Media / White Lies The phrase “institutional racism” came into being to describe a phenomenon so endemic that it encapsulated a society. A lot of whites don’t believe institutional racism exists. They would. In Texas, racism fits like a second skin, and one place it fits tightest of all is in the media. In case you haven’t noticed, the media, despite claims to objectivity, are so constricted by the pro-establishment, i.e., racist point of view they don’t even realize their loss of perception. This is not intended by way of revelation, but as a reminder. Just like Miami is a reminder. Here are two recent examples of racism in Texas newspapers, parts not so much of a conscious pattern as an unconscious disease: Austin American-Statesman, May 26. The AmericanStatesman, which has become increasingly conservative, ran on its editorial page a cartoon from the Miami News about the riots. In the cartoon, two black men, garbed like some honky’s view of black radicals, stood before the smoldering wreckage of upturned automobiles and burned-out storefronts. One said, “Tell me again why we burned down all those businesses.” The second replied, “Because of jobs, man! We need jobs!!” Get it? Those dumb niggers fouled their own nest! How stupid can you get? I mean, if you need jobs why hurt the businesses that could give you them? Haven’t we had enough of that? Riots, as everyone knows, start in the areas of the victims precisely because the victims have so very little they have nothing to lose and because those areas have largely been written off by the power structure and the police anyway. That’s true in Miami or Watts or Newark or Detroit or Soweto or London. Pundits such as Mr. Wright the cartoonist or the editors at the Statesman who fail to understand the desperation that leads people to tear down their own communities simply sustain and validate the sources of anger and violence. The callousness of such a cartoon moves Miami a lot closer to Austin. Dallas Times Herald, May 25. On the front page, the Times Herald, easily the best paper in Texas, succumbed to the oldest and worst type of racism condescension. A story by writer Mary Barrineau profiled Dallas City Councilmember Elsie Faye Heggins in precisely the kind of “uppity” mold that works so well in North Texas. “A large, loud black woman” was the reader’s introduction to Ms. Heggins, the first real black nonOreo Dallas has had on its governing council. That description and much of the ensuing portrayal of Heggins was derived from that great observer of humanity, former Mayor Wes Wise, who didn’t like Heggins mau-mauing him and the council back in the 70s, before she was a member. Seems as if she might’ve actually called ole Wes a M–F—-. But Wise is later described as saying that despite Heggins’ “unsophistication” she’s really pretty smart. Smart, but not refined. With no reference to Heggins’ version of the matter, the article implies that she is somehow guilty of a kind of disloyalty to the behind-doors chumminess of the council. Actually, in public, she accused the Dallas police of murdering blacks. The other council members were appalled in Dallas one doesn’t want to excite the natives. Council member Steve Bartlett called Heggins’ remarks “rhetoric,” and “outrageous,” presumably because he chooses not to believe they are true. The article winds down on the jump page with the old balancing act, a technique journalists use to make a gut job look like a pat on the back. Even here, racism is apparent, as in a sentence about black activist Al Lipscomb, a friend of Heggins. He’s described as “once considered an upstart black renegade because of his aggressive rebellion . . .” Upstart? By what reference? As for Heggins, the entire slant of the article has created for us another black stereotype the brash, “upstart” ex-maid less has a feel for . . . oh, you know . . . her people. Maybe someday we’ll see a patronizing piece about Bobby Folsom. He represents his people, too. But he’s not brash, he’s gutsy. He’s not loud, he’s forceful. He’s not phillistine, he’s mannered. White manners. White values. White lies. And when that piece about Folsom, or other white council members, comes, maybe it’ll be entitled, “Bobby,” because, sho-nuff, the head on the Heggins profile was “Elsie Faye.” Can you say, “Elsie Faye?” As in, “Elsie Faye, you must calm down now.” Or, “Elsie Faye, is that coffee ready yet?” Davis Advance/ . from page 2 Here we approach a question that had better get resolved right up front. Racism. If Hispanics can rely on a base representing 20 percent of the population, why is it that the standard bearers in liberal causes always turn out to be Anglos seeking Hispanic support? The pragmatists argue pragmatism a Mexican-American can’t win a major state office. But pragmatism isn’t good enough, because the basis of the pragmatic response is recognition of and alliance with racism. Consideration should be given to fielding an Hispanic candidate for governor or attorney general or comptroller or U.S. senator in 1982, 1984 and beyond. Shouldn’t the same coalition of populists being proclaimed these days also be available for welding behind an Hispanic?. Or a black? Reform is not the exclusive province of Anglos in Texas. Percolating a new attitude toward democratic change in Texas, based on the strength of the Mexican-American voter, is also going to require some hard thinking among Hispanics. Who will become the candidates? Who can perform the political magic necessary to convince Anglos that Hispanics have the same political leadership as presumed obligation to political endorsement? This must be an Hispanic decision, but Anglos, blacks, Jews, and other liberals can help by opening their horizons, looking and listening beyond the hard-shell stereotypes that permeate attitudes toward the so-called Mexican-American community. Whoever talks about the “Anglo community?” This is a community for us all. Liberals need to spend the most time thinking about this because it is the liberal \(or populist or whatever inadequate tag which has the most to gain from a multi-ethnic politics. Liberals have also been the biggest hypocrites and still are. Down here you can still feel the warmth of Mexico less than two centuries vanished; you can also feel the tug of the old plantations to the Southeast. If there is to be a new politics in Texas this decade, our strengths must grow from resolving these memories. We must move in our new ranks toward the point of our historical unification, economic democracy. 8 JUNE 6, 1980
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