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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

In Other Words: We Are Better Together Than Apart

Ella Barnes. Courtesy: Rudy Garns
By Chuck Keller

Before Highlands High School had air conditioning and smart boards and computers it had strict dress codes and really hot classrooms. Really hot.

In the late 1980s, a group of boys wanted to wear shorts to school to be more comfortable but the dress code did not allow it. Their pleas were ignored so they devised a clever way to draw attention to the issue. You see, skirts were allowed. So a group of boys wore skirts to school to protest the rule.

They alerted the media to their plan. They gathered on the street prior to entering the building. There was a bit of an uproar but the rules changed and boys could wear shorts. Their protest worked.

If the boys continued to follow the existing guidelines they were unlikely to change anything. The system was so rigid that it wasn’t working to help the students it served. Leadership wasn’t really listening to the concerns.  Bold action and media exposure got attention and the rules changed. Protest happens when the lines of communication collapse. We hear but we don’t listen.

This may seem like a humorous event but it is seriously steeped in American tradition. We have a long history of protest in our country beginning with the Boston Tea Party and continuing to today.

So I wasn’t surprised to see a march in Fort Thomas this past weekend in support of minorities in our community. The organizer, Ella Barnes, is a 2020 Highlands graduate felt moved to action. She expressed all of the passion and concern for her home as patriots of our past.

Courtesy:  Kelly 'Sloan' Flairty
She told me that “I found myself really angry and frustrated with our community because of how many had turned a blind eye to what is going around the country. In a city that is about 96% white it would be really easy for us to ignore the movement and continue on with our life as if racism is not alive in our city. However, we still have black members in our community and as our city becomes more diverse it's important that we don't let those members of our community feel forgotten or unwanted. We have the privilege to raise our voices and make change in our small town. I want to see black teachers, black students, black city council members, black business owners, etc. I want black people to walk through this town and know that they will have our love and support. I want to see our city police and council members make progressive changes to make sure police brutality never happens in Fort Thomas. I want the non-black members of our community to reflect on how they can not only be non-racist, but anti-racist and help shift the deep rooted racism that still exists in our society by educating themselves and having those "uncomfortable" conversations about race.” 

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She was aware that the march might draw opposition. She says, “There will always be haters. There will always be people who do not believe in what you are fighting for and why you are fighting so hard. Jesus only had about 12 followers in the beginning but now he has about 2.3 billion. MLK started with a citywide bus boycott and ended up with over 200,000 followers marching with him in Washington D.C. Everyone must start somewhere no matter how big or small. I as a white person will never know the fear of being black in America, but I do know that me and the rest of Fort Thomas have the privilege to stand up and fight with them to ensure they receive respect and justice.”

Governor Beshear regularly tells Kentucky residents that, “We are in this together.” 

When we stand together in support of our fellow citizens we exemplify a higher moral degree and Kentucky’s state motto - “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” 

We are better together than apart.

Courtesy: Courtney Reynolds

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