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LISTEN: Racial tensions threaten to boil over at meeting
“I’m white power. What are you going to do about it?”
After introductions at Wednesday night’s York County Advisory Council meeting, Fred Marsik of New Freedom unabashedly announced himself to the human relations group.
The group met with the intent to discuss the recent spate of racism across York County, including incidents at the York County School of Technology and racist Facebook post by the former mayor of West York, but the meeting was derailed after Marsik’s comments.
“I’m white power, to let you know,” Marsik said. “I’m white power. I belong to the white people that fought and died to set the black people free in this country, who fought and died to keep the freedoms in this country, who work hard, who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, pay their taxes only to see them squandered, OK, by irrational types of behavior by certain communities."
The advisory council attempted to resume the meeting, but Marsik quickly took over the discussion again.
Marsik was angered by a headline in Wednesday’s York Dispatch that read “What to do about ‘white power’” and made his disagreement with “multiculturalism” clear to the group.
“I’m white power. I don’t like this headline, ‘What to do about "white power,"’” Marsik said. “What are you going to do about me? Why don’t we talk about the people who are black raising their fists? Why are we just talking about white power?”
'Completely disagree': Tempers flared when Marsik was told by multiple people, including York City Council President Michael Helfrich and community activist Deb Yonick, to share the floor.
“You can’t dominate the whole conversation,” Yonick said. “I completely disagree with what you are saying, and I find your ignorance totally obscene.”
Yonick, of Codorus Township, is the wife of York Dispatch digital content manager Bill Kalina and a member of the Dispatch editorial advisory board. She is involved in many organizations in York County and was at the meeting as an observer.
The York Dispatch community advisory board is comprised of county residents who attend weekly meetings and provide feedback to the newspaper's editors on local, state and national topics of interest.
In a statement after the meeting, Yonick said Marsik’s ignorance disturbed her.
“I was very taken aback by the aggressive comments presented by Fred Marsik at the York County Advisory Council Meeting,” Yonick said. “His remarks with each sentence beginning with, ‘I am white power, what are you going to do about it,' I found offensive.”
Tech school: After the flashpoint, Advisory Council chair Judy Ritter-Dickson tried to bring the meeting to order, calling for respect for each other’s thoughts.
Refocusing the group’s attention on the issues at the York County School of Technology, Advisory Council vice chair Mabusha Cooper said the council needed to be talking to students and student leaders.
The council should identify students who understand the issues at their schools and learn from them, Cooper said.
“I believe that’s our source, in terms of getting to the bottom of what’s going on at Vo-Tech,” Cooper said.
Empowering youth to be their own social justice advocates can be a first step toward the solution, Cooper said, though the council must continue to push officials at the tech school and other schools to make necessary changes.
Though much of the discussion was centered on programs and ideas that aren’t working, Ritter-Dickson reminded the group of progress that has been made and called for coordination between the many groups in York that are working through racial tensions.
“We fought hard to even get to the point that we are now,” Ritter-Dickson said. “Yes, there needs to be more changes, and yes, we need to implement more things, but we cannot just step up and say ‘OK, we’re just going to divide and conquer.’”
Marsik said afterward that he was not satisfied that he got his point across at the meeting, though he said he hoped he helped the conversation. Marsik said he will attend the next York County Advisory Council meeting in December. The date for that meeting hasn't been decided.