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Racism in North Texas

By Marisa Trevino, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX – Thirty-one years ago this spring, deep in the heart of Florida farm country, I came face to face with a sign of those times. Scrawled in large letters on a weather-beaten board, propped beside the rickety door of a local restaurant, which was really nothing more than a wooden shack battered by one too many hurricanes, glared the words "No Jews, No Blacks, No Mexicans Allowed."

My sister and I were following my mother, who was making a beeline for the restroom we all hoped was inside, when my mom spied the makeshift sign. I remember that her pace slowed as the meaning of the hateful words dawned on her. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Your sister and I can't go in there, but you can." I knew what she meant. Having an all-American, blue-eyed, blond-haired father and a dark-haired, brown-skinned Latina as a mother, it was a 50-50 chance who would be born inheriting which genes.

I looked at the sign and the dirty exterior of this so-called eating establishment and told my mother that I could wait. That if they couldn't go in, then neither would I. "They're probably illiterate rednecks!," I remember declaring loudly as we returned to the car.

It was a sign of those times. And now it appears that it wants to be a part of these times as well. So far, in the span of just four months, racism in the North Texas area has taken the forms of hate messages blanketing the Roman Catholic campus of Ursuline High School; the intentional torching of a black family's Mesquite home, with racial slurs left painted on the garage door; and the inexcusable behavior of some University of North Texas college fraternity members, who shouted insulting racial remarks to a group of visiting high school seniors and their parents.

Those many years ago, I chalked up the insult of that sign to the ignorance and lack of education of those perpetrators. I have come to realize, especially in the light of the University of North Texas incident, that - contrary to popular belief - education doesn't necessarily preclude racism. And that is a scary observation.

As the Dallas Morning News reported, University of North Texas student and witness to the incident Van Nguyen said, "Being in a institution of higher education, I thought the solution and cure to discrimination and racism is education; now that I am here, we need to work on it more than we have."

Unfortunately, for those people who see themselves as superior in every way because of the color of their skin, education alone does not benefit them. That they would have the gall to conduct themselves in such a public forum only signifies that they feel justified for believing the way they do. They fail to realize that what once was tolerated with a simple suspension or a slap on the wrist has evolved into an intolerable crime. Through their actions and words, they instilled intimidation and fear. It no longer is just racism; it is domestic terrorism.

The very ones who claim they want to keep these United States strong are the guilty for undermining that strength. They are not the saviors of the country as they would like to believe, but rather they have become the unenlightened educated. They know enough to read history, but fail to comprehend its meaning. Otherwise, they would know that what they are doing belongs in another time and place and should not be a part of the times we live in now.