Honor Black history with action: Sen. César Blanco
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This weekend marks the end of Black History Month. For the past four weeks, we've learned about, celebrated, and honored the contributions to our state and country by African-Americans. We've shared the stories and the progress made by prominent figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and the other leaders of the Civil Rights movement. The black and white photographs and grainy speech recordings make the discrimination and the injustice they fought against appear ancient– remnants of a bygone era.
We have seen that it is not a thing of the past.
Sadly, Confederate Heroes Day is still a state holiday in Texas. The holiday was created in 1973 to consolidate the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, both state holidays.
Confederacy memorials are a feature of the Texas Capital. In 2018, Representative Eric Johnson spearheaded the effort to remove a plaque from the Capitol that said the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.” Each day I pass by one of the remaining Confederate memorials as I walk into the State Capitol.
Last year we continued to see the murder of Black people at an alarming rate. This past week marked one year since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. In a few weeks, it will be one year since Breonna Taylor was murdered. Last May, a police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Those tragedies culminated with people taking to the streets across the country in peaceful protest.
This legislative session members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus filed the George Floyd Act to address the injustices that George Floyd experienced at the hands of police officers at the end of his life, and that black people experience routinely. This bill provides reforms to hold police officers accountable. It also would ban chokeholds, bars arrest for non-jailable, fine-only violations, and requires duty for officers to intervene in instances of excessive force. It also calls for the creation of a clear, progressive disciplinary matrix. This is the top priority of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. I support them and will do everything I can to help enact these reforms.
Representative Jarvis Johnson filed a bill to abolish Confederate Heroes Day, a bill he filed last session, but was not able to get a vote in committee. A bill has also been filed to remove Confederate monuments from the Capitol grounds. I stand united with my Black colleagues as we move forward to have our Capitol building be more inclusive for all Texans by removing symbols of oppression and racism.
Currently, Texas has laws on the books that allow racist deed restrictions to prevent homeownership for African-Americans and was a tool to keep neighborhoods segregated. These racist deed restrictions have not been enforceable since the late 1960s, however the law that allowed deed restrictions remain in our statutes. The Legislature needs to take legislative steps to remove racist restrictions from real estate deeds.
To combat injustice, we have to recognize that something is wrong with our policies and that there are structural bias and discrimination against people of color. But recognizing is not enough. We must be proactive and recommit to righting the wrongs that are rooted from America's slave trade. On August 3rd El Paso was victim of a racist domestic terrorist. In the insurrection at our Nation's capitol on January 6, 2021, white supremacists paraded the Confederate flag in our Nation's capitol for the first time in our country's history. Domestic terrorism poses a persistent threat. Racially motivated terrorism by white supremacists and the white nationalist is currently the most violent active type of domestic terrorism. I will file legislation this session to combat domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
Let us recommit to fighting injustice everywhere. It is our turn to carry the torch. These issues are not new. The time for talking is done. The Texas Legislature needs to act now to right the wrongs and honor Black history with action.
César J. Blanco is State Senator for District 29.