Why are you making this about race?

I have been calling HB208 the “Force Everyone Back to In-Person School Before It’s Safe” bill. But it should be called the “Force Everyone Back to In-Person School Before It’s Safe for Black People” bill.

Hold up. I can hear some of you now. “Why are you making this about race?” Since I hear that argument a lot, let’s get this out of the way. If after reading this list, you still can’t get behind my argument, that’s okay, you don’t need to read any further. There are plenty after you who will.

There are lots of reasons, but let’s keep it simple because we have to get to the work.

  • Black people are at greater risk of death and long-term health issues from COVID than white people.
  • Black children who contract COVID die at 75% – 80% higher rates than white children who catch it.
  • JCPS is more than 50% non-white. HB208 is a discriminatory bill that will force our most vulnerable populations into face-to-face settings and will have harmful and detrimental impacts on our communities of color in particular.
  • Only 7 percent of the Kentucky population is Black, but nearly half of Kentucky’s Black population lives in Jefferson County.
  • Legislators should pass legislation because it benefits the voters in their districts, not because it punishes others. This bill ONLY forces districts back in-person, it does not “permit” districts that choose to open from doing so. Comments from both House and Senate members confirm this bill is a direct attack on Jefferson County.
  • This is punitive and unnecessary legislation that has been completely misrepresented by the bill’s primary sponsor, Regina Huff, as well as other legislators and groups that have supported it. They’ve used racist dogwhistles and rhetoric to distract from the truths about the true intent and impact of the bill, which will come out in time.
  • This bill forces the hands of JCPS elected school board. Lawmakers in other districts continue to cite how we are failing black and brown children, and have admitted they are doing this because they don’t think our leaders know what they are doing. That’s discriminatory and it prevents local taxpayers and voters from being able to hold anyone accountable, should our district’s back to school reopening plans fail.
  • Why JCPS? See 1-6 above. It’s about race.

In summary, Jefferson County has a higher Black population than the rest of the state. It’s not safe for Black people to return to in-person schooling in Jefferson County. That’s why it should be called the “Force Everyone Back to In-Person School Before It’s Safe for Black People” bill.