Tony Gonzalez | WPLN News

Tennessee’s Supreme Court says it wants to eliminate racial discrimination in the state’s judicial system. A new initiative follows the recent groundswell of protests against systemic racism in policing.

But accusations of racial bias are not new in Tennessee’s court system.

As far back as 1997, a report by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness found multiple examples of discrimination, including harsher sentences for minority defendants.

Corporate executives and sports officials are joining a growing number of elected officials who want to recognize Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery, as an official U.S. holiday. The movement is being fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests demanding reforms following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.

Juneteenth, which is on June 19, has long been an important holiday in the African American community, a time for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.

Jess Clark

When a historically Black church in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood was damaged by gunfire last week, it had all the elements of what is usually called a hate crime.

The Little Flock Missionary Baptist Church was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. It was damaged by gunfire in the early morning on June 3 amid historic protests against anti-Black racism. According to police, eyewitnesses saw four white men firing shots in the area. 

Hate crimes — or crimes motivated by prejudice or bias — have what the FBI calls a “devastating impact” on families and communities.

Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says the state will take some concrete steps to remedy some of the racial inequities laid bare by both the coronavirus pandemic and the recent protests of police treatment of Black people in Louisville and across the country.

Beshear says the state will begin an effort to extend health insurance to every Black person in Kentucky.

“My commitment today is we are going to begin an effort to cover 100% of our individuals in our Black and African-American communities. Everybody,” Beshear said. “We’re going to be putting dollars behind it, we’re going to have a multi-faceted campaign to do it. But it’s time, especially during COVID-19 when we see what happens when you don’t have coverage; we’re going to make sure everyone does.”

Before she was a hashtag or a headline, before protesters around the country chanted her name, Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old woman who played cards with her aunts and fell asleep watching movies with friends.

That changed on March 13, when police officers executing a no-knock warrant in the middle of the night killed her in her apartment in Louisville, Ky.

Jacob Ryan | WFPL

David McAtee had a running joke with a group of young men that would frequent his small barbecue stand.

When the police would show up for a meal, the men would retreat inside the shop to avoid the officers. McAtee, though, would laugh and cut up with the officers, sneaking glances at the men taking cover inside.

Afterwards, McAtee would step into the shop, beaming with a big smile on his face, asking the men why they didn’t like good friends.

“I’d tell him, ‘What you mean, why I don’t like your friends?’” said one of the young men, who goes by Snow. “I don’t like the police.”


A new report says black Kentuckians are more than nine times as likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana possession.  That’s much higher than the national average, according a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study from the ACLU found the commonwealth ranks second in the nation for the largest racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession.  That’s based on arrest data from 2010 to 2018, which updates the ACLU's 2013 report The War on Marijuana in Black and White.  Nationally, blacks are more than three times as likely to go to jail than whites.

Keturah Herron, a policy strategist at the ACLU of Kentucky, says law enforcement disproportionately targets black communities while sending hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system at a high cost.

The new coronavirus doesn't discriminate. But physicians in public health and on the front lines say that in the response to the pandemic, they can already see the emergence of familiar patterns of racial and economic bias.

In one analysis, it appears doctors may be less likely to refer African Americans for testing when they show up for care with signs of infection.

AMERUNE / Flickr

Fisk University is looking to reclaim its status as a thought leader in race relations in America. It plans to resurrect a defunct but venerable racial justice program.

Fisk’s Race Relations Institute was launched in 1942 by Charles S. Johnson, a well-known African American sociologist and a president of the University.

The once-prominent department helped draft strategies around the desegregation of public schools and the armed forces.  

But it was essentially shuttered around 2005, and now Fisk is re-launching it as the school’s Social Justice Institute.


Alexandra Kanik

McKenzie Cantrell is an employment lawyer affiliated with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she works with low-income refugees and immigrants to uncover instances of wage theft and income disparities. Cantrell, who is also a state representative for part of Jefferson County, Kentucky, travels and gives presentations about employment law, wage theft and what workers' options are if they have problems with compensation.

“Sometimes you can just see on someone’s face, the fact that they have lost money over the course of their career, and it really affects you as someone who doesn’t want to see working people lose money and struggle in a low-income job,” Cantrell said.

Many of Cantrell’s clients work in the service and construction sectors, and many are women and minorities.