Opinion: The Injustice of Racism must End in my Hometown
July 6, 2020
I have been thinking a lot about my hometown of Levelland Texas. With my recent retirement, I have been writing stories about my personal and family history of growing up in Levelland. Though I’ve been gone for 42 years, there is not a day I have not thought about Levelland and wished I could be there. I love my hometown. I love my friends and family still there. I love my memories of growing up there. But though I am white, I am sad today for my hometown and for its Black citizens. Like almost every ex-pat from Levelland I heard about the recent racist incident involving the current mayor of Levelland. Trying to inform myself, I read all I could on line and watched the video of the meeting with the mayor and Black citizens several times. I am not writing to judge the personhood, faith, or intent of anyone, including the mayor, but I feel compelled to add my voice in regard to the observable information I have seen.
First, in reading the original Facebook post by the mayor, it is painfully clear to me that the post itself is overtly racist. It implies that if only Black folks work hard (implying they don’t work hard) then they can make something of themselves, which implies they are really no one to begin with. That post glosses over the last 400 years of racial discrimination and violence Black folks have known in this country and suggests everyone has equal opportunity; that education, banking, policing and jobs are free from discrimination. They are not. Anyone who will take the time to listen to Black stories, who will read diverse Books on the Black experience, especially as written by Black authors, can begin to understand the depths of racism in this country. But even more directly, anyone who will look deeply into their own soul will find racist thoughts and find racial – white privilege there. It’s in all of us, we all live in a racist society, founded partly on white supremacy. This includes me. Though I grew up memorizing Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches and never wanted to be racist, the instincts were and are in me. It is a life- long and moment to moment process for all of us to understand and work to eliminate racism from our lives. It is white privilege to not have to think about race much at all and just believe you are colorblind, but this is impossible, we see color like it or not, so the solution is to understand how our vision and hearts are all colored. Only then can we begin to take- action to grow in justice and love, in-spite of our racist world.
Second, the post itself appears to be a scam, made up in 2014 to promote racist views of our world, and given how easily and without awareness the mayor said that she shared the post (from the meeting video), it seems the post has worked for far too many people who can’t or won’t admit the racism it shares. This is another example of white privilege – us white people have not had to think of our race regarding anything we do, including what we post on Facebook. Race was never a consideration for me going to school in Levelland, no one ever called me such racial slurs as were listed in the post the mayor shared. I know for a fact not all of my Black colleagues from my school years had it so easy. And now, here we are today, amidst technology that often uncovers a lot of the racism that has been so present but hidden from the view of many white people. Here we are in a world where George Floyd and countless others cannot breathe and so suffer and die without justice; we can no longer turn a blind eye.
Third, though it seemed that the mayor did apologize and felt sorrow during the meeting with Black citizens, it was equally clear that she did not understand how deeply (400 years deep) that she hurt people and how broken the trust now is. Just my observations from watching the video several times: The mayor talked more than she listened, that is not a way to understanding nor does it show effective community leadership; it looked to me that the mayor made little eye contact when citizens were speaking, but tended to look down and even nodded her head indicating disagreement as others spoke, a strong sign she was not fully present to the pain and concerns of Black citizens. She justified her actions by saying “everyone makes mistakes.” This is, perhaps, the epitome of white privilege: the unwillingness to acknowledge when our actions harm people of color, to step aside, to listen, to grow, and to recognize that our unwillingness to do so perpetuates harm. Finally, when asked to resign, after the entire meeting was over, the mayor flatly, and in my opinion coldly and defiantly, said NO. Forgiveness is not the right call here, understanding and corrective action as requested by those harmed is. Faith without works is dead as I recall. I believe this to be true. Real forgiveness can only come when the wrong has been righted to the extent possible.
I wish the mayor would reconsider. Genuine leadership is leadership for all the peoples one has responsibility to. The broken trust is likely to never be healed and will of necessity be passed along to the next generation; and so effective leadership is now impossible. If the mayor really cares about the entire community and being faithful to the calling of leadership, then she should resign immediately. With courage, out of failure can come correction, growth, and possibly reconciliation in time. If she does not resign, I hope the recall effort now underway is successful though given the racial divide in the country and in Levelland it will be an uphill battle and I’m sure the mayor knows this. She may be able to hold onto power, but the only action that will restore the soul of the community and allow Levelland to make a positive step toward justice is for her to resign. The choice for the mayor is simple: choose selfish power or responsible justice.
As for other steps, I hope all citizens, ex-pats, and concerned others who understand the seriousness of this violation of official trust will contact the mayor’s office and call for her resignation. I hope all the Levelland ex-pats I know will join me in speaking out, call the mayor’s office, write editorial letters for Levelland, Lubbock or any other newspapers, share social media posts to show solidarity with the Black citizens of our beloved hometown and raise awareness of this event nationwide, encourage any media you have contacts with (on-line, print, TV) to do investigations and stories. Love will rise over hate only if we will act. And actions matter in times like these.
Terry M. Pace, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
Levelland High School, 1976
South Plains College, 1978