Black lives matter has been a topic of national controversy for several years and for the past several weeks. I heard it explained this way just Thursday on TV.

It’s a given that white lives matter. There is absolutely no question that white people are generally not suspected of being in the wrong place or being up to no good until their conduct give us reasons to suspect them. White people generally are not red-lined out of buying property in certain neighborhoods.

There are many other kinds of treatment that Black people endure that white people don’t even see.

Black people are stopped by police or arrested more often than whites, sometimes just for being in a place where someone thinks they don’t belong. That contention is backed by numerical facts, not just anecdotal stories.

Some Black parents say they fear for the lives of their children every day. Will they make it home or will they be arrested or harassed before making it home.

Red-lining to keep neighborhoods white has been a proven fact of life for decades, even though it’s been against the law for most of the past half century. Maybe not in Connersville, but in many places.

Thus comes the phrase: Black lives matter. Some white people think the phrase means that Black lives matter more that white people’s lives.

It actually means that Black lives matter the same as white lives, and Black people should be treated with the same respect and consideration as people of any other race.

Equality shouldn’t be such a hard concept to grasp unless you really believe that some lives are worth less than others.

Several thoughts have gone through my head in the week since a post on Mike Bishop’s Facebook page became the subject of public outcry and resulted in his resignation from City Council.

The post, two photos inviting a comparison between the actions of monkeys in one photo and Black people in the other, was racially insensitive, to say the least. It is certainly an insulting, derogatory image, not worthy of intelligent consideration. It’s not even a funny joke.

I don’t know Bishop well, only from seeing him at meetings of City Council and the Board of Public Works and Safety and at a couple of other activities. He has seemed sincere, honest and straightforward, having a genuine desire to serve with the community’s best interests at heart. When he told me last Friday afternoon that he did not post the offensive message, I wanted to believe him.

A key part of what we think of as American justice is that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

After speaking with Bishop on Friday, I had decided to not do a story until there had been time to try to track down whether he had posted it or been hacked. Bishop resigned and I haven’t pursued the matter.

Many at a Saturday rally came to protest the post and cheered when Bishop’s resignation was announced there. Some who spoke thanked Bishop for resigning. Some called for prayers for Bishop and his family.

At the rally, it was said that serious, deep conversations about local race relations need to be had. It was noted that a committee called Striving for Change has been having productive meetings with the mayor and others in the community, trying to address issues of equality. One of the committee members, Krista Gibson, is scheduled to report on the committee’s work at Monday’s City Council meeting.

I didn’t grow up in Connersville but have worked here 10 years. I’ve been surprised at how little racial animosity has surfaced during that time. Perhaps that’s because I am a white man working in a position where people want me to see them in a positive light.

Perhaps it’s because Black people are only 3 percent of the local population, much less visible than in other cities.

I have noticed that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is not widely observed here and there seems to be little attention paid to Black History Month in February. Maybe that’s not intentional but it does send a message that it’s not important, either.

When the history of any racial group is left out of mainstream teaching, it signals that those lives are not important.

My high school class in Indianapolis – numbering about 700 students when I was a freshman – was about 75 percent Black, although polite society still called them by the term Negro, which they had not chosen.

I became aware of racial inequality at that school. I hadn’t thought much about it as a child. I saw that white students held many of the more desirable positions of student leadership, even though we were a minority. Some clubs were nearly all Black, some were nearly all white. The mostly Black clubs usually had a Black faculty sponsor; the mostly white clubs, usually a white sponsor.

We white folks were proud of attending an integrated high school. Most of the other white students in Indianapolis looked down on us for that but we felt a bit superior to those other schools that were either all white or majority white, and were definitely glad not to be living in nearby small towns which were well-known bastions of white supremacy.

As an 18-year-old in 1969, I figured that by the year 1970 all these issues of race would be on their way to being solved; certainly we’d be there as a society by now. But 51 years later, we, as a society, are still grappling with inequalities and mistreatment based on fear and misunderstanding.

When I attended a mixer for my 50-year class reunion last fall, it surprised me how little real mixing there was among the races. If anything, it seemed the races mixed more with others of the same race than with each other.

In 2018, Fayette County Community Voices put together a wonderful diversity meeting. The best part of it for me was seeing people from the community who normally don’t see each other actually talking together in the same room. It was a good start to the conversations that are needed now.

Recently, a small group went on TV3 to talk about being Black in Connersville. It also was a good start to better interracial awareness, too.

But continued conversations are going to be important here in Connersville. In a city where the Black population is only 3 percent of the total, it’s important for white folk to not overlook what we might not be seeing. The only real way for us to know what we might have missed is to meet with and talk with others of different viewpoints.

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