Recent efforts by people of color to tell Fort Worth City Council what was in their own best interest fell on deaf ears. Even though Mayor Betsy Price and council representatives universally agreed Senate Bill 4 is problematic, the unified voices of citizens saying “this isn’t right” were ignored.
A federal judge has now temporarily blocked key provisions of the law. Yet the fact remains that the majority of Fort Worth’s elected officials have done nothing to defend the citizens they represent against it. They’ve offered residents nothing more than a promise to minimize the discriminatory law’s impact on our community. This commitment rings hollow in the absence of definitive and unequivocal condemnation that a law which institutionalizes racial profiling will not be tolerated in our city.
Although folks may not want to acknowledge it, SB4 has deep roots here. It was carried in the House by a key member of Fort Worth’s privileged power structure. Then it was allowed to stand without challenge by select members of our City Council — a decision in stark contrast to our large-city counterparts across the state. And that was done in a vote divided almost exclusively along lines of skin color. Perhaps this was simply an example of the local establishment closing ranks around one of its favored sons. There are some who would have us believe the division of council votes was merely coincidence or a reflection of ideology. But this theory is obtuse, naïve and destructive.
Racial injustice can be nuanced. It can be unintentional. And it can escape the eyes of those who are not its target. But simply because an action isn’t as egregious as white supremacists marching with torches, or as atrocious as Nazis annihilating millions of people, does not negate it as an act of discrimination. Bigotry in any form is bigotry. There are shades of skin color. But not of racism.
And when it comes to discrimination, there cannot be gradients of acceptance. There can only be a zero tolerance policy. In the same way that cancer multiplies unless killed, so do acts of racial bias. Cancer must be eradicated for its host to survive. Discrimination must be similarly exterminated for a community to thrive.
That’s why SB4 necessitates a strong response — more than a solution that merely minimizes the effects of its implementation. The partial injunction is a small victory. But the message sent to the Latino, immigrant and other diverse communities on Aug. 15 when the council voted against litigation has not been forgotten. It reinforced that a power structure exists where a handful of elite, largely Anglo, influencers decide what’s in the best interest of the community, including for its people of color.
A truly compassionate city is willing to do the hard work of recognizing its blind spots and where it can do better, even when that means admitting difficult truths. Mayor Price and the members of the City Council who chose to whitewash codified discrimination rather than meaningfully address it, as well as the new Race & Culture Task Force, should begin digging deep to answer some important questions. Why were the majority of Fort Worth’s elected officials willing to allow a discriminatory law to stand without a fight? And what actions will this city take to value and support its diverse communities moving forward?
The United Fort Worth Leadership Team: Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, Kasandra Fernandez, Norma Garcia-Lopez, Dylan L., Viridiana Moreno, Mindia Whittier. United Fort Worth is a nonpartisan, multicultural, interfaith grassroots coalition that increases civic engagement around issues that affect local quality of life.