Representation

“Representation MATTERS. There are very real benefits to seeing yourself represented.”

Susan Graham for Project RACE

Famous Friday!

FAMOUS FRIDAY: Svante Myrick  – “This Guy’s Gonna be President One Day!”

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A few months back, my Mom attended the Opportunity Nation conference in Washington, DC where leaders from many different sectors came together to work on the problem of youth unemployment. There were all kinds of important people there, including Senator Cory Booker and the mayors of Philadelphia and Birmingham. But when Mom returned home she was not talking about any of them. Instead, she was excited to tell me all about a guy I’d never heard of before. His name is Svante Myrick and if you believe my mom and a lot of other people, he’s going to be President one day.

 

Like me, Myrick’s mother is white and his father is black; he grew up with three siblings and he loved to read as a child. Even though he had some tough times in his childhood, he did well enough in school to go to Cornell University, an Ivy League school. He began his public-service career though volunteering when he was a student. Myrick was elected to Ithaca New York’s Common Council when he was just a 20 year old college junior.  He served on the council for four years before running for mayor. When Svante defeated three other candidates to become mayor of Ithaca in 2011, he became the city’s youngest mayor. He is still one of the youngest mayors in the U.S.

 

Svante has done a lot of important work as a politician, like creating tobacco free zones and the Ithaca Youth Council. When he became Mayor, the city had a budget deficit of more than $3 million but in just two years he had closed the budget deficit and brought about the lowest tax increase in years. A lot of people compare him to President Obama.

 

Svante obviously knows that young people like us can really make a difference. “When somebody questions your age, it’s not that they’re wondering if you’ve had enough birthdays to do the job,” he said.  “They’re wondering if you’re dedicated enough, they wonder if you know enough [ ].  They wonder if you have the experience it takes to get things done and if you show them those things, then the age is just a number.”

When Myrick graduated from high school, he wrote a note to his favorite teacher. “P.S. In 2040, when I’m president, I’ll keep you in mind for secretary of education,” the note read.

There are many people who would like to see him be president much sooner than that, but he won’t be old enough to be eligible to run for several more years. Myrick has said that another multiracial politician, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, is his role model.  Well, Svante Myrick is definitely one of mine!

by Karson Baldwin, President, Project RACE Kids

— Never too young to serve!

Interracial Families and Politics

Elect Me—My Wife Is Amazing! Why Politicians From Interracial Families Are Poised to Lead

The de Blasio family is a hit at the polls.The de Blasio family is a hit at the polls.

I had to laugh when I read recently that Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate for New York City mayor, is leading the polls, because voters supposedly like his interracial family. It reminded me that, years ago, my wife tried to convince me to run for elected office.

“You’d be a great politician,” she argued at the time. “Why not give it a try?”

I reminded her of my complete lack of political or executive experience or, really, a résumé of any kind. (Mine pretty much peters out after the part where you list your address.) If only I had known that it isn’t what you’ve done in life that qualifies you for office but who you marry.

I am a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant man from an ordinary middle-class suburb—superficially, a zero on the excitement scale, with the kind of socioeconomic profile commonly associated with hot trends like pipe smoking and Pilgrim hats. My wife, however, is a Korean immigrant. Now, before anyone offers me a judgeship, let me add that my wife’s two brothers also married spouses of different ethnicity—one Italian-American, the other from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, which makes our family gatherings (about 20 people evenly divided into black, white and Asian, with lots of children no one can place) look like the glorious fruition of America’s racial progress or just a Chuck E. Cheese’s in Queens, depending on your perspective.

Does marrying someone of a different background make one better qualified to be a leader? I’ve been thinking, and the answer undoubtedly is yes. Being exposed through my wife’s extended family to a wide array of international trends—the cultural passions that excite the masses beyond America’s limited borders—I am something of a global citizen. In other words, I am well versed in game shows, soap operas and rap in foreign languages.

I have also acquired the interpersonal skills necessary for creating instant bonds with those of disparate backgrounds and customs, largely through spending a good part of my adult life participating in conversations in which I didn’t understand a word. As any politician can tell you, being able to nod attentively and make appropriate facial gestures as people discuss things you’re clueless about, like the bill you just sponsored, is essential in political life.

What about the ability to knock heads together and manufacture compromise? Let me assure you multicultural families are no different than other families: We cannot go to a restaurant (even the same restaurant we eat at each and every time we go out) without calling in seasoned diplomats to negotiate a war of attrition that threatens to explode into a regional conflict. (The restaurant? Chuck E. Cheese’s, of course.)

Many consider patriotism the most indispensable quality for a leader, and, believe me, those of us in multicultural families have patriotism to spare. They say no one loves America more than a first-generation immigrant, because the immigrant knows what he has left behind, and, indeed, I have heard enough horror stories about corruption and backwardness in far-off places to have a real appreciation for our own corruption and backwardness.

Finally, as the de Blasios have eloquently testified, mixed-race couples often face prejudice, whether from family members or society at large. Some of the qualities that can keep an interracial couple together are a shared sense of idealism and a commitment to social change. Also inertia, laziness and fear of being alone.

In a funny way, it’s the homeliness of Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray—middle-aged parents defined by their children, eye bags and lack of multiple vacation homes—that make them appealing to New Yorkers after years being governed by a decidedly otherworldly group—not just the mayor but his entire jet-setting cohort. And I suspect the de Blasios know this all too well—interracial couples are never unaware of how they’re perceived—which equips them to be successful politicians indeed.

Source: Observer