Other Voices

City must take race, culture task force report seriously

Race and Culture Task Force makes final recommendations to City Council

On Tuesday, members of the Fort Worth Race and Culture Task Force presented its recommendations for racial equity to the city council. Presiding co-chair Rosa Navejar said she was pleased to see the council's receptiveness of the group's suggestions.
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On Tuesday, members of the Fort Worth Race and Culture Task Force presented its recommendations for racial equity to the city council. Presiding co-chair Rosa Navejar said she was pleased to see the council's receptiveness of the group's suggestions.

Once Fort Worth took pride in the fact that it did not “look like Dallas” when it came to equity and civil rights issues.

But recently this axiom seems no longer true.

Many would say that a growing dissatisfaction has lain just below the surface for years, and thus, in the present uncivil environment, it was bound to surface.

One of the major concerns is the perception and, in truth, the reality that most African-American “millennials” don’t see our city as a place where they can get ahead. For example, they see few of their group being mentored for places of influence in the business and civic communities.

The evidence of this is that most area businesses can’t retain their high-level minority employees – within a two- to three-year period, they leave Fort Worth. And even when they work here, many choose not to live here.

The chief complaint is lack of upward mobility options, something Fort Worth has wrestled with for years. When you look around the corporate suite positions here, there’s little reflection of the minority community. For example, there are more than 20 banks in Fort Worth and there are no (or very few) African-Americans on their boards.

Then there is the uninviting and subtle “stay-in-your-place” attitude, demonstrated in part by what has taken place in the West 7th Street area. The fact that we are still having charges of racial discrimination in public accommodations – issues some of us dealt with more than 30 years ago – is a blight on Fort Worth’s image as a city that “welcomes diversity.”

It also is clear to many that strong African-American administrators in non-elected positions are not as valued as their white counterparts in our city. The latest example of that is Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald who finds himself between a rock and a hard place, especially considering the no-confidence vote from the Fort Worth Police Officers Association (an organization that never fully embraced diversity) and a possible premature exit to Baltimore.

The question arises: How bad can it be in Fort Worth that a police chief would consider leaving and going to Baltimore, of all places? Not to disparage Baltimore, but tensions in that city can also run high.

It seems apparent there has been miscommunication between the chief and the city manager’s office, which may be due to the fact that the chief reports to an assistant city manager as opposed to the city manager himself. We would recommend that the City Council consider restructuring that reporting process, whether the chief stays or goes.

Even the recent editorial cartoon, “Field Guide to Liberals,” published in this newspaper Oct. 18 – a cartoon for which the paper was compelled to apologize – is symptomatic of the racial divide that still exists in our city.

Yes, Fort Worth has a problem. We pray that the recommendations submitted by the city’s Task Force on Race and Culture will be taken seriously through action and not just rhetoric. After all, the many protests we’ve seen over the past two years can be expected to continue as long as the city fails to address the disparities that we’ve overlooked for far too long.

Now is the time for action.

Pastor Sultan Cole is chairman of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce. Estella Williams is president of the Fort Worth NAACP. Coletta Strickland is president of the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Minority Leaders and Citizens Council.
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