Dear Peter Ciaccia, President of NYRR and Race Director of TCS NYC Marathon and Jim Marino, Race Director of Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon:
I’m writing to you to let you know about two incidents with racist overtones that occurred at the TCS NYC Marathon and the Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon.
The first incident was something I heard on NPR from a reporter who spoke about a personal friend who ran the NYC Marathon. Although the reporter never explicitly stated which ethnicity his friend was, it was strongly implied that the runner was a Person of Color. While running out on the course, he reached out to grab a cup of water from a volunteer. That volunteer pulled back the cup and jeered at the runner to go back to his country.
The second incident happened to my friend at the Philadelphia Marathon. He had just finished running the marathon. He was standing in the finish line staging area waiting with other people for friends to arrive. He was hardly alone in doing this as there were other runners who were doing the exact same thing. Yet a volunteer singled him out to move or she would call the police. She even tried to push him out by the chest. She ignored other runners, who were White, and instead focused on him, who was the sole brown-skinned person in that particular crowd.
We could write off these incidents as isolated events that don’t reflect upon the values of the wider running community, and NYRR, and Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative, the organizations that manage these marathons. However, given the current climate and the rise of blatant, overt racism, I fear that people are feeling emboldened to act upon their prejudice and bigotry. These acts are symptoms of the underlying and very real problem of racism that we have in the United States.
I know that those volunteers’ behaviors do not represent the views and values of NYRR and the Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative. I know that you find their actions as abhorrent as I do. As the leaders of your organizations, I urge you to speak out against racism happening at your events. You set the tone and culture of your organizations and events. Let your staff and volunteers know that racism will not be tolerated. While little can be done about undoing these past events, by speaking out you can prevent future acts of violence, intolerance, and racism against runners, particularly when they are vulnerable.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to seeing statements from the NYRR and Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative speaking out against racist attacks on our runners and taking actions to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people.