No one takes notice when Michael Schiel walks into a store or other public place, he said.
“No one looks at me,” Schiel said. “But if a black person walks in, everyone stiffens up.”
It is just one example of the sort of racism black people encounter daily, he said.
For Schiel, 28, of Amity Township, the Memorial Day death of George Floyd and nationwide reaction are a call to action.
Floyd, a black man, died while a white Minneapolis officer restrained him by kneeling on his neck. Floyd's death sparked calls for an end to racism and changes to what many see as a racially biased criminal justice system.
“I just want there to be equality for everyone,” Schiel said. “White privilege is a real thing. I have privilege that African Americans do not.”
Schiel said he was inspired by a peaceful protest in Boyertown in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and wanted to bring a similar event to nearby Birdsboro.
He joined forces with Jenna Marie Erb and Nicole Brown, both of Birdsboro, in organizing We Stand With You, after learning the women also were planning a peaceful event for the borough.
Held Sunday, the solidarity event drew about 150 people who lined the sidewalk on Main Street, standing in silence for three hours.
Schiel said the June 7 event was an opportunity to make a statement of support.
“This is right in our backyard,” he said. “We had parents of children in the Daniel Boone School District tell us their children are the victims of racial slurs.”
Racism and discrimination are not just found in big cities, he said, and neither should the response be.
“In a small town, it is more impactful than just seeing it on the news,” he said of the silent protest.