Whatever you might think of Fort Worth resident Jacqueline Craig or police Officer William Martin, they have taught us a valuable lesson.
They have shown us how little we know about each other in Fort Worth, and how awful we are at listening to each other, and how little we open our hearts to each other.
Craig was a mother worried about her 7-year-old son. Martin was a police officer responding to a disturbance call who lost his composure and sense of proportion.
The debate over Craig’s arrest has taught us how easy it is for some white Fort Worth residents to tune out the concerns of minority residents or women, and how some minority residents seek reconciliation but often find racial prejudice and frustration.
That’s why Fort Worth is launching a city task force on race and culture. Three business leaders and a faith leader will appoint about 20 more members to work in partnership with the National League of Cities Race Equity and Leadership program (REAL).
Co-chairs Lillie Biggins, Rabbi Andrew Bloom, Rosa Navejar and former Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders will begin the task of hosting community meetings with consultant Estrus Tucker to locate racial and cultural disparities that remain in Fort Worth. Then the task force will make recommendations.
We know there is work to be done. Sixty years after desegregation and more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, inequities remain in Fort Worth, and old resentments have boiled over to affect present-day feelings.
An NLC report found that city leaders were slow to respond to the concerns raised by Craig’s arrest, a painful symbol of disrespect for both minority residents and women. (When city leaders responded, some seemed more concerned about city personnel leaking a video.)
Even the much-discussed “Fort Worth way” of doing business has become a symbol to some of glossed-over racism and disregard for minority concerns instead of the equality, mutual respect and love of freedom shared by our Western pioneers.
It’s important to remember that Fort Worth was founded by white and African-American families who built a city around the Latino traditions of the vaquero (“buckaroo”), the lariat, the bronco and the rodeo.
From the very beginning in Fort Worth, we have all been in this together. We must learn to stay together.