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STATE: TEXAS RACISM
Groups Seek to Break Old Molds and Solve Age Old Racist Issues/ Attitudes
Lone Star Power Pages
FORT WORTH- Coming to grips with race issues takes courage, guts, courage and a lot of hard swallowing.
Some Texas cities and counties are cutting new trails and taking bold new steps to do just that.
In Waller County, African-Americans and White leaders are planning a summit on race relations to open up discussions on breaking down race barriers.
“For years, issues of race have been a problem,” said Prairie View Mayor Frank Jackson. “This negative image has hurt business and our ability to attract business to the county.”
According to Jackson, the issues are long overdue and needed for the future economic growth and survival of the county and its citizens.
Waller County has a long history of racial problems.
Black activists and the county squared off over the final resting place of a white woman who has been killed in the county. She would have been the first known white person buried in a black cemetery in Waller County.
Some Whites did not want her buried in a Black cemetery and had a White funeral home make final arrangements. That controversy sparked a federal lawsuit against the city of Hempstead that forced the city to integrate its public cemeteries.
In 2006, the Texas Attorney General investigated claims that the rights of black voters were violated. Earlier this year, students at historically black Prairie View A&M University protested to bring attention to racially motivated voting problems in Waller County.
According to some in the Black community, the county appears trapped in the 19th Century, especially on issues of race, voting rights, education and criminal justice.
“We recognize the need to change things around here,” Jackson said. “No one wants to come here when a community has these kinds of racial issues and problems.”
The dialog will involve city mayors, county commissioners, school board members and members of the business and education community.
“This is the beginning,” Jackson said. “Coming together and working together will help us open needed dialog, deal with it and get the issues resolved.”
Soon to be dubbed home of America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, the city of Arlington took steps to be just that by facing the monster living in nearly every small Texas city and formed the Arlington Comes Together Commission (ACTC).
It is sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department, the local NAACP chapter and the city.
The group will work on ways to improve race relations and hone solutions to specific race and equality issues in the city and offer suggestions to the Mayor Cluck and the city council that will ease tensions over those issues.
Arlington, a city of 360,000, is about 17.4 percent black. There are no black council members currently serving in city government.
Two main issues facing Arlington deal with Black representation on the council and school board and the resentment of some residents who oppose African-Americans moving into their traditionally White neighborhoods.
Some in the group supported the idea of single-member council districts as a way to level the playing field and give minority communities more voice and representation on actions and issues in the city.
There is also a lack of African-Americans serving on boards and commissions in the city.
The ACTC was formed in part in response to a racial terrorism incident last November that involved the severe attack and beating of Silk Littlejohn, an African-American woman by a white woman allegedly upset over Blacks moving into the neighborhood.
The attack sparked an outpouring of Black support from church leaders, activists and others who joined together and the formed End Racism in Arlington Movement (ERA) that pressured to city to recognize the problems and take action immediately to unite the city and come up with solutions for the racism affecting race relations the city.
Other issues deemed targets to improve race relations in the city and also to be studied by the commission are finding ways to provide better public transportation and raising academic standards in schools for all students