councilman Kurt Young has long been a local force for
fighting injustices perpetrated against disadvantaged
people, his work has always seemed to fly under the radar,
that is the nature of warfare against systems, the unseen
but formidable forces that not only determine the choices of
powerful policymakers, but which also shape the decisions of
those who are directly affected by those policies.
two of our conversation, Young, a candidate for one of six
at large council seats in the November 7 election, talks
about fighting the often-faceless evil of racism.
What are your thoughts on what many believe to be the racial
Are you talking about in Toledo or are you talking about
Iím talking about both, because in my opinion, what we see
elsewhere on television or in the news leaves residual
effects in Toledo.
Absolutely. And I mean, for instance, some folks tried to
make the outcome of the primary about race, saying that the
Democrats of color are on the inside looking out at the
folks who are not of color while the other three Democrats
are on the outside looking in. I donít buy that.
Harvey Savage has done a lot in this community and is well
known, as was his father. Harvey did what he needed to do
to be where he is at right now. Gary Johnson has done a lot
in this community and ran a very good campaign and I know
because we worked together. We knocked on doors together
and he got where he was by hard work and doing the right
moves. I donít think the reason he finished higher than me
is because he is a person of color and Iím not. I think
that Iím the unknown quantity and I had to work hard and so
do Sam [Melden] and Nick [Komives] have to work hard.
question that [racism] is out there, people have this crazy
notion that color and race arenít around anymore, that
racism was dead but itís still here. Institutional racism is
still here, weíve got a ton of work to do and I want to keep
working on that whether Iím former Councilman Young or
When you say Ďworking on,í I assume that you are talking
about structural or systemic racism. Right or wrong?
Well, Iím talking about institutional racism. Iím also
talking about just one-on-one people getting to know each
other. My parents took this attitude and weíve taken this
attitude with our kids also. My parents wanted me to have a
variety of friends and they had a variety of friends so that
you canít turn a kid into a bigot if you show them that here
are friends who are gay, here are our friends who are people
of color, so that you get that experience of them having
friends and you having friends. You canít turn a child into
a bigot that way, at least I hope not. And I think weíve
raised two kids that love what they see as far as diversity,
but weíve also got to work on the institutional end of
got a court system that still has issues. Weíve still got a
struggle with our police department. Weíve got to work with
that in our educational system. There are just so many
fronts - healthcare for instance where we seeÖ
The social determinants of health? The disparities?
The disparities, yes, absolutely. I mean, I personally am of
every privilege you can think of. Iím white, Iím Christian,
Iím Cisgender, Iím straight, Iím a professional, I came from
a middleclass family, got to go to a really good law school,
and yeah I had to take out a bunch of student loans to do
it, but they gave me student loans. So other than wealth, I
come from every advantage there is. Weíve got to work on,
again, the economic disparity, the racial disparity, the
educational disparity. We deal with things every day, for
instance, in my practice the Bureau of Workerís Comp thinks
that everybody has access to a computer and high speed
internet and itís like Ďwhoa guys, timeout, not everybody
does.í Not everybody has a smart phone. So weíve got lots
of work to do just to make sure that weíre not excluding
people or dealing with them unjustly based on something like
Just a couple more things. One issue that has plagued the
African American community has been the level, if not the
high profile, of violence in the inner city.
I absolutely saw the issue on Facebook the other day. And
Iíve actually seen the violence from a block away because
coming inÖwe live in the Old West End and coming into my
home, two young men whipped out guns and emptied the clips
at each other and so Iíve seen that firsthand.
How do we address the violence? I mean people are meeting
daily. There are discussions on the 22nd floor, 21st floor.
All of the above.
Yet the violence seems to continue unabated.
And I wish I had some magic bit of wisdom thatís just the
missing piece here. I mean, again, Iíve marched in the
2-Mile March to End Gang Violence. My wife Cheri used to do
the prayer vigils every time somebody got shot or stabbed or
victimized in any way by violence and went to them. Weíve
got to do something from a systemic as well as on all kinds
of fronts. Some of the problem is income or poverty. I sat
there once in law school with a group of grad students and
we were trying to figure out what the common denominator is.
A pretty good law school, Case Western, and we had law
students, med students, business students, museum science
students, we were trying to figure out what got us to grad
school, what was the common denominator, and we couldnít
us went to public school, some of us private, some came from
wealth, some of us were there on scholarships or on loans,
all kinds of family setups from aunts and grandmothers
raising people to the perfect nuclear family with 2.4 kids
and mom and dad and all that stuff. The common denominator
was that there was an adult who cared about us showing up at
school, that we actually went, that we had - however they
did it - the clothes on our back, the food in our belly.
got to have more support for those who are raising kids.
Weíve got to have more opportunities for kids to do
constructive things. None of these are an easy fix. After
school tutoring enrichmentís great, but youíve got to put
food in the belly, youíve got to make sure somebodyís making
sure the homeworkís happening, youíve got to get kids to
show up and then even thatís still not a guarantee that
weíre not going to have that, but itísÖitís all of the
above. Weíve got to work on supporting families. Weíve got
to give kids activities. Weíve got to have some kind of
economic development so thereís something besides drugs and
a gang for belonging in a future.
also got a culture where weíre throwing away - not just a
generation, but now multiple generations where they are
disposable. I mean, look at the video from that. Nobody
called for help. Now, is it because they donít trust whoís
going to show up or is it because they donít care or a
combination? I donít know. There are so many things to do.
I wish I had a magic answer.
those things we have to work on and as a good liberal, a
respect for life, you can be prochoice and still say all
lives matter and I donít mean that as being black lives
matter because I do think that thatís something we have to
work on. I hear these all lives matter people speak and
itís like yeah, but black lives matter isnít saying just
black lives matter, theyíre just saying that at like five
times the rate or more, men and women of color are dying and
so can we focus on this right now? The house is on fire
over here, we donít need to take care of all the houses
right now, letís go take care of this house first. That
doesnít mean the other houses donít matter, letís just put
the fire out.
All lives canít matter if black lives donít matter.
Right. Cheri was one of the speakers when we hit the rally
after Trayvon Martin. Now again, my son can wear a hoodie
and probably go and get skittles and an iced tea without
being harassed by somebody in a neighborhood watch kind of
thing, but if I donít care about Trayvon Martin, how do I
make sure my sonís safe? So I donít have an easy answer, I
wish I did.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at