New York, NY – Today, Heather McGhee, president of Demos, and Garry Civitello, a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, released the following statement on the premiere of the second season of Upstanders, a Starbucks original series. This season features the story of Heather and Garry’s friendship, which began after Garry called into C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program, on which Heather was a guest. Garry confessed his racial prejudice to Heather and asked her help, which Heather provided and has continued to offer in the year since their fateful, on-air meeting.
Heather McGhee, president of Demos, said:
“The first time Garry and I spoke, he asked for my advice on how to combat his racial prejudice because he wanted to become ‘a better American.’ And with all of the conversations that Garry and I have had since then, all of the experiences and thoughts we’ve shared, it is still those three words – ‘a better American’ – that have stayed with me.
“In the past year, our nation has experienced a profound shift, both in our government and its policies, and in our understanding of ourselves. We have witnessed mass outrage and public action from people who never would have called themselves activists before this year. We have recognized, more widely and vividly than ever before, the reality that violent white supremacy is a real and present danger in our communities. We have all, in some way, grappled with the question of what it means to be a good American.
“When people watch the story of my unlikely friendship with Garry, I hope that they will see a path forward, and understand that they do not need to accept racial division as the status quo. Yes, racism is alive and well in America, but that does not mean that it should be our norm or that it is unchangeable. With honesty, empathy – and yes, a little courage – we can all strive to be ‘better Americans’.”
Garry Civitello said:
“From the moment I met Heather, I have begun what I call my ‘walk’ toward becoming a more open and accepting person. As part of this walk, I have not only gotten to know Heather herself, but also many more of my neighbors, by starting conversations in line at the grocery store or on the street. I have learned about the history of the African-American community in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, as well as the history of race relations nationwide.
“Most importantly, in seeking to understand the world around me, I have come to better understand myself, and felt the weight of the prejudices that I have carried throughout my life slowly lift. My walk continues, and as it does, I invite anyone who has faced the same internal struggles as I have to join me.”
Season 2 of Upstanders is available here, as well as on Amazon Instant Video and Audible.