BEREA, Ky. (WTVQ)- Berea’s city council has just passed a resolution condemning hate crimes in the city. It comes after vandalism targeting a lesbian couple last month.
There were several people there supporting the resolution. One person in the crowd tells ABC 36 she thinks this resolution helps Berea take a big step forward in matching its stated values with its actions.
Berea College professor Meta Mendel-Reyes is proud of the city and college she has called home for fifteen years.
“If somebody has an emergency or some type of crisis, everybody just comes right up and offers to help,” Mendel-Reyes said.
She says Berea College was the first co-ed and interracial college in the south, but there is a paradox.
“Although the mission of the college and the mission of the town is very open and welcoming, there are some people that are not,” Mendel-Reyes said.
The professor says she is a lesbian in an interracial relationship so it was scary to her when last month another lesbian couple in Berea had the words “lesbo” and “lesbian” spray-painted around their home.
“It also makes me uncomfortable to think that people in my class are being subjected to this kind of thing. They’re taught one thing at the college, that it’s a pretty safe place, and then they go in town and they get a different message,” Mendel-Reyes said.
She says students tell her people shout the n-word at them as they walk to Walmart.
“It’s safer than a lot of places, but it’s not as safe as it could be,” she says of Berea.
Mendel-Reyes is not the only one who feels that way. Councilman Billy Wooten says a similar feeling motivated him to propose a hate crimes resolution Tuesday in the council meeting.
“It just directly goes back to the political climate we’re in now where certain people think it’s okay to say whatever they think, and it’s not and then lately people are acting on those thoughts and when they act on those thoughts that’s when it becomes problematic,” Wooten said.
The resolution reaffirms the council’s stance against hatred, discrimination and violence. It passed unanimously Tuesday night. In Mendel-Reyes’ eyes it re-asserts some of the community’s founding values
“I think there’s been a sense that Berea, the bar is higher for Berea. That if we’re going to really fulfill what we said in the 19th century, we need to do it in the 21st century as well,” Mendel-Reyes said.
About four years ago the Berea City Council considered a fairness ordinance that would have protected LGBTQ Bereans from discrimination. That failed by just one vote. Councilman Wooten says “this is not the council” to try to pass a similar ordinance.