It is time for Blacks in Texas to go to work!
Charles O’neal | 3/17/2014, 9:38 a.m.
Black Texas – to say nothing of Black America – is at a crossroad that we have never encountered. To be sure, we have seen harsh treatment based solely on race. We have overcome “legal” repression of the electoral franchise. We’ve weathered depression, recession, market correction, unemployment, underemployment and over-incarceration.
What we’ve never seen before is life in a state with the second-largest Black population in the nation. As of 2010, Texas trailed Florida by only 30,000 Black residents. At the current rate of in-migration, Texas will easily surpass Florida well before the next census in 2020. Unfortunately – thanks to efficient Republican gerrymandering – this meteoric influx of Black residents (concentrated primarily around Dallas and Harris counties) has not and will not result in increased representation at the federal, state or local levels.
So … what are we to do? Great question! Because the conundrum of Black representation is obscured by a concurrent increase in Hispanic population, we are left with not only the failure of equitable representation, but we are faced with the inability to even have our voices heard.
A couple of things are within our power to influence – and change – our dilemma. One, the tried-and-true activism of the civil rights era must be employed. We’ve “disremembered” much of the strategy that laid the framework for the gains achieved through pressure, but there’s no denying that showing up en masse and filing lawsuits got the attention of both the powers-that-be and the body politic. We must recapture the spirit of civil disobedience and the willingness to challenge the (il)legality of the forces arrayed against us.
Secondly – and most important – we have to use every outlet available to convince Black Texans that it is more than all right – it is imperative – that we voice at every opportunity the inequity we face. The Black Press, Facebook, twitter, letters to the editor, letters to state representatives, senators, members of Congress, and to the president have to become hourly, daily, weekly ammunition in the fight.
Fight, you say? Absolutely! Even tea partiers acknowledge that taxation without representation is un-American! And in Texas, there is no group that better illustrates what happens when presence in the population doesn’t equate to presence in legislative bodies, from city hall to the state Capitol.
Economic disparity is easy to demonstrate. Right now the state of Texas spends less than 2 percent of its budget with Black-owned businesses, while we represent nearly 14 percent of the population and over 7 percent of the businesses in the state. Virtually all of the legislation passed in the last two decades to support increased utilization of “minority” businesses was passed due to the unyielding advocacy of Black legislators. Similar measures in Dallas, Houston and other urban hubs have at least attempted to challenge status quo procurement policies that effectively bar Black businesses from participation. There is no governmental body in Texas where Black Texans earn commensurate with our taxpayer contribution or presence in the population.