I grew up in a small, affluent and predominantly white community in the East Bay. I was taught that skin color never mattered in today’s post-MLK Jr. world. As far as I knew, the “I Have a Dream” speech that I learned about in elementary school had solved all the problems for black people in America.
As I got older and started dating my (now) husband, I began to realize just how ignorant I was about racism. My husband, a loving, caring, and totally hilarious man, is black. He would always joke about black stereotypes and I later found out that this was his coping mechanism. He told me it was better to laugh than get upset. But I still never really thought that skin color made that big of a difference until I saw it firsthand.
The first time I experienced this was when we were denied entry to a free first-come-first-serve show because it was “full” but four white people behind us were let right in. I was furious and wanted have the person who denied us entry fired, but my husband told me that it happens all the time and he just wanted to leave.
As the years went by, I started witnessing more: the judging looks, the difference in how people spoke to him, and the change in body language when he came around. I wanted to show everyone that they were so wrong about him but I didn’t know how to express myself without getting angry.
After Alton Sterling and Philando Castille were murdered, my husband and I were so depressed. We’ve been trying to have a baby for a while now but he told me that he was afraid to bring a child into this world. He was afraid that our future children might be killed, or that he wouldn’t be alive to raise them, or worse, both. I was devastated that he felt this way, in this “post-MLK Jr. world” I grew up believing in. That’s when I knew I had to do something. I joined SURJ to help my family and learn how to speak to others about #BlackLivesMatter in a positive way and more informed way.
I knew I wanted to support the movement but I was completely out of my comfort zone and worried about being judged for wearing a Black Live Matter shirt. So I bought a pin and a ring to wear instead. They were small enough to not stand out but could start a conversation if anyone happened to see. But as more black people were killed, I tried to study as much as I could about black oppression and ways to stop it. I started gaining the courage to wear a shirt, so I bought one from Wear Out The Silence. Today is my first day wearing my shirt and I am proud to boldly support #BlackLivesMatter and working toward equality for my family and for all black people around the country.
by Madison August