the reason why I call it the Fight Club, because it's a fight. We're fighting against racism, and systemic racism, and bigotry, and all of the things that have been laid forth for centuries. And it's going to be the fight of our lives to get things to a place where people of color feel safe living in America. It's a big, big fight we're up against. The enemy is no joke.

Q: What makes Anti-Racism Fight Club different from other anti-racism education?

A: I feel like my superpower is my ability to relate to people and use metaphors to help make the complex simple. And there's something about anti-racism courses that I've seen that's just not accessible to white audiences. It's either too complex or there's a lot of talking down to, there's a lot of guilt.

I meet them where they are. I say, 'Look, you're here now. I don't care what you did a month ago. I don't care that you're 45 years old and you just figured out what's happening now. There's no guilt. There's no shame. I'm meeting you where you are. You're here. Let's go.' And I think a lot people really appreciate that approach. It makes people feel more comfortable, and they're ready to be vulnerable and talk about these things when they know that it's okay to be vulnerable. Because I'm uncomfortable as well.

I talk about the idea of allyship, and I truly believe there's no such thing as an ally. No one's an ally. We're all allies-in-training. Because truly, an ally means you've arrived and you have it all figured out. And we're all learning. Like, I'm an ally-in-training for women and women's rights. I don't have it all figured out. And I don't get to decide if I'm an ally or not—that's another point. But allies-in-training means we're constantly learning, we're constantly evolving, we're constantly getting better to do what we can to improve the lives of the marginalized people around us.

So this course truly is a way for people—white people especially—to feel vulnerable, to feel safe in their vulnerability and open their eyes to what's around them that they may have missed for however long. And so far, so good.

Q: Do you ever feel frustrated that you have to make white people feel safe in that space?

A: Oh wow. That's an awesome question. So…yes, I do feel frustrated, because no one's ever really worried about my feelings when I'm the only Black person in the room, or when there's a microaggression about 'Oh, I'm so articulate,' or when people clutch their purses super close when I walk by. No one's ever worried about my feelings.

But part of being a Black person in America is you have to eat all of those microaggressions...you try not to combat every single one of them, or else you'll go insane. It's like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon. So you just have to go about it and do your thing.

But the sad thing, to your point about the white people that I have to make feel comfortable, is that I have to. Because if I don't make it accessible for them, then they're not going to do it, and then they're not going to learn. I have to do whatever it takes to get in the door with them, so I create a safe space for them. I try not to go too hard into breaking their egos or things like that because then I know I'll turn them off.

I try to get into their hearts before I get into their minds. Because if I can get into their hearts, I can definitely get into their minds and help create a better change.

Q: Do you feel like it's different this time?

A: I do. I feel like it's different now. I feel like because we watched a callous murder take place in under nine minutes, live, with a man's life slowly snuffed out, it really made people realize, like, I don't like this. And also the Amy Cooper thing happening in the same time frame, and the Ahmaud Arbery thing happening in the same time frame. The combination of these things show we have a problem in America.

I can't count the number of white people I've seen who didn't know what Juneteenth was until three weeks ago. They didn't even know it was a thing. (But you know about Columbus Day? What?) And the thing about Juneteenth and the 4th of July is I think Juneteenth is a more substantial holiday for people of color, because that's the day that we were all free. We weren't free on the 4th of July. We were still slaves. And you're asking us to celebrate this holiday? When we were still slaves and being treated as 3/5 of a human being? I think we should be celebrating Juneteenth as the true Independence Day in America where all of our citizens were free. But that's a rant for another day.

Q: You also have an Anti-racism Fight Club for kids. What's that been like? And how has it been different approaching the topic with kids vs. adults?

A: I've done a few of them so far and it's been unbelievable how great it's been. The response has been overwhelming.

I have a few superpowers—but one of them is not art. But out of this doodle, I created these characters to try to explain the concepts of racism, white privilege, prejudice, all of these things that a kindergartener could understand. And based on the feedback so far, these parents are like, 'I've never seen my kid sit still for one hour straight and be captivated in a training session.' They're completely blown away by how interesting their kids thought the content was, and how much they've learned from it.

And most importantly, how it sparks them to action. Because this is not just a 'Hey this is what racism is,' this is a 'Hey, this what you can do right now to stop racism in your communities, your schools, your neighborhoods, everywhere.' And I talk about tips on how to deal with racist family members, like Uncle Johnny who likes to say some racist stuff, things like that. First it gives them an understanding of what it is, so they can identify when things are racist. And then what to do when they're confronted with those things.

The course has been unbelievably positive. People love it and the kids keep coming back for more. Parents are asking, 'When's the next one? When's the next one?' Parents are saying kids don't usually get excited about learning stuff unless it's like a video game type thing, but to sit and have an adult talk to them? That's something that most kids don't enjoy so much, but these kids love it. So I think I'm onto something.

Richards leading a fist raise (pre-pandemic, obviously)Doyin Richards

Q: What kind of questions do kids ask you?

A: This one kid, a 7-year-old white boy, was like, 'I feel ashamed to be white right now.' It wasn't a question, it was a statement. But I just told him, 'Look, being white is something you should be very proud of. It's not a bad thing. The only issue is if you don't recognize the power that you have in your whiteness to impact change for people of color.' And then I dropped the famous Spiderman reference, when Uncle Ben said, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' And then I told the kid, 'Look, you have immense power just in your whiteness, and if you use that power for the greater good, it's like a superpower. If you use that, you can impact the lives of so many people of color in a positive way.' And then he was so excited because he didn't realize, 'Oh my gosh, I'm like a superhero.' I have a way of interacting with kids by using metaphors and stories like that to break down complex issues and make it simple and palatable for the youth of America.

Q: You also open up 30 minutes at the end of the adult sessions and you say, 'Ask me anything you've always wanted to ask a Black man.' What made you decide to open yourself up like that? Because that could invite some rather uncomfortable questions for you to have to answer.

A: I haven't been doing it every week because things have been so crazy, but I also do an 'Ask Me Anything' on my Facebook page. Ask me anything, literally. I get all kinds of batshit crazy questions, but I answer them. And the thing that I do to make it safe is I make sure they're anonymous questions so people can ask them without fear of being outed.

One lady was like, 'Don't you think the term Karen is as bad as the n-word?' Like uh, lady, listen. Until people are beating you half to death while calling you Karen, and ripping your children away from you, raping you, doing all of these horrible things to you, then we can talk. But until then, being called 'Karen' is about as bad as being called a 'nincompoop.' Like, I'm not hearing that. But yeah, I get those questions, I answer them, and I'm gracious with it.

But as far as why do I do this, I've been getting so many DMs and questions about 'How can I be a better white person?' And I was like, this is crazy. I'm answering questions and it's just tiring. So I was like, I'm just going to create a course.

I wanted to make the price point somewhat accessible. And I think $49 is accessible. If I made it $99 people wouldn't have wanted to come because it's too expensive, and if I made it $29, people would be like, 'Oh really, $29 for all this? This must be shitty.' $49 is right in the middle, so it works out well.

I also give them what I call a Fistbook, which is my version of a handbook (since it's a fight club) which gives the participants some tangible resources that they can refer back to on their anti-racism journey.

But yeah, I do it because I feel like I have the ability, as a training development specialist and as a anti-racist Black man in America, to create a course that is powerful and can make a ton of difference. So far, so good. This is just the beginning.

Q: What's been the most surprising thing to you as you've gone through these first Anti-Racism Fight Club trainings?

A: The amount of people who have just said how much they love it. I haven't gotten one piece of negative feedback, which in this day and age is crazy, especially when you're telling white people how to act. Like, it's just inherent in their whiteness—'How dare you tell me how to act!'—but that didn't happen. I didn't have any of those issues. And that to me is crazy in this day and age. So I feel like I am onto something, and it makes me so happy to see the energy and the enthusiasm of white people to own their stuff and get better, and a willingness to get better, so that to me is amazing. And I feel so, so good about it. It gives me hope.

One of my participants during the Q and A session asked me, "What gives you hope?" and I said, "All of the good white people who understand that they need to be active and not passive when it comes to anti-racism. It's not enough to say, 'I'm not racist.' You have to be anti-racist, which is an active activity. And that gives me hope that more people are realizing it.'

Q; How do you personally navigate the emotional work of doing all of this?

A: That is a great question. Yeah, it's exhausting. After a session, sometimes I cry, sometimes I take a nap…it is just, it's like running three marathons. It's so emotionally taxing to dive into the depths and the insidiousness of racism, trying to tear it apart and break it apart, and while you're doing it you see how awful and disgusting it is. And then when you're done and everyone's off the call, you know, a lot of them feel really empowered, and I feel good that I'm helping to empower people. But I also realize that, man, this is taking some stuff out of me.

When I click the End Meeting button, I just slump in my chair for a good five minutes. Like I said, sometimes I cry, sometimes I go to my bed and take a nap. It's just...it's a lot. And the thing about it is when I go through the course, I'm not just talking in monotones, I am very animated. I am in it, I'm active. People say it's the best 90 minutes they've had in their life. It just flies by because it's full of energy and action, but 90 minutes of being 'on' like that when talking about something so emotionally heavy, it just completely drains me. So yeah, it's no joke. But, you know, it's important work, and I'm glad to be the one to do it.

Q: What do you want people to take away from this training? What do you hope will be their next step?

A: To really do the work of owning the fact that they are racist. That's the first step. Own the fact that you are racist. And I think the problem is it's like a Pavlov's dog thing, when they hear the word 'racist' they go straight to Confederate flags and white hoods and the n-word. And that's not it. I mean yes, that is it—that's the like the cartoonish level of racism—but the subtle version of racism is the micro aggressions, the systemic racism that's everywhere that white people benefit from. Things like that that they have to dig deep and see, 'Where am I benefiting from racism in my own life, and what can I do to ensure that people of color that I care about or that are coming up after me don't have to suffer the way that people of color are suffering right now?' That the hard work that they have to do. That's the first thing.

And then from there, it comes down to the anti-racist work—the 'active activity' as I like to call it—of really getting into it and saying, 'This is something in my community that needs to be changed, this is something in my school that needs to be changed, this is something in my family that needs to be changed.' Like Uncle Johnny, who may be racist...maybe making it so that he can't come by at Christmas if he's going to be spouting all this nonsense about people of color.

These are difficult, difficult things to do. This is not easy. It's not for the faint of heart. It's hard, hard work. And what a lot of people who enjoy and benefit from racism bank on is the fact that white people will be like, 'This is so much work to fix, like why do I even bother?" Again, equating it to emptying the ocean with a spoon...the goal is to get everyone to get a spoon and then we start seeing some big time progress. That's the goal.

Richards has ARFC sessions coming up. You can visit his Facebook page or website to learn more and register.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

People share experiences with intrusive thoughts.

When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

via GIPHY

A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

via GIPHY

It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

via GIPHY

Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

via GIPHY

Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

via GIPHY

Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

via GIPHY

Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

via GIPHY

It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

via GIPHY

I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

via GIPHY

Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

via GIPHY


No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

via GIPHY

The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

via GIPHY

Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

Giphy

Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.