As skateboarders we all know there’s nothing in the world that is more freeing than the going out and skating with your friends. All of the issues of the world seem to fall to the wayside when we’re skating.

Unfortunately as our friend Neftalie Williams says, “Skateboarding is of the world.” Meaning that all the good and bad issues and problems that affect the world, affect the skateboard community and industry too. Racism is one of those issues, and we’ve seen skaters across the world band together and take a stand during the Black Lives Matter protests.

To continue learning how to be better allies and friends to our black brothers and sisters, a few skaters were kind enough to share their experiences with race and if being black has had an effect on their place in skateboarding. The first step to long-lasting change starts with listening which will hopefully lead to empathy, understanding, and an urgency to see equality of treatment for all.

RASHAD MURRAY

As skaters, we deal with police and security guards quite a bit, what have your interactions with police been like while skating?
Usually, not good. Security guards can be extremely hostile and the police are quick to step out and ruin your day.

I’ve noticed that the cops are way more respectful and polite to the white skaters I was with. I think when the cops see a white face it makes them feel more comfortable. But when they see me, they feel the need to ask questions and antagonize me.

If a white skater and friend see that happening, what should they do?
Stand by our side! Step in and use your privilege to keep the people around you safe. The police don’t care about harming me or any black/brown person for that matter. They have shown us that over and over again. Why should they stop now? Because we skateboard? If anything they have even more of a reason to press us out so please don’t watch it happen. Record your interactions with the police. Step in and help protect your friends. Do something about the blatant hostility so it doesn’t escalate. Just look out because when white people look away it encourages the police. Show us you care. Even one white person stepping up can help us be safe.

Have you seen or experienced racism within your own skate community?
I’ve been told I jump higher because I’m black. My heelflips are good because black skaters are better at heelflips than kickflips. The one that pissed me off the most was, “You don’t skate like most black skaters.” Some people wouldn’t consider these to be racist comments but I do.

They might not be harsh slurs but they are microaggressions that made me feel some type of way. I didn’t even know how to process most of it because I was much younger when this all happened. I was still learning about myself and seeking acceptance so I didn’t even know how to really react. I knew I was mad but I didn’t know if I was overreacting or not, which is such a ridiculous thing for me to tell myself. When you’re a kid you just want people to like you, but now I don’t care about that at all. I’m gonna defend myself and any other skater of color that’s being disrespected.

What comes to mind when you hear someone say “Blue lives matter,” or “All lives matter?”
I usually laugh, yo! I think it’s such a ridiculous thing to say. What the fuck is a blue life? When you go home and take off that uniform you’re not a cop anymore. Being black isn’t a choice but being a cop is. If a cop is afraid of dying while on duty, they should quit their job.

Also, obviously, all lives matter. If someone you loved was diagnosed with breast cancer and you made a post about supporting the people battling that form of cancer, no one would comment “What about skin cancer?” It would be rude, inconsiderate, and simple-minded to say something like that. So to anyone who says “Blue lives matter” or “All lives matter” go fuck yourself. Black people are being killed, so do something meaningful to help stop it.

What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?
To me, it means fighting back against the oppression of black people. It also means fighting back against more than just police brutality. Our health, education, environment, resources, finances, and culture should be protected.

We must stop all forms of violence and neglect towards black people. All over the world. It’s sad that there has to be an entire movement for people to know that black lives should be cherished. Sometimes I feel like I’m REMINDING people that our lives matter and it definitely gets to me.

Anything you have to say about the protests?
I loved seeing all races and ethnicities come together to fight back. We’re so strong when we stand together and I hope we can keep the momentum going. Destroying this crooked system won’t be easy but I love seeing people try. That’s all we can do. I want anyone going out there to stay safe. Please. Don’t try to get arrested because we need everyone out there. All of our unified voices can help make a difference. Don’t let any shortcomings break your spirit and just keep fighting back the best way you know how to. I hope to see more amazing people with amazing energy the next time I go out.

photo: ben karpinski

Zach Allen

As skaters, we deal with police and security guards often. What have your interactions with police been like while skating?
My experiences with police and security guards while skateboarding has been both good and bad. Seeing as how I live in Los Angeles skate culture is a little bit more accepted, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t come across racists.

I’ve been sat in a cop car while other non-black friends weren’t even being detained, gotten questions if I have weapons or if I’m in a gang when I have a skateboard and look nothing like a gangbanger.

What can white skaters do when they see something like this going on?
White skaters can help by filming the situation going on, taking note of badge numbers, and reporting the officers or security guards when things are escalated.

Do you think there is racism instilled within the skateboard industry?
There definitely can be racism that is quietly lingering in the industry, but since skating is so diverse it would make sales hard for said racist to make money. So with that being said I do feel like there can be closet racists in the industry.

Have you ever tried to speak out against it or work to combat it?
I have always gone against and spoke out about this matter because I live life being black every day so that in itself is like “combat.” But recently, I’ve been more vocal about the things going on.

I’m lucky enough to have some real people and sponsors in the skate industry that try to speak out and encourage us to speak out for what’s right. Skateboarding being so diverse has made it possible for a group of people who probably wouldn’t be friends to get together and learn about each other.

When was the first time you saw a cop use excessive violence, either on video or in real life if that’s happened?
The first time I saw police brutality I was seven years old in front of my house. And I’ve seen it plenty of times after. I was scared because I had never seen anything like that before. And I ended up becoming a victim of that type of shit.

What are your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement?
The black lives matter movement is cool to me but it’s bigger than just that, there have been loads of organizations fighting for my peoples’ rights for decades. Including my own ancestors so its bigger than just BLM.

Voices are being heard but there is always gonna be that animosity between these two races of people. Once people teach to not hate is when things will be okay.

Have you ever heard white skateboarders use the N-word?
I’ve heard it but that’s not something to make a thing out of, I’ve gotten into the habit of telling fools not to say it.

At first, I was fully oblivious to the fact that they were using it. Then my mom got on my head and was like, “Check anyone saying it that isn’t black.” At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be said, but as black people, we took that word that was degrading to us and made it apart of our culture. It’s not a good word, but that’s just how shit goes after 400 years of being called the “N-word.”

What can the normal, unsponsored skater do to support black skaters they like?
They can help or uplift black skaters by including them. Help them learn, look out for them, and just keep it real as you would with any other person.

White skaters can simply just repost things on Instagram, sign petitions, donate give back to those less fortunate, and be an ally. During protest try and make sure black people aren’t being mistreated. Don’t be the problem by looting and throwing shit at cops, because the first people they will come for are the black people and not the white people who looted a store.

Just spread love and do away with hate. Teach the next generation to be kind.

photo: seu trinh

KEVIN ROMAR

Do you think there is racism instilled within the skateboard industry?
Yes, for sure. There are some but as of now, they’ve been getting called out. I don’t understand how they’ve been able to last this long in skateboarding while being racist.

Has skating done anything good that has mended racial issues?
For the most part, skateboarding is unified pretty well, but if a skater has been racist in the past or present, they have their social media, or skateboarding interview podcasts to let them apologize for their behavior. You can forgive someone if they want to do better, but if they keep blowing it there’s no choice but to cancel them.

What can skate companies do to uplift the black skate community?
They can start by adding more diversity to their teams. They can support the movement #blacklivesmatter. These companies get a lot of ideas from our culture, we support all of their movements. If they can’t get behind us then we can’t support them. Uplifting the black skate community is ultimately just getting behind us and knowing they have our backs. There’s a lot of skaters in bands out there that ride for these companies, the minute a black skater starts rapping or doing something different, they kind of blacklist them and disown them. It’s ridiculous to see that.

It almost feels as if they like rap music but hate it at the same time. But a skater’s band can have almost no effect on their skateboarding career. I’m also not saying all black skaters rap. I’m saying they definitely try to segregate us a certain way a lot of the time and it’s not right.

What has your personal experience with police been like?
I’ve been getting roughed up by cops for too much of my life. I’ve been detained and put in the back of a cop car when I was about 17 because they “thought” I looked like somebody. I’ve been slammed on a cop car in Long Beach because the skatepark closed at 10:00 and I left at 10:10. Been stopped by cops and questioned because they thought “I looked like someone” that shouldn’t be driving the car I’m driving, several times.

Can you tell us about the video of you being detained?
I was on an eS footwear trip in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I was a victim of police brutality and racial profiling. There were 10 of us on the trip, with the majority of the team being white and I was the only black guy on the trip. These bike cops whistled to us to stop skating. We were going down a hill at this point but I picked up my board immediately because I knew what would happen if you didn’t listen to the cops.

The rest of the team is skating as if it’s a joke, then one of the bike cops whistles again, and I tell my team, “Hey, get off your board, they’re coming this way!”. As I’m walking my board down the street, the other bike cop comes directly to me, telling me to get off my board. I tell him, I am off my board, and he starts asking me why aren’t my teammates off their boards. I tell him, I don’t know I tried to get them off, and I say to him, “We don’t want any problems officer we’re leaving right now.”

The bike cop comes up to me again and he says, let me see your ID, I asked him “Why? I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t have to show my ID if I didn’t do anything wrong.” It was a valid question, I guess he didn’t like that answer, and he approached me very aggressively and as I turn around, he reached for the back of my shirt and grabbed it, twisted the neck part of my shirt then threw me on the concrete bench.

Then he got on top of my body and put his forearm onto my neck. He started choking me out with his forearm and all his body pressure was on me for at least a minute. As he was choking me out I yelled out, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” He continued to do it to the point that I thought that I was gonna die. Then he finally got off of me after that minute then yanked me up. He took my arm and twisted my shoulder to put handcuffs on me.

What was going through your mind when that happened?
My mind was shattered, broken, and my spirit, gone. I couldn’t believe that happened to me at such a young age and nothing happened to the rest of the team, no one got in trouble besides me. They cited me, took my skateboard, and I wasn’t able to skate the rest of the trip. I couldn’t skate anyways because my mind was done. Everyone on the team was trying to comfort me after that. I really wanted to get justice for what happened to me. I fought, but they swept my case under the rug.

What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?
It means that we are fighting for our rights to matter! My ancestors spent 400 years building and fighting for this country and never got anything from what they promised to us and all we want to do is just matter. It means the fight will continue to matter and hopefully much more comes out of it from the movement.

This movement has been around since 2013, and yes they will be heard, they’re going to have to rewrite history from this movement.

photo: matthew smith


SHURIKEN SHANNON

What can white skaters do when they see a cop or security guard targeting a black skater?
It’s always good to watch what’s going on as things can always take a turn for the worst in an instant due to the high level of aggression when encountering the law.

Also, really call out something when they see something unjust. In this day and age, where everything is so widely viewed through our phones, we can record something in an instant. Try not to be afraid of intimidation from the police or whoever you’re dealing with as they will try to muscle you into being scared of the repercussions.

Do you think there is racism instilled within the skateboard industry?
Well, yeah, I do think there are quite a few bad apples installed within. Some are very visible and some are very low key. They will eventually come out and get called out.

I’ve had some incidents where individuals have called me racial slurs. Some situations have been addressed and more dealt with as a slap on the wrist.

What should we be doing on a daily basis to help?
Give knowledge to others and those around with a less understanding of what the problem is. I do feel like it is our right to educate and correct the ill-minded mistakes of people and stand to know what is right from wrong.

Have you witnessed incidents similar to the one of George Floyd in your city of San Diego?
Well, I have had guns and teasers aimed at me while out skating. I’ve been stopped while driving for looking similar to someone else on many occasions, though they haven’t used that type of excessive force like the George Floyd incident and many others alike, thankfully. Any time I do get pulled over or stop for anything all those images and stories are nothing but running through my head and I ask myself am I next each time.

What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?
To me, it means a sense of awareness of the everlasting problem that people of my skin complexion have to face, and what we stand for against systemic racism and injustices that this country permanently put on our backs.

Have you ever heard white skateboarders use the N-word?
Yeah, more times than I would like. And I instantly have to correct that situation and sometimes it can get ugly due to their arrogance. Honestly, I never know why that word comes out of their shitty mouths. But one way or another, they will find out that shit is wrong. And when they do get caught up, maybe they can start thinking about their shitty ways and change, or not.

Have you been a part of any of the protests currently going on? What have you experienced with the police during these protests?
I’ve been to some in my city. It has been interesting, to say the least. It always starts off peaceful until one little thing erupts into complete chaos. It’s usually the police force sparking that fire, from what I’ve seen. The police have no regard for human life, especially people of color. During this time it’s really cold and crazy how emotionally shut down these fucking corrupt cops are.

A grandmother got shot by a rubber bullet in the forehead right in between the eyes at one of the protests I was at, down the street from my house. It left her with a cracked skull. Then it led to more rubber bullets and tear-gas. Then, people pretty much burned down the block where the city hall was at. A few city cars got lit on fire. A whole shopping center was looted and burnt up. Chase and Union Bank got burnt down too. It was surreal to have witnessed and document in person.

Like MLK said, “Riot is the language of the unheard.” Clearly, this government and system does not hear our actual voices. And there are people just out for the opportunity to wreck shit. It’s a wild time worldwide and it should tell you something needs to change. We stand for what we believe in and for what is right. The system is corrupt, and racist ways are cut.

We all have to come together keep that message clear throughout. We ain’t going to take this shit no more. Change is now.

photo: keith debottis

JAHMIR BROWN

What have your interactions with police been like while skating in Philly?
Well in Philly, you just run. You try not to talk to cops because most of the time they are hostile and aggressive for no reason. Philly security guards always want to fight, as if you personally threatened their life. I’ve seen cops taze kids, put kids in chokeholds, and even hold their boards up like trophies after catching one and treating the person under arrest, like a criminal.

Cops have followed me into stores and even stood in line with me waiting for me to go skate so they can say something disgusting to me. Most of us in Philly, have witnessed and experienced this at least once, if not many times, in our lives skating in the city.

“Don’t talk to cops because you don’t know what they’re gonna do to you,” “I’d rather get hit by a car then get caught,” “Run for your life, don’t get caught.” Those are just a few sayings or guidelines I’ve heard from other kids growing up in the city. I’ve had friends get jumped by cops, given fake tickets, and had their property stolen all at once and they can’t do nothing about it.

Imagine seeing or hearing that, what would you think of cops? There’s nothing worse than having a superior white officer come around while an inferior black officer is “dealing” with you… man.

Do you feel like you are treated differently than the white skaters with security and cops?
Yes, all the time. Especially when in cars, I don’t even have a driver’s license. Why are you asking for my driver’s license if I’m sitting in the back seat of the car?

What can white skaters do when they see something like this going on?
Speak up when you see and hear it. When the car thing happened to me, my homie spoke up and said, “Why do you need his? He doesn’t even drive. This is my car and we’ve been nothing but honest with you.”

Even though it’s not much, it meant a lot to me. First, because I was reassured that the people I was with had my best interest when he saw and heard the cops trying to judge me. Second, because it made the officer provide more information and thoroughly explain the situation, it made the situation smoother, when at first they were being aggressive with me.

When was the first time you saw a cop use excessive violence or force?
When my house got broken into and they stole everything, the cops came and tried to blame my mom. Yelling at her and being disgusting while she was already distraught about our home. Another time was when my friend got jumped by cops, given a fake ticket, and his board was given to a random person in a car. He had two black eyes for a month. He went to make a report and they told him those officer names were fake on the ticket.

What comes to mind when you hear someone say “Blue lives matter,” or “All lives matter?”
They hate people like me.

Do you think this BLM movement will cause change in the system?
Yes, they’ve already been starting to be heard. You can see that with a lot of support, people all over the world are giving and responding from federal and local law agencies. During Go Skateboarding Day this summer there were so many people at Muni. Y’all know Muni is a federal building and it’s illegal to skate there? Two cops walked up to a group of at least 30 of us and asked us, are we okay, do we feel safe out here today, and if we needed water.

We all were shocked because we’re all about to leave and that happened. We never experienced anything like that in our 18 years skating downtown from City Hall, Love Park, and Municipal Building. We knew they felt uncomfortable, and they knew we were too. But it goes to show that they’re trying to keep their jobs and that the movement is applying pressure that is very much needed apparently. “They talked to me like a person,” many of us kept saying that afterwards. It was unreal.

photo: dominic mcfarlane

MUSTAFA “Moose” ABRAMS

As skaters we deal with police and security guards often, what have your interactions with police been like while skating?
My interactions with cops and security have been pretty chill, to be honest. There were a couple of times the security guard would act tough for no reason but that’s not the best thing to do because that’s just gonna get me amped up to fight or argue. If they just try to talk to us like normal people instead of saying things like, “Get the fuck out of here,” or my favorite one, “ I wish you would do something.”

Now, dealing with the cops it can really be a hit or miss because if a security guard calls them they usually come faster, but if a pedestrian calls they are going to take their time. They don’t want to drive halfway across town just to kick out skaters, unless they feel like being a dick that day. I remember one time me and the homies were skating FedEx midtown and the cops pulled up and chased us. They caught me and slammed me on the trunk of the car and took me to the precinct and told me, “If you wasn’t 14 you would be getting so many charges.”

Do you think there is racism instilled within the skateboard industry?
I would like to say no but the truth is racism is everywhere.

What can skate companies do to uplift the black skate community?
Yes, I’ve been waiting for a question like this. Skate companies can start off by giving jobs to black skaters and letting black skaters actually feel like they are a part of the company or industry instead of trying to use the black image. Now sit down and think about how many black team managers, filmmakers, photographers that are involved in the skate industry.

Now think how many white team managers, filmmakers, photographers are involved. Why can’t there be an equal amount of opportunity? There are tons of black photographers and filmmakers that are good, and probably even better. They just never got the same opportunity the white photographer, and filmmakers have gotten and that’s messed up. EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A EQUAL CHANCE TO EAT AT THE TABLE!

What comes to mind when you hear someone say “Blue lives matter,” or “All lives matter?”
The only thing that comes to mind is how selfish some people can be. How can all lives matter when black lives are literally getting taken away. ALL LIVES CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK LIVES ACTUALLY MATTER!! PERIOD.

One of the oldest books created the bible has a perfect example – Luke:15. To summarize it there are 100 sheep but one goes missing. The 99 sheep say, “But what about us? Don’t we matter?” Jesus responds saying, “Of course the 99 still matter but they are not the ones in danger. The one is.” So if one of the oldest books in the world is giving examples of how all lives do matter but if we lose one then all lives can’t matter until we get that one life back, that should say something to everyone who keeps saying, “All lives matter.” But it won’t because they are too selfish and not willing to try and change.

Do you think after these protests that the voices of BLM will be heard?
After the protests and everything, I would like everything to change, but you can see with your own eyes – they don’t give a fuck about us. They’re just going to treat it like a trend. They will give little things like streets and plazas, but we won’t actually get any justice. The system has to burn down and be built back up!

Any tips or words for the people protesting?
DON’T SCREAM AT THE COPS IN THEIR FACE BECAUSE THEY WILL ARREST YOU AND WHIP YO ASS! I literally saw people do that and get smoked right after. It’s so sad and disturbing. It literally hurts my heart. So please stop doing that. KEEP EVERYTHING PEACEFUL AND TAKE CARE OF EACH LIKE FAMILY!!! I LOVE YOU ALL!


Neftalie Williams

I know you’ve done a lot of skateboarding in academia, and you’re still continuing on that road, right?
Yeah, my Ph.D. thesis is looking at race relations in skating from the 1960’s to now. And I do wear two hats – I love skateboarding, this is our home, this is our thing, this is who we are. But we also can be better. We can be progressive, and we could lead the way. I expect that out of skateboarding.

How can race related conversations be started best in skateboarding?
I’m trying to lay the groundwork in my thesis and there will be a book. Right now, we’re trying to have a million discussions at one time. I’m trying to give us a brick that we could build from. I don’t have to ask every single skater of color every question, but there’s a lot of them over the decades. And we could start to go, “Let’s pull on that thread.” Let’s talk about this ownership thread, let’s talk about the visibility thread. Then we could understand how people were experiencing race back then and now.

A key thing, man, I can say, there are so many people who don’t know why the reason people left their companies at certain points was just because they didn’t feel like they were being represented. Even though they were on a great, progressive company, they felt, “They’re not giving us the voice. They’re not giving us our ability to represent where we’re from and what we know and we know it could resonate with other people.” And those company owners still don’t understand because nobody has ever brought it up to them.

What do you make of people getting defensive about being called out or told not to use the N-word?
People are saying, “I have to be PC.” No, it’s not about politics, it’s about human beings treating other human beings with respect. People got lost when they thought it was about being politically correct when it’s really about being human and respectful in the way that you want them to respect you. But they never had to worry about that respect, they already had it by default.

Is that how you talk to your grandmother? I’m sure your grandmother has told you ways that she wants you to talk to her. That’s not politically correct, it’s respectful. And when people are like “but we used to be able to say it..” But now you know that it’s hurtful, now you know it’s used against groups and spaces. Do you really want to yield that weapon?

How can skaters improve the industry and do better to not have that kind of talk?
The thing that’s special about skateboarding is that without having a regulatory body, we’re governed by our culture in the moment. The beauty in that, is people will tell you how to be respectful and if you don’t want to listen or you don’t care, you just don’t get the call. You will be by yourself. Nobody is obligated to tell you, nobody is obligated to force you. People are like, “I’m this way and I’m not listening to this.” Cool. As your value decreases and your role in the culture goes down, you brought that on yourself.

Comments

  1. Luke

    July 31, 2020 2:54 pm

    I have 2 boys, 8 and 11. They are just starting to skate. My family is Norwegian and Irish American, we live in the suburbs of Minneapolis, basically as white as you can get. I overheard one of their friends use the n word over Fortnite or whatever. I told my boys that “that word is the last thing thousands of people were called before they were murdered for no reason other than they looked a little different than us.” That hit them pretty hard. I think I made my point. Same thing with gay slurs. “Would you want one of your friends to feel horrible about who they are because you think it’s a funny insult?” Nope, not under my roof. Trying to do my part.

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  2. Black lives matter

    July 31, 2020 4:04 pm

    Glad to see the homies Jahmir and Rashad getting representation here. Great article.

    Reply
  3. Bakewish

    July 31, 2020 4:20 pm

    Where is Antwuan in this article? Best skaterer ever!

    Reply
  4. Let’s see more of this content

    July 31, 2020 6:04 pm

    Loved this

    Reply