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When asked to change 'Black Lives Matter' shirt on Thanksgiving, Maryland student's response goes viral

A UMD student was told to change her Black Lives Matter shirt on Thanksgiving. She did, but found a loophole.

One Baltimore County resident has gone viral for her social activist-themed fashion choices this past Thanksgiving.

Rebecca Malstrom, a 19-year-old sophomore communications major at the University of Maryland, wore a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt to Thanksgiving dinner last week, but was quickly told by a family member — who feared it would cause controversy from extended family members — to change her shirt.

“I followed the command, but found a loophole,” Malstrom wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun, also noting that her family had a strict "no politics rule" this holiday.

Malstrom returned to her room to change — into another Black Lives Matter T-shirt, this time with big and bold letters. She shared the before and after pictures on Twitter, writing “When you're told to change ur shirt before Thanksgiving Dinner so you happily oblige :-).”

The tweet has since gone viral, receiving more than 43,000 retweets and 121,000 favorites as of Wednesday afternoon.

Malstrom said she has also been invited to countless Christmas celebrations, cookouts, and Thanksgiving dinners, and received numerous marriage proposals on Twitter since her tweet gained attention. She was greeted with warm smiles and hugs from her peers once she returned to University of Maryland's College Park campus, and her tweet was even used as a discussion point in her black culture class, she said.

"It's a movement I feel passionately about," Malstrom said of Black Lives Matter in an email. "I feel as though the movement needs more discourse and white allies — in order for the movement to be successful it needs support from all demographics, especially the majority population."

The reaction in her household was less exciting, she said. One sister high-fived her and the other responded with a face-palmed, but “my parents were proud of me for holding my ground and standing for what I believe in,” Malstrom wrote.

On Thanksgiving, Malstrom put on a sweater so as to not bring too much attention to the shirt during the day, but on Friday, during another family celebration, Malstrom wore one of the Black Lives Matter shirts "openly and proudly," she wrote. That's when she announced to her family that her tweet went viral.

“Everyone was so excited and proud of me! We all laughed at some of the responses and they were astounded by the amount of holiday dinners that people on Twitter had invited me to,” she wrote.

But Malstrom said she's also received a flurry of negative comments and threats on social media. 

Others believe that Malstrom violated her family’s “no politics” rule for the holiday, but black lives, she said, are not political.

“I don't see ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a political statement. Black lives matter and black people don't deserve to die — nothing political about that,” wrote Malstrom, who added that the experience has been an eye-opener.

“White privilege is real. Would my tweet have gone viral and accumulated so much praise if I wasn't white? Probably not. It's heartbreaking to see myself treated as a ‘hero’ for simply advocating for basic human rights."

Her hope is that people realize that it's equally important for people to use their white privilege to advocate for those whose voices are silenced as it is to listen to them, she said.

“Do not speak over them. Educate yourself on these issues and listen to the people who face this oppression. Don't make assumptions about them or make any decisions for them," she wrote.

And if you're looking to shake up a future holiday or make a statement, Malstrom said she purchased her shirts on Amazon.

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