Letter from Youngstown
I grew up outside of Youngstown, Ohio in a predominantly white suburb. I had a great childhood. Crime was minimal. People were friendly. As kids, we rode our bikes all around town and never had a fear. When I graduated high school I got a scholarship to Youngstown State University. I moved to the campus which was only 6 miles away but might as well have been a different planet.
My first year there, my friend plotted the murders with pins on a city map. There were 40 within a two mile radius of the campus. I later moved just off campus. My neighbor was carjacked, my friend was stabbed, my friends car was stolen from our driveway, and our place was robbed twice. These were all black on white crimes.
Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, I was still so clueless as to believe the lies in the media and the class rooms. I had been told that as a white man I was responsible for most of the world’s problems. I was convinced that I harbored unconscious racist attitudes. This belief got me in some trouble.
I was walking home down an empty street at night when a black man called to me from the opposite sidewalk asking for help. My gut said I should just keep moving but I told myself I was only feeling that way because of racism. I ignored my instincts and approached him instead. When I got close, he robbed me at gunpoint. I was unharmed physically, but it scared me pretty good.
Months later my friends moved into a new house and held a housewarming party. There were gunshots right outside the house. Gunshots were commonplace, but these were very close so we called the police. When they arrived to investigate, we were told “You are white kids living on the North side of Youngstown, you better get used to it.” Apparently, calling the police was a big mistake. Shorty after the police left, three shots were fired into the house. There was chaos in the house as everyone crawled to a safer spot. By some miracle no one was hurt.
I moved to Youngstown to get an education and make something of my life. Instead I ended up with PTSD, drug addicted, and dropped out of school because I couldn’t cope with the world I was living in. There is a reason it was named by Buzz Feed as one of the 12 bleakest places on Earth and it’s not relentless white racism.
I appreciate your work and I plan to support you financially. Feel free to share my story though I ask to remain anonymous. I have a job and family to protect. I think it’s important for people to know that the lies that are spread in the media and colleges have consequences. Naïve white kids like myself who drink the cool aid can end up dead, just like the young man who moved to Detroit that you did the video about.
Thanks for what you do.