Recently I received the honor of being selected as a Kentucky Colonel. According to the website, Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Kentucky Governor. It recognizes an individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to our community, state, and nation. It is an honor that I received as a poet in Louisville, where I use my voice to speak to issues plaguing our state and our nation. I was particularly recognized for my poem Spaces, which I performed for the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet during the 34th Annual Governor’s Leadership, Equality, Accessibly, and Diversity Conference. The poem speaks about how spaces are designed to be inclusive or exclusive and how many people fight through being uncomfortable in spaces because they are not fighting just for themselves but for everyone that will come after them.
I am always honored to be recognized by my state. And it is because I love Kentucky that I will always challenge Kentucky. If I didn’t care, I would remain silent. However, it is because I care that I refuse to whisper when the significant needs in this state demand that I shout. I believe it is my job as a writer to hold up a mirror to Kentucky and allow Kentucky to see its reflection.
This week the world watched a group of mainly White people stormed the United States Capitol. We watched as these self-described patriots, fueled by Donald Trump’s rhetoric, attempted to undermine an American election. They entered the Capitol as Congress was certifying the electoral votes for President-Elect Joe Biden, causing a halt to the proceedings as legislators and staff were forced to shelter in place. How does a group of people who call themselves patriots and have so much love for America attempt to overthrow an American people’s election? Voting is one of the pillars of this nation and one that many have fought to gain. The American people spoke in the voting booth, and the American people voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Yet what we saw is not White people fighting for democracy but fighting to uphold White supremacy. That has always been the goal in the quest to make America great again. And they feel that slipping away and what would America be if it cannot be racist? What would America be if everyone had a fair chance? What would America be if people cannot hate each other simply because of their skin color? What would America be if it stripped away the facade of White superiority? What we witnessed in the Capitol was a stance and a declaration of White supremacy.
Around the world, people were outraged, and statements begin to pour in from around the world. Many were amazed that a country that has branded itself as the greatest in the world revealed its dirty laundry. Statements started flooding in, denouncing the riot at the Capitol and some Kentucky politicians were some of the first to speak up. The Kentucky GOP stated, “We denounce the angry mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol today and condemn them in the strongest possible terms. Violence is never acceptable and has no place in our Democracy,” Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown said. “The individuals engaged in this criminal behavior are dangerous and destructive and should be held fully accountable. We want to thank the brave men and women of law enforcement who are protecting our leaders and pray for a quick and peaceful end to this situation.”
As I read their statements, their hypocrisy was like a weight sitting firmly on my chest. Do they actually believe what happened in DC is any different from what has been happening in Kentucky? Take off your blinders! Before any Kentucky politician speaks about Washington DC, you must first look at what happened right in my Old Kentucky Home.
Last year the group, “We Are KY Gun Owners” organized a rally at the Kentucky Capitol met with no resistance. According to a Rolling Stone article, one participant said, “I’m not a Kentucky resident… I’m a complete stranger. I walked in [and security acted like] ‘Cool, come on in. Enjoy the capitol.’” For the most part, leadership was silent, and in fact, many supported them.
Then, Terry Bush, a Three Percenter, hung Governor Beshear in effigy on the Capitol lawn as they played God Bless The USA in the background, and a young child looked on. Rep Savannah Maddox proudly took a photo with Terry Bush.
The video: pic.twitter.com/twsNAKscLV— Sarah Ladd (@ladd_sarah) May 25, 2020
And just this week, signs saying Make Hanging Traitors Great Again were posted on the Capitol lawn, and I didn’t see an outpouring of concern from our legislators. For them to have the audacity to speak about Washington but not address what is happening in their own backyard is laughable. What happened in DC can easily occur in Kentucky because leadership has set the tone for this type of behavior.
Kentucky’s hypocrisy doesn’t end there.
When White people stepped into the Capitol with their guns, they weren’t met with resistance. And let me be clear anyone that knows me knows that I believe in the 2nd amendment. I am a proud gun owner. However, we understand how Black people would have been met if we entered the Capitol with guns. This is how Black people were met in Kentucky, merely walking on the street to protest the murder of Breonna Taylor.
This state treated Black people like we were the enemy, and they were at war. We were met with police in riot gear and tanks. We were shot with rubber bullets, met with flashbangs, and teargassed. We were handcuffed and arrested simply for screaming no justice, no peace. We were told during the Derby March, “If you place one foot in the street, you will be arrested.” Buildings were boarded up for months. The National Guard was called in, and sadly, David McAtee, a beloved community member who was blocks away from the protests, was killed by the National Guard. His body lay outside for over 12 hours as people gathered to protest his murder. I could not walk in my community because streets were blocked with fences and tanks.
The list is endless of the inhumane way Kentucky treated Black people that were screaming for justice. And I do not say this as a bystander. I do not say this as someone sitting at home, latching on to a social media narrative. I say this as a Kentucky Colonel, a Muhammad Ali Daughter of Greatness, a woman that has written 11 books, a pillar in this community, and this city teargassed me. This city flash banged me. This city pointed guns at me. This city went to war with me.
For what? Be honest with yourself, Kentucky. Now is not the time to lie. This city largely overlooked White people protesting yet declared war on Black people screaming for justice.
That is the ugly part Kentucky must face. Your hypocrisy is blatant. Your racism is showing. And until Kentucky wants to face that, this state will never improve for the better. It is past time for Kentucky to FACE ITSELF and BE REAL ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE!
Please do not speak about Washington, DC, until you dare to look inwardly and speak about my Old Kentucky Home. Until then, anything you say reeks of the stench of hypocrisy and the foul odor of White supremacy.