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HAWKINS: That's just the way it is or was, we hope - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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HAWKINS: That's just the way it is or was, we hope

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Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 12:00 am

The other day, as I was re-listening to all of my favorite Bruce Hornsby tunes, I remembered that he wrote a lot about the oppression of African-Americans in the South. Songs like “The Way It Is,” and “Fire on the Cross,” paint pictures of racism, strife and suffering.

“The Way It Is,” Hornsby’s masterpiece about how for years folks just accepted racial inequality as the status quo.

As Black History Month gets under way, I realize we have come a long way, but we still may have work to do. I recall all of all of the racial issues I have covered as a reporter and surprisingly, there have been a few too many. Remnants of racial inequality are still sprinkled across Texas in little towns like Stephenville, Brownwood and Hico.

While listening to “Fire on the Cross,” a song about the Klu Klux Klan and their practice of cross burning, pillaging, white supremacy and hate, I was reminded of a hot day in Stephenville in March of 2007 when the Traditional Christian Knights of the KKK of San Angelo showed up for a rally. It was a disturbing day indeed.

It all started that January when a celebration held by Lamda Chi Alpha at Tarleton State University made the national news after photos of the students went viral on the Internet. The photos showed students dressed as Aunt Jemima and other black stereotypes eating fried chicken and drinking malt liquor from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags.

“We wanted the students to know we stand behind them and we feel like they were railroaded,” the Grand Wizard Roger Davidson told me.

There were over 200 members of law enforcement both surrounding and inside two chain link fences that circled the Erath County Courthouse as about 300 spectators watched and listened as the Grand Wizard and fellow KKK spewed racial slurs through a bullhorn. But the hate spewing was overshadowed by the hundreds who attended the rally and hollered at the Klan members to “go home.”

“We love our race and our people,” the de-hooded Davidson told me that day. “We’re not a hate group, we’re here to show our American pride.”  

A fight broke out in the crowd a few feet away from me, between an anti-Klan person and a pro-Klan person. It was a riot. Three non-Klan folks were arrested for unruly behavior. Go figure.

But thankfully, on the same day, others were holding unity rallies to bring the community together. That helped the healing begin.

Five years earlier in 2002 in Brownwood, Sons of Confederate Veterans tried to force the county to display the “other,” Confederate flag over the courthouse. A vehement fight ensued between the organization and members of the community with Brown County commissioners finally agreeing only to display the flag in the county’s museum.

But healing has begun there too. In Brownwood, folks from a local organization are renovating the Hardin School, the city’s segregated all-black school until the early 1960s.

And Hico, in Hamilton County, long thought of as the seat of the KKK in Texas, is trying to change its image. One of the most popular restaurants changed its name from the Koffee Kup Kafe (formerly known as a meeting place for Klansmen) to the Koffee Kup Family Restaurant.

I wasn’t here in 1982 when the Ector County Independent School district was ordered to comply with federal desegregation laws passed nearly 30 years prior in 1954. But I did go to school here and saw the inequality first hand. But the tides have turned here too, finally.

So as we march forward, I hope Hornsby’s words ring true in the future “…that’s just the way it is…some things will never change…ah but don’t you believe them…”


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