Below I am sharing a post from the Mayor of Ithaca, New York, Svante Myrick. He wrote this piece in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I appreciate Myrick’s story and the call to action he puts forth.
On March 30, 2020, Svante Myrick wrote:
Growing up I always felt lucky to be alive *now* and not *then.*
*Then* was a terrible time. Black Americans had shorter lives because they lived in terrible conditions, and any diseases that swept the nation took a disproportionate toll on Black Americans.
*Back then* black Americans were threatened with violence just for being in a white neighborhood. Small crimes were punished by death without a trial. Those in power looked away – or worse called in the National Guard to enforce racist segregation through organized violence.
*Now* wasn’t perfect. Some kids targeted me with jokes and threatened me with violence. Some parents wore confederate flags – even in the deep north – and would stare menacingly at me and my brothers and sister as they drove past.
But “the authority” was on my side. My teachers, the principal, the President of the United States all told me this simple truth – those who fought for civil rights were heroes. People who organized a posse to lynch black people were villains.
And that if I worked hard and played by the rules I would have the protection of the system. That I’d have the same shot at success as my classmates.
That I could learn and grown and succeed – and I wouldn’t have to be afraid. I could go to an Ivy League school and hold public office and live out my dreams. Especially if I learned a few simple tricks to minimize the dangers of being black in public.
My white friends looked good in their “athleisure” clothes, but I might be “mistaken for a thug” if we wore our gym clothes in public.
I learned how to be extraordinarily deferential to police officers to put them at ease. I learned how to constantly reassure our white friends that we were OK.
It wasn’t fair – but it was necessary. And it was a small price to pay. Because after all at least it wasn’t as bad as what Black Americans lived through *back then.*
I wonder the last time you were afraid.
Afraid for your life. Maybe on the highway when someone pulls in front of you. And your heart jumps out of your chest. Everything seems to slow down.
Make an effort to reassure young black boys and young black girls that they can thrive in the shelter of your protection.
Or waiting on a test from the doctor. And your heart seems to live in your stomach. And every time the phone rings time just stops.
What would you do – in those moments – to feel safe? What would you do to feel secure? To make the fear go away?
It’s only when we are truly afraid that we realize the absence of fear is a blessing. It makes so many good things possible.
Well right now we have a lot of little black kids in this country that are afraid.
They are witnessing live lynchings. They see that millions of Black Americans are in chains. They know that this pandemic is devastating black communities especially.
And the authorities don’t seem to mind. The President of the United States is bored by this pandemic. He things it’s a hoax.
He is calling Klansman fine people and is openly declaring his intent to shoot people who are desperate, angry and afraid.
So it is up to us. And I am asking you – to be that authority. Step into the void left by our President. Make an effort to reassure young black boys and young black girls that they can thrive in the shelter of your protection.
And that means interrupting the racism you witness in your own family. Cutting off friends who share ‘those articles’. Donating. Volunteering. Voting.
Declare now that you will do everything in your power to make sure that our tomorrows will be safer than our yesterdays.