I didn't grow up here. I was born in South Bend, Indiana and met a boy from Kentucky 20 years ago and married him. But my children are true Kentuckians. I have friends, coworkers, in-laws and neighbors who are all Kentuckians. My home is here now – I've lived longer in Kentucky than I ever did in Indiana. I consider myself a Kentuckian. Y'all has been part of my vocabulary now for a good 15 years. But before I lived here, I too, had stereotypes of what Kentucky was. I believed most of the ignorant stereotypes being perpetuated today in the media and news outlets and in comments online from strangers across the country, I'm sad to admit.
But I can honestly say none of those assumptions I had holds true to the people I've met and had the privilege of knowing here the past 20 years. My late husband was a kind and decent, tolerant man. He and his family business over the years gave tirelessly to other people and to local charities – he hosted annual events to raise money so they could stay operational – one was an inner city art program for at-risk African American boys. It made him happy to share what he had with others and he didn't give a rat's ass what color they were either. My husband was proud to be from Kentucky. But today's explosive and volatile political climate has caused a lot of us to feel shame in saying this is our home.
We all know that no matter where you go, whichever geographical region you live in – there is always ignorance lurking somewhere. There is bigotry or racism. There is hate that breeds hate. But that doesn't mean an entire population of people deserve to be categorized and cast aside as degenerate, racist assholes.
Because the Kentucky I know is better than what they show on TV. It's better than the two-minute video snippets they post in Facebook feeds. The Kentucky I know is people sharing what they have with less fortunate. It's people I know who volunteer their time at the Parish Kitchen in Covington, talking with homeless men, no matter if they are black or white. It's parents who volunteer time at their kids' schools. It's child-less people donating their money to less fortunate city schools. It's anonymous donors who help you with tuition bills. It's the kindest neighbor you'd ever know (coincidentally a CovCath grad) who has a snow-plow coming to clear a foot of snow off a widow's driveway because she cries when she has to shovel it herself.
It's the kinship in sharing a good bourbon with friends or enjoying the absolute best fried chicken (and I'm not talking about KFC). It's realizing the magnificence of a half-ton horse that elicits camaraderie every first Saturday in May. It's the fun and fellowship in winning a basketball game and learning to accept defeat (I say learning because I am still a student at this). It's seeing beauty in a blue blade of grass. It's the farmer who gets up early to feed livestock or stays out late to bush hog a field. It's the warmth you feel in a smile from someone in church. It's pride in our family from here who fought in wars for our freedom to speak any way we wish today. It's knowing there are people here with good and loving hearts whose depth of character extend longer than any cave and wider than the Cumberland gap.
This is the Kentucky I know. I am proud to say my home is here in Kentucky.