This afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York held a press conference in which he said, “As a New Yorker I am a Muslim. As a New Yorker, I am Jewish. As a New Yorker, I am black, I am gay, I am disabled, I am a woman seeking to control her health and choices.” With this statement, Cuomo showed solidarity with groups that many people feel have been historically marginalized in the US, especially since the growth of the Donald Trump campaign and his subsequent presidency. However, Cuomo is not the first to showed solidarity with an “I am” statement. He continued a long tradition of people showing solidarity with groups during times of struggle using this type of statement. One does not have to think long to remember the cries of “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Paris” (I am Charlie, I am Paris respectively) in 2016 in the wake of the horrific attacks in the French capital.
While some may decry this type of statement as being merely symbolic or without real consequence, I think that these “I am” statements have tangible value. They speak to the intensely human ability to empathize while informing those who are victims that they are not alone in their struggles. Yes, these grandiose statements can feel empty if not backed up by substantive action, but there is no denying that they set forth a discourse conducive to helping whatever group is struggling at the given time.
Only time will tell if Governor Cuomo will introduce greater reforms than the largely symbolic actions he announced at the press conference, but in the meantime, his declaration was an excellent start to beginning the changes that he hoped to realize in New York and the nation.