When a Louisville grand jury chose not to charge any of the police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor for their role in killing a 26-year-old Black woman, it was confirmation that, to many, my life as a Black woman does not matter. And as a native Kentuckian, that shattered me.
I spent my early years and every summer in Southeastern Kentucky. As I grew up and moved around, I was made fun of for my “country accent” that eventually faded as I got older. But jokes never ended about my “country” upbringing and whatever myths people chose to believe about a state that they never traveled to. I was mocked because people didn’t know that there were “any Black people in Kentucky,” and would proceed to ask me questions about how racist it was. I’ve always held pride in my Appalachian heritage and said that it was like any other place in America.
As I’ve returned as an adult to visit family, it’s changed my recollection and understanding of the landmarks of my childhood. My parents tell me their personal stories of dealing with race: My dad was only allowed to sit in the backseat of a cab after being picked up from work, and my mom was instructed in elementary school to sing the original words of “My Old Kentucky Home.” There are many more Confederate flags than I’d remembered.