Two days before the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an intense discussion took place following breakfast at a Catholic church in Covington’s urban core.
The crowd listened as five courageous young women talked candidly about growing up in Northern Kentucky being, as it were, a bi-racial student in high school, an African-American of Jewish faith, an African-American of Muslim faith, a Mexican immigrant, and the Kentucky-born daughter of Mexican immigrants.
I left the church feeling buoyant: Over the years, the City of Covington has taken strong stances on issues pertaining to diversity, and here were people in Covington taking a leadership role in continuing to discuss issues of race, discrimination, and favoritism.
I felt very proud of this City’s commitment to being a place of opportunity for all people.
But my feelings of pride were soon tempered. I learned that Covington was being linked across the nation to intolerance and ethnic intimidation. Why? Because teens from a local high school were filmed surrounding and mocking native Americans participating in the Indigenous Peoples’ March in Washington D.C. The disrespect shown to a Native American elder, who happens to be a Vietnam Veteran, was particularly offensive.
Videos of the confrontation are disturbing, discouraging, and – frankly – appalling. And they are rightfully inspiring a tidal wave of condemnation, even on the City of Covington’s own social sites, leaving the impression that these are the values of the City of Covington.
Yes, the ironic thing – as people keep pointing out to me – is that the school isn’t even located within Covington. But that’s not the point.
The point is that because of the actions of people who live in Northern Kentucky, our region is being challenged again to examine our core identities, values, and beliefs. Regardless of what exact town we live in, we need to ask ourselves whether behavior like this DOES represent who we are and strive to be. Is this what our schools teach? Are these the beliefs that we as parents model and condone?
Is this the way we want the rest of the nation and the world to see us?
In answer, let me – as Covington’s mayor – be absolutely clear: No. The videos being shared across the nation do NOT represent the core beliefs and values of this City.
Covington is a diverse community, in areas of race, national origin, ethnicity, religious preference, sexual orientation, and income.
- We are one of the few cities in Kentucky with a Human Rights Ordinance that protects ALL people, including those with diverse gender identities and sexual orientation. And we have urged our fellow cities in Northern Kentucky to follow our lead.
- In fact, this past summer I joined Covington’s police chief leading Northern Kentucky’s Pride Parade. City vehicles drove in the parade, and department heads marched with a banner proudly proclaiming our beliefs.
- The City also is led by elected officials and top administrators at the highest level who represent the diverse makeup of Covington. The people who make decisions here are not homogenous in racial background, ethnicity, age, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Far from it.
- We welcome the recent opening of the Esperanza Latino Center in Covington as a resource center for all of our residents with roots south of the Rio Grande, and I was proud to attend their opening ceremony.
- We financially support our local Human Rights Commission and take seriously any complaints received.
- Our police and other public safety officials enforce the law fairly across the board on behalf of all people.
- And by our ordinances and by the implementation of programs, we have made it clear that all people should enjoy the opportunity for a good and successful life.
No, we’re not perfect. More progress needs to be made, and we will continue to work diligently on making it. In the meantime, Covington is proud of being a welcoming City where bigotry, discrimination, and hatred will not be tolerated. – Mayor Joe Meyer