I’ve run for elected office twice in Corbin, and voters trusted me both times to represent them on the City Commission. I met many of you face-to-face while going door-to-door during both of those races. It was a great way to really get to know my town.
I consider that a great honor. I was not born and raised in Corbin. I’m a outsider. But people here have accepted me like I’ve lived here all my life. I’d say for many of you, it’s hard to really understand how much that means to someone like me. Corbin is the most welcoming, accepting, friendly community I’ve ever called home. I get a little emotional every time I think about that. I just have no desire to live anywhere else.
I know what a sore point this whole business about the 1919 “racial cleansing” is to people who live here. It’s a scab that opportunistic writers, movie makers, and others have picked at for their own gain, while giving lectures about how Corbin “needs to face its history.” They act as though they are doing us a favor with this nugget of wisdom.
A little simple math tells us it’s the 100-year anniversary of the incident. Since January, at least once a week, I’ve been asked to consider all kinds of proposals about what city government needs to do to “own up” to this sordid event. There were all kinds of ideas thrown out there. At first, there was a push for a big historical marker to be unveiled at the old L&N Depot in ceremonial style. Some of the folks that have dumped on Corbin more egregiously than anyone were going to be invited to attend.
I wanted nothing to do with that.
If I’m being truthful, I sort of thought doing nothing at all was a good option. It was 100 years ago. The town has changed tremendously. In reality, actions taken by citizens during the “cleansing” and law enforcement response afterward, was probably fairly progressive considering the time period we are talking about here. It’s a mistake to look at people 100 years ago through the lens of 2019 and judge them. I see Corbin diversifying by the day, and doing so very gracefully. Why bring it up … again? In two races for elective office, not a single person has said to me: “Trent, we need you to do something to commemorate this 1919 thing.”
Not. A. Single. Person.
I thought a historical marker was a bad idea and could become a magnet for the wrong kind of folks. A ceremony unveiling it a potential fiasco. I watch the news. I’m mindful how these things can go south fast.
So, the idea for a simple proclamation arose. The wording was fairly straightforward. It highlights how Corbin citizens tried to do the right thing during, and in the wake of, a bad situation. It designated next week as Diversity Week. It’s in a nice frame. It can be put someplace where people can view it. Those who really get into this sort of thing can gaze in deep contemplation at it, their hearts fluttering … maybe weep a little. To them, I supposed, pride is restored. Our dark past has been conquered. Everyone else can just go about their business.
It seemed a good compromise. I signed it. Perhaps my stance is not the most progressive out there. I’m probably not as “woke,” or whatever, as I should be. But, I like to be honest about things. I hope I didn’t let anyone down. I’m not near as interested in Corbin’s past as I am its future.