By Representatives Rachel Roberts (House District 67) and Buddy Wheatley (House District 65)
In this time of shocking headlines, one after the other, we must not let the recent white supremacy activity on the campus of Northern Kentucky University--spray painting and posting of stickers-- fall from our consciousness. That is why we have filed a resolution with the Kentucky House of Representatives condemning the action and invite our colleagues to join us.
In 2017, when white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, and were met by counter protests, President Trump claimed that there “were some very fine people on both sides.”
He was wrong, of course. One side championed tolerance, justice, equality and love, while the other marched under a banner of intolerance, injustice, inequality and hate. Putting them on the same moral plane was, is, and will forever be wrong.
What happened in Charlottesville was both tragic – one counter-protester died and 19 others were injured – and an ominous sign of worse things to come. Riding partisan rage over the outcome of the presidential election, and partnering with conspiracy theorists who prefer fiction over fact, white supremacists have sparked new waves of violence and fear.
We saw the culmination of that work early last month during the siege of the U.S. Capitol, and we witnessed it close to home just in the last week or so, when graffiti and other material from the Patriot Front hate group were found on Northern Kentucky University’s, Thomas More University's and Xavier University’s campuses.
We and many of our colleagues in the Kentucky House of Representatives were deeply troubled by this news and quickly denounced it. This week, we offered a resolution calling out racism and other acts of hatred – a sin, as Xavier President Michael Graham correctly said – in the hope and expectation that every House member will speak out with a singular voice.
This is not a time for timidity or politics. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “we must substitute courage for caution” and not turn away in the mistaken belief that we can stop action with inaction. Those peddling in hate thrive when good men and women do nothing.
It is clear that 2020 was a turning point for our country. Historians are already comparing it to such watershed years as 1968, 1941 and 1918, and for good reason. Who among us will ever forget the sudden and sizable impact of COVID-19 and the marches, rallies, and renewed calls for racial justice and equality?
We ended last year on a hopeful note, with a new, less divisive president in the wings and the knowledge that viable vaccines were on the horizon, giving us the means to put the pandemic behind us.
If only there could be a similar scientific discovery to rid the world of bigotry and injustice. Unfortunately, there will never be such a shot to inoculate away the hatred and lies many still cling to. It’s going to take much more to overcome that challenge.
It is not naïve to think this can be achieved. On the contrary, to aim for anything less would be a disgrace and another strike against those who for centuries have borne hatred simply because of the way they look, the way they pray and the way they love. We owe it to them – to those now living and those who came before them – to try even harder to meet the ideals rooted in our values and made clear in our constitution.
In his inaugural speech, President Biden said overcoming “these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”
To defeat white supremacy, we are going to have to transcend partisanship and come together in ways we haven’t in quite some time.
If we do anything less, we’ll fail, and we’ll all suffer as a result.