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‘Change is necessary’: Former BYU star Yoeli Childs shares his experience as a black man living in Utah

Childs wrote about not just being looked at by people differently because of his skin color but also being treated differently, including being the victim of racial slurs and racial profiling.

Colorado Buffaloes guard Bryce Peters (23) fouls Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) during an NCAA basketball game in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.
Former BYU forward Yoeli Childs, shown here in a game against Colorado in 2016, shared his thoughts on racial inequality in the United States in an Instagram post on Wednesday night.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

PROVO — Former BYU basketball star Yoeli Childs says he knows what it’s like to be accused of stealing or have his life threatened because of the color of his skin. He knows what it’s like to have ugly racial slurs hurled his way.

During his recently completed Cougar career, Childs made his mark as one of the top players in school history. He also established a reputation for being affable, insightful and candid.

On Tuesday night, the South Jordan native, who is preparing for the upcoming NBA draft, addressed what it means to be a black man living in predominantly white Utah in a lengthy Instagram post in response to the racial unrest and the widespread debate on systemic racism, social justice and police brutality in the United States.

“I, like so many people in this country, am angry, sad, hurt, and desperate for change. I don’t agree with violence, but please understand what Martin Luther King meant when he said, ‘riots are the language of the unheard,’” Childs wrote. “After MLK was assassinated, American cities started rioting, causing millions of dollars in damage. On the 6th day of the riots, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. There is no right way to protest. No matter how people protest it is met with ‘that’s not the way to do things.’ No I don’t want to see violence and no I don’t advocate for destruction, but the message that Black Lives Matter, and that change is necessary needs to be heard.”

Childs shared his perspective on not just being looked at by people differently because of his skin color but also being treated differently.

“I remember being followed at the store and accused of stealing several times. As a black man things like this never really stop, they just start to change as you get older. I was pulled over in Provo while I played at BYU by an officer that went back and forth with me for several minutes because he did not believe my car was in fact mine,” Childs wrote. “I’ve been called all kinds of racial slurs for as long as I can remember. This has happened in public, even during basketball games in high school. I have on several occasions had threats to my life because of the color of my skin. My brother and I have had a knife pulled against us while being called horrible names as teenagers.”

Childs says the things that he and his brother have experienced “are experiences that almost all black people face across the country.

“I understand everyone’s lives matter. Everyone knows that ‘all lives matter’ but not everyone knows that Black Lives Matter. Black lives have been treated as lesser for the entire history of our country. We are seen as threats and criminals because of the traditions passed down through generations.”

As a senior at BYU last season, Childs averaged 22.2 points and nine rebounds per game. He became the only player in school history to record at least 2,000 points (2,031) and 1,000 rebounds (1,053). Childs finished No. 6 all time at BYU in scoring and in his final game, he became the Cougars’ all-time leading rebounder.

Childs concluded his post by expressing his desire for people to listen to other points of view and advocating change.

“I really am so grateful for those that want to hear what people of color go through and for those that are willing to listen with an open mind and heart,” he wrote. “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know how to fix everything but I believe it starts with hearing the experiences of others and trying to educate yourself on why things are the way they are. The world needs more empathy and willingness to listen and change. There is no shame in not knowing things or not knowing what to do. The problem comes when you start to learn there is an issue and choose to be blind to it.”