I was amazed, but not amused, when I saw the results of the following State Journal poll:“How would you describe the state of race relations in Frankfort and Franklin County?”
The latest results are:
13.1% Excellent; 45.1% Good; 33.3% Improving; 8.6% Poor
I interpret this to mean nearly 58.2% of the citizens in Frankfort and Franklin County don’t think that we have a serious race problem in our city and county.
I think this conclusion was reached because we have not had any shootings nor looting. Our demonstrations have been peaceful and orderly. There have been no clashes with law enforcement. Students have not blocked traffic while waving signs and posters. OK, now I see why the good citizens of Frankfort and Franklin County responded to the poll questions like they did.
The truth is the good citizens of Frankfort/Franklin County do not understand “systemic racism.” One-on-one racism is easy to see and easy to understand. Individual acts of racism are easy to see and easy to understand.
I believe the last recorded lynching in Frankfort happened 111 years ago. However, systemic racism has been and still is with us for over 401 years.
Unfortunately, most white people do not see or understand systemic racism. They are not negatively impacted by systemic racism, therefore to them it does not exist.
These people exhibit the typical behavior of an ostrich when confronted – stick your head in the sand. The ostrich does not realize that although its head is hidden, the rest of its body is visible and vulnerable. This is why I say when 58.2% of the poll takers say we don’t have any serious racial problems, they are suffering from “ostrich-ism.”
This is the point where I would normally define systemic racism. I am purposefully not going to do that. I want you to find out on your own. Educate yourself. Have open, honest, face-to-face conversations with a black person about race and race relations. Also research “implicit bias.”
Riddle me this: How many blacks are in city government? County government? Frankfort Police Department? Franklin County Sheriff’s Office? Kentucky State Police? Positions of authority?
How many black-owned businesses and banks are there in our community? How many black bank presidents and financial managers do we have?
How many blacks have been president of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors?
How many black teachers, principals and counselors are in our school systems?
How many black doctors, real estate brokers and auto dealerships are in our community?
How many blacks are in our state House of Representatives and Senate?
Are you starting to see a problem?
Now, what is the percentage of blacks in our jails and criminal court system compared to the overall population?
In today’s world, you are either a racist or an anti-racist. There is no in between. You cannot be neutral. However, if you say you are anti-racist and you see nothing and hear nothing and say nothing and do nothing about race and race-related issues, then you cannot be an anti-racist. Your silence, hearing, seeing, saying and doing nothing makes you complicit in racism just like those who are perpetrating racial acts.
Believe it or not, Frankfort/Franklin County is sitting on a racial powder keg. There is a long fuse just waving in the air. All it would take is for one small spark to ignite that fuse and life as we now know it will never be the same.
The danger is real because there are sparks flying all over the place. There are sparks from George Floyd in Minneapolis; Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta; Breonna Taylor in Louisville; Dreashon Reed in Indianapolis; Ahmaud Arbery in Glen County, Georgia; Michael Brown Ferguson in Missouri; Jamar Clark in Minneapolis; Philando Castile in Minneapolis; Bothan Jean in Dallas, Texas; Ezell Floyd in Los Angeles;Travon Martin in Florida; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; and in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Before any of these sparks ignite our fuse, the citizens of Frankfort/Franklin County need to take their heads out of the sand and start having open, honest, face-to-face conversations about race and race-related issues in our community now.
Ed Powe of Frankfort helped found Focus on Race Relations: Frankfort (FORR). He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.