As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is perception.
Columnist Cynthia Allen wrote on Friday that those urging the Fort Worth City Council join the lawsuit against Senate Bill 4 may have a perception problem. She proposed we not jump to the conclusion that on Sept. 1, Fort Worth police will start racially profiling folks they stop.
She supported this position with the assertion we don’t know what the results will be and perhaps the SB 4 naysayers are overreacting — a case of misperception.
All of us perceive the world based on our real-life experiences, filtered through formal and informal education, family, culture, values, and biases. In Allen’s case, she speaks from a perception known as white privilege.
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Here are real- life examples:
My wife and I shopped for a new home in Kennedale. As we walked up to the model house, the white, male sales agent out front told us we couldn’t afford to live in that addition. We had seen the price range sign and knew we could. The sales agent perceived that based on our skin color, we couldn’t. Or, if it was more sinister — he was a racist who worried his chances of selling the homes to whites would be more difficult if they realized Latinos would be their neighbors, regardless the size of my bank account. My misperception?
Shortly before the SB 4 march to City Hall started, a white activist began to speak to me in English about the route. When I nodded, he switched to Spanish and introduced an African-American ally. Although I appreciated his attempt to communicate, he perceived my nod or Indian features meant “no speaka da Inglish.” He didn’t realize I graduated with a B.A. in English and write books. My misperception?
The more troubling perception conundrum arises from our Mexican-American leaders’ acceptance of the white privilege narrative. In a University of Texas and University of North Carolina joint study reported by the Austin American-Statesman on Nov. 23, 2015, the findings showed that the Texas Department of Public Safety’s statistical monitoring of traffic stops was faulty and gave the incorrect impression that they treated drivers of different races equally. The researchers found the most common surnames of “whites” given citations were Smith, Garcia, Martinez, Rodriguez, and Hernández. Chief Luis González took offense at the insinuation of racial profiling. He was more concerned with the DPS’ reputation than the reality of “driving while black” or brown. My misperception?
The Star-Telegram quoted Rosa Navejar, a co-chair of the newly appointed city task force on race and culture, as stating “I love Fort Worth … The city has always accepted diversity. We need to work on building communities.” Did she forget the segregated schools, the fact that north side Latinos dared not cross over to the west side of North Main Street in fear of beatings, the fact that downtown department stores had white and “colored” fountains, the thousands of insults Latinos faced daily on their jobs or schools? My misperception?
Although Carlos Flores came around to join three other Fort Worth City Council members to support a SB 4 lawsuit, the Star-Telegram reported his position as undecided on July 31. A local white attorney told me at the SB 4 rally he went to school with Flores and knew that as an engineer, he was “nuanced” and needed to study the issue before a decision. I reminded him that Flores was raised on the north side, where his constituency is 70 percent Latino. I thought since he was a barrio Latino, he possessed firsthand understanding about how SB 4 could impact his supporters and family, and therefore, not hesitate. My misperception?
The real perception this issue has brought to light is that the Anglos on the Fort Worth City Council and mayor, except for Ann Zadeh, a California transplant, think that Latinos are politically weak and disorganized. They’ll tolerate hours of 10 and three-minute speeches into the wee hours, but have made it known they’ll not support a SB 4 lawsuit. One reality is strikingly true: Until Latinos vote in numbers reflecting their population, we’ll live with the whites’ perception of what constitutes good laws for safe communities. My misperception?
Allen, the mayor and the majority of the Fort Worth City Council must recognize how white privilege affects their perception.
I’ve been accused of playing the “race card.” Whites and their sympathizers of color have thrived economically, socially, and politically in this country because of their white dominant perceptions and power — that is their “Trump” race card.
To deny the reality of white privilege and its racist consequences is truly delusional. Or, perhaps, my misperception?
Richard J. Gonzales is a local activist, speaker, and author. He has lived, worked, researched, and written about Latino issues in North Texas for 48 years.