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Saturday, August 04, 2018 1:00 am

State black caucus seeks forum with Zay on race

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus expressed disappointment in Huntington Sen. Andy Zay on Friday and invited him to meet with them to discuss racism.

Zay has been on the hot seat this week after a three-year-old Facebook discussion surfaced in which he said “racism is not real” and “the biggest minority class in America is the white male.”

He was a township official at the time having a private conversation with a constituent that touched on a variety of topics.

“It doesn't go far enough to say that the members of the IBLC are appalled by Sen. Zay's remarks,” said Rep. Cherrish Pryor, chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. “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.

“What this demonstrates once again is 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 large role in perpetuating racism in our society now believe they are the ones who are the most oppressed.”

On Monday, Zay told The Journal Gazette that he “should have been more careful” with his words.

“My remarks were 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.”

In the original conversation, Zay laments multiple times that white men aren't offered the same opportunities as minorities – referring to affirmative action programs.

Pryor invited Zay to join with members of the black caucus next session in passing a hate crimes law in Indiana.

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

The IBLC includes members in the House and Senate.