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Black legislative caucus invites Zay to talk racism

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus last Friday extended an invitation to State Sen. Andy Zay to talk about racism following revelations that Zay once denied racism's existence in a private Facebook conversation three years ago.

“It doesn't go far enough to say that the members of the IBLC are appalled by Sen. Zay's remarks,” State Rep. Cherris Pryor of Indianapolis wrote on behalf of the caucus last week. “Or that we are stunned that he has yet to apologize for them. Or that we are shocked that he had the astounding bad taste to hide behind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he did try and explain himself.”

Pryor said that Zay's words reflect “a shocking trend in our country that has risen in the past couple of years. It is keyed on the belief that those who have played a larger role in perpetuating racism in our society now believe they are the ones who are the most oppressed.”

In a statement to the Plain Dealer on Monday, Zay said he is “certainly willing to sit down with members of the IBLC.” He said he's currently in the process of reaching out to the caucus to arrange a meeting.

The caucus was reacting to a February 2015 Facebook conversation in which Zay wrote that “racism is not real” while debating affirmative action, which Zay described as discriminatory against white men.

He tried to clarify his comments after the conversation was made public last week.

“Racism is not a topic that should be taken lightly, and I should have been more careful with my words in the discussion that has been posted online by others,” Zay said in a statement, calling his full remarks “part of a much broader discussion on the American Dream.”

“I believe every Hoosier and every person should be treated equally regardless of race,” he said. “I agree with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that all people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

Pryor, who chairs the IBLC, called the incident a possible “teaching moment,” and invited Zay to meet with IBLC members to talk about hate crimes, diversity training and other issues.

“Beyond that, the members of the IBLC would like to invite Sen. Zay to meet with us and talk about his remarks,” she wrote. “Better yet, we welcome him to come to our districts and meet with the folks who live and work here. Talk to people, understand their experiences, and you will get the chance to see how wrong it is to say 'racism is not real.'”