County census data #3: More on racial/ethnic changes

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data releases from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I will present some of the demographic changes we see in McLennan County from 2010 to 2020. 

The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. The second post showed an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county. This post will expand on the racial/ethnic changes in McLennan County since 2010.

I made a series of maps that show us which parts of Waco have experienced growth and decline for some of the major racial and ethnic groups from 2010-2020, using census tract boundaries. For each of these maps, the orange areas showed decline for that group, while the green areas showed increases for that group. The black numbers represent the percentage of the residents in that tract who identify with that racial or ethnic group, according to 2020 census numbers. 

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Census Bureau advises caution when comparing the racial and ethnic composition of 2010 to that of 2020. According to their website, “data comparisons between the 2020 Census and 2010 Census race data should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the Hispanic origin and race questions and the ways we code what people tell us.”


The first map shows us Waco’s Latino population. Almost the entire map is green, indicating numerical growth in almost every census tract. “Percent Latino” declined in 4 census tracts, but increased everywhere else in the county. Even areas with a relatively small Latino population, such as China Spring, Speegleville, Woodway, and Hewitt, showed increases.


The next map shows Waco’s population who identify as White alone, non-Hispanic. It’s almost the complete opposite of the Hispanic map. Whereas the map of Latinos is almost entirely green, the map of Whites is almost entirely orange. Four census tracts in the interior of Waco show modest increases in percentage of the population that is White, but those are all tracts that already have a low percentage of Whites.

Everywhere else in the county shows declines in percentage of the population that is White. It should be noted that the orange areas do not necessarily represent a decline in the number of White people in that area, just a decline in the percentage of the population that is White. Many of the orange areas on each of these maps have more people in them from those groups, just a lower share of the population. It should also be noted that most of the orange areas on this map are a dark orange, indicating a decline of more than 5 percentage points since 2010.


The next map shows the growth and distribution of Black residents in Waco who identify as only Black, non-Hispanic. Unlike the maps for Latinos and Whites, this map shows a mixed story. The tracts are split evenly between those that show growth in percentage Black and those that show decline. East Waco showed a decline in percentage Black, but these areas are still the places in Waco with the highest percentage of African Americans.


The next map shows the growth and distribution of Asians in Waco, which includes folks who identify with East Asian cultures such as those of China and Korea, Southeast Asian cultures such as those of Vietnam and Indonesia, and South Asian cultures such as those of India and Pakistan. Similar to the story for Latinos, most of Waco has seen an increase in the percentage of residents who identify as Asian. Most of the areas of Central Waco have seen modest increases in percent Asian, though the numbers remain small. In most Waco census tracts, less than 2% of the residents are Asian. The notable exceptions include areas near Baylor University, and the Hewitt/Woodway areas.


The final map shows the percentage of Waco residents who identify with more than one racial identity. All areas have shown growth, and the shade of green shows the amount of growth for that census tract. The areas with the darkest shade of green, mostly within the city limits, have each seen increases of at least 10 percentage points. As I mentioned in the previous post, the increase in multiracial people is caused by 3 reasons.

  1. Improvements in the census questions allow for a more accurate count
  2. Reduced stigma for interracial couples has led to more pairings, and more biracial children
  3. Interracial people are more willing to identify as such than in the past

If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

County census data #2: Racial & ethnic population changes

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data released from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I am presenting some of the demographic changes we see in our county from 2010 to 2020. The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. This second post will show an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county.

The census website advises caution when comparing the racial and ethnic composition of 2010 to that of 2020. According to their website, “data comparisons between the 2020 Census and 2010 Census race data should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the Hispanic origin and race questions and the ways we code what people tell us.”

With that caveat in mind, from 2010 to 2020, the U.S. saw the most dramatic growth among two racial and ethnic groups: Latinos and multiracial people. The U.S. saw a 23% increase in Latinos, while the state of Texas saw a 21% increase in Latinos. In McLennan County, the Latino population increased by 23.6%, or an addition of 13,116 people. Multiracial Americans also saw significant growth throughout much of the United States. In McLennan County, multiracial people now make up 11.8% of the population, which is an increase of 428.6%.

The following table shows a more detailed racial and ethnic makeup for the county, in comparison to Texas and the entire U.S.

The tremendous growth of multiracial people is caused by multiple factors. The most obvious factor has to do with lessening stigma against interracial relationships. As we come to see more and more interracial pairings, we will have more biracial children being born.

Second, the Census Bureau has improved the way they ask the race/ethnicity question by creating two separate questions for race and ethnicity, which experts believe will provide a more accurate portrait of how people identify (this change is expected to also improve our count of Latinos in America).

Third, there is evidence that multiracial individuals are more willing to identify as such than in the past. For example, a person who has one Black parent and one Latino parent is now less likely to choose between those two identities, and more likely to identify as both.

The next post in this series will display maps that show where we have seen the growth and decline for specific racial/ethnic groups in Waco. If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Tell me … who doesn’t know Alfred Solano?

Special from

By Linda Crawford

You know those people who seem to know everybody, right? Alfred Solano is one of those people.

You have a fantastic idea and you want to introduce it to key people who can make it happen. Call Alfred Solano.

Alfred Solano speaks during Prosper Waco’s recent Waco Blueprint for Financial Empowerment meeting.

You need to meet people who can help you finish up a major project. No problem. Call Alfred Solano.

You simply want to meet certain leaders in the community, but you have no idea where to start. You guessed it. Call Alfred Solano.

Even if you need a good restaurant recommendation, just call Alfred Solano.

And think about it. How could he now know everybody? It seems that no organization is too large or too small for him to dedicate his time. His community activities are numerous and exceptionally diverse, like serving as chairman of the boards of Prosper Waco and Waco Family Medicine.

Ferrell Foster, who is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior specialist for care & communication with Prosper Waco, met Solano through his service on the Prosper Waco Board of Directors.

“Later,” explained Foster, “another local Hispanic leader invited me to a monthly luncheon at the Hispanic Chamber. Alfred called later to thank me for coming to the luncheon and said I was always welcome. As a White male in a new place, it meant a lot to me to be welcomed into a relationship with my Hispanic neighbors, who are so important to the life and vitality of Waco. Alfred is that kind of man; he is always drawing people into purposeful relationships with one another.”

Others with Prosper Waco have similar things to say about Solano. Dexter Hall, chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security with Prosper Waco, comes in contact with a lot of people. He knows those who are “for you,” and he knows those “who are not.” He calls Solano “selfless in his giving.”

Hall’s co-worker agrees. “Alfred is an engaging and caring leader in our community who thinks of others each and every day,” added Hermann Pereira, chief program officer at Prosper Waco.

“He is dedicated to growing and investing the next batch of leaders in our community. Alfred is passionate about equity in our community and is someone who ‘walks the walk’ in every interaction he has.”

If you tried to figure out Solano’s main interests, that would be nearly impossible. He’s like the wind; he is everywhere. Kim Patterson, executive director of McLennan Community College Foundation and Institutional Advancement, used some of the exact words in her description of Solano. He loves pushing education, se he is on the board of the MCC Foundation.

“Alfred is a connector, always focusing on others and how he can help bring our community together. We often say, ‘That guy is everywhere!’ and it’s true; he is very intentional about that. He inspires me to strive to do more and be even more engaged in our hometown.”

Solano was raised in Waco and is a graduate of Texas State Technical College. After 35 years in business, he is now president and CEO of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Waco, a role he has held for three years. In the time under this leadership, the CTHCC has been recognized as the Small Chamber of the Year 2019 by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers.

For Solano, serving on the CTHCC board for many years opened doors to many opportunities, shaping his “passion for engaging businesses with the non-profit sector,” says Solano.

He’s a board member of several other organizations, too — Hillcrest Health System, which is totally different from StartUp Waco, where he is also on the board. If you want to keep up with local happenings in Waco, call Solano. He’s a board member with Act Locally Waco, KWBU, and Heart of Texas Economic Development District. I am pretty sure the list goes on.

But if you just need a friend, someone to talk to, you can also call Solano. He’ll serve in that role, as well. We think, however, that Hall says it best.

“In a world where everyone is striving to be Number 1 and on the “A” team, Alfred Solano is a devout communitarian giver that pushes and pulls everyone forward . . . [exemplifying] that to be humane is to be a great human being.”

Alfred and his wife, Rachel, have been married for 13 years and are very proud of Alfred’s daughter, Elena Solano, a psychotherapist in Austin.

Linda Crawford, owner of The Anchor News, is an English professor at McLennan Community College, a motivational speaker, and author of the book, God, Destiny and a Glass of Wine (available on Amazon).

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

New MCC project aimed at increasing success of Hispanic and underserved students

By Olivia Evans

McLennan Community College has a long-standing focus on providing quality education to under-served populations in Central Texas. The College will continue those efforts with the help of a $3 million Title V grant from the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Program of the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will fund a project entitled First Year Focus: Developing Academic and Co-Curricular Student Support Structures to Improve First Year Outcomes. The College will receive about $600,000 annually over a five-year period.

With this project, McLennan will work to increase course completion, graduation, and transfer rates of Hispanic, low-income, and first-time-in-college students. The primary goal is “to build innovative support structures to create enriching academic opportunities that foster student success.”

“When students drop out or stop out, most of the time it’s not because they can’t do the work. It’s because life gets in the way. Providing more support will help them overcome the barriers that derail their progress,” says Paula Unger, McLennan sociology professor and grant project director.

To serve McLennan’s Hispanic and other underserved students, the program will implement a three-pronged approach to supporting first-year students: student engagement, supplemental instruction, and revamping the freshman orientation course, Learning Framework. This restructuring will focus on academic support services, peer leadership, career planning, financial literacy, and cultural competency.

“Our Title V efforts are about equity and meeting students where they are,” says Unger.

The First-Year Focus Team is confident that these newly-implemented programs and resources will be beneficial not only to Hispanic students in achieving academic success, but to all first year and returning McLennan students as well.

“As a College, we can’t progress if those who need a little extra help are ignored or left behind. Our community needs everyone’s gifts,” says Unger.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

Communities of Waco: El Ballet Folklorico Las Estrellas de Waco

By Alicia Pesina

I have been the instructor for El Ballet Folklorico Las Estrellas de Waco for 16 years. Ballet Folklorico is a traditional Mexican dance which highlights local culture from various regions and states in Mexico. The costumes, styles of dance, and music vary from state to state.

Our group was organized in October 1998 to help promote Mexican Culture in the Waco Area. We began with one group comprised of four young ladies; we have now grown into three groups ranging from the age of seven and up. Some members of our older group have been dancing for more than 25 years.

My mom, Mary Lou Pesina, has been the organizer, dressmaker, director, recruiter, dress fluffer, and so much more. She coordinates every performance and manages all members of the group. Mary Lou Pesina is the one who wanted to start the group.  With hard work and determination, she has made the group what it is today.

When we first began our group, we would often go to workshops in Corpus Christi.  These workshops included Maestros (instructors) brought from Mexico to teach songs from their native state. They would also include a seminar which demonstrated the traditional costumes, hairpieces, and accessories needed for each State.

We sought out a local instructor several years after the group was established. We met Veronica De La Rosa while she was attending Baylor University. She was able to help us in so many ways. Her mother had organized a Folklorico group in Seguin, Texas. Veronica taught us various dances from all different states and shared her expertise in different Folklorico costumes and designs. She eventually became a part of our family! She married one of my cousins and they now have four beautiful children together.

All members are volunteers from our local community who have a passion for dancing. Our beginner group starts at age seven and we require no previous dancing experience. However, for the Intermediate (Ages 12-17) and Advanced Group (Ages 17-and up), we require previous dance experience. These beautiful dances are difficult and require challenging skirt work, footwork, and choreography. Our dances require hours of practice to perfect, we rehearse every week and also learn new songs every year.

We have a yearly membership fee of $50.  Each member is also responsible for purchasing Folklorico earrings and ballet shoes. Our group provides all costumes for our members free of charge. Our costumes are sewn by my mother or purchased from donations we receive from our performances and membership fees. As our group has grown, the costs of costumes have become a major expense.

We practice and perform eight months out of the year. We begin practicing in March and we start scheduling performances in April. Our performance schedule begins in April and our final performance is held at the Fiesta de La Raza at St. Francis Church. We love performing for all types of events around the Waco area. Sometimes I don’t realize some people have never seen a Ballet Folklorico perform. It gives me a greater appreciation for our group and our ability to share these beautiful dances with the Waco community.  One advantage of having a larger group is the ability for us to showcase the diversity of Mexico.

This group is a major labor of love, especially since everything is done on a volunteer basis. Most of our dancers and parents work full time. Parents usually rush from school to dance practice. Some students come from outside the Waco area, and some families have multiple children in each group. I teach dance class after work for 3 hours back to back, and at times, it is very overwhelming. What pushes us each day is our passion for dance and the love for our group.

This group is our second family. I love all my students as if they were my own. I’ve taught members in school, seen them graduate, go on to college, get married and now have families of their own. I’ve watched families grow and I’m always so happy to hear, “As soon as my baby is old enough, we are putting her in the group with her brother/ sister!” We are much more than a group, we are a Folklorico family.

Our main goal is to share our culture with everyone. We have to remember and represent our culture and we hope to inspire those around us. We are a country of immigrants and we can share the love and beauty of our Mexican heritage through Ballet Folklorico. This year we celebrate 20 years of dancing for Waco and the surrounding areas.

When people recognize and appreciate the work we put into the group, it makes us feel proud. I have to thank my dancers, parents, and all of our supporters for encouraging us each year. We appreciate the members who take time away from their families help us entertain and share our beautiful culture. I must specifically thank my mother for continuously encouraging me to dance and teach others. I have been dancing Ballet Folklorico for 24 years and I hope to continue this tradition for many years to come.


Born and raised in Waco, Texas, Alicia Pesina has been the instructor for Las Estrellas de Waco Ballet Folklorico for 16 years.  Interested in scheduling a performance?  Contact Mary Lou Pesina at 254-855-1759.  Facebook page: Ballet Folklorico Estrellas de Waco.

Whether it’s playing trumpet in the “Friday Band” at MCC,  or riding with the Waco Knight Riders, or an afternoon playing with the Waco Disc Golf Association, one of the wonderful things about Waco is that there are lots of ways to find community here.  Where do you find community in Waco?  Would you be interested in writing about it? If so, let us know.  Email [email protected]. If you have an idea for a post.  You could be seeing your own picture on this page!

 

2018 Greatest Hits # 8: Jacob deCordova – Founding Father of Waco

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Monica Shannon

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts September 15 and continues through October 15 and we have several events in Waco to help celebrate the month long recognition of Hispanic and Latino heritage and culture. Friday night, September 14, the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Fine Artists group are hosting a Hispanic Heritage Art show and Celebration.  The event will include performances by El Folklorico las Estrellas de Waco and Mariachi Azteca de Waco among others, and one particularly special guest… Vann deCordova.

If you are familiar with Waco history, you will recognize the name “deCordova.” Vann deCordova is the third great grandson of Jacob de Cordova.  Jacob deCordova was one of the founding fathers of Waco.  He was a man of warmth and he had strong friendships with other founding fathers of the city – men whose names you may also recognize such as Neil McLennan, Jr., George B. Erath, and Captain Shapley P. Ross.

Here is a little of his story.

Jacob deCordova was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, near Kingston.  His parents were British Jews of Spanish descent. He moved to the United States in his late twenties and, among several other endeavors, he became a successful land agent.  Through scrip and direct purchase, deCordova acquired large amounts of land to sell to settlers.  At his peak, he owned and/or controlled over 1,000,000 acres of Texas land. To attract settlers to Texas, he made speeches about Texas in London, England, New York, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities.  His lectures were published on both sides of the Atlantic and were widely read.

In the mid 1840’s, deCordova was engaged to divide and sell the land on the banks of the Brazos that would eventually become Waco.  He hired his friend George Erath to work with him on the project. George B. Erath was a surveyor by trade and did occasional work for deCordova.  They had a mutual respect for each other.  Erath was deCordova’s most respected surveyor, and George often referred to Jacob as “The Big Man.” Upon seeing the land they had been hired to sell, they agreed that it would make a great location for the city.  DeCordova procured the title to the land himself, thend he, Erath, and two other men set about staking out the town on March 1, 1849. Town lots of 1 acre sold for $5 and nearby farmland brought $2-$3 an acre.

When McLennan County was established in 1850, deCordova successfully lobbied for Waco to become the county seat.  He sweetened his case by donating roads and tracts for public use.  He also recruited prominent Texans to move to the town.  One of his most successful recruits was Captain Shapley P. Ross of the Texas Rangers.  DeCordova lured Shapley from Austin with the promise of business concessions (Ross was given a monopoly on running the only ferry across the Brazos) and several free tracts of land.   Jacob deCordova was quoted saying, “Waco was the most beautiful location for a city in all of Texas.”  “Most of all,” he said of the future community, “she will be my daughter, and a beautiful daughter she will be.”

In the 1840s, deCordova resided in Houston and helped create the Houston Chamber of Commerce.  He also served as an alderman on the early Houston City Council. In 1847, deCordova was elected a state representative from Harris County to the Second Texas Legislature.

In 1849, deCordova and Robert Creuzbaur compiled and published one of the first definitive maps of Texas, a map Sam Houston praised on the floor of the US Senate. Today, the map is registered in the US Library of Congress and is highly praised by scholars and sought by collectors. In 1856, de Cordova published the “Texas Immigrant and Traveler’s Guide Book” to provide complete information for potential settlers.  He printed and distributed more than 50,000 copies. Some scholars have credited deCordova with being responsible for bringing more settlers to Texas than Stephen F. Austin.  Yet, sadly he gains almost no attention in contemporary Texas history school books.

We are looking forward to hearing a bit more of Jacob deCordova’s story from Vann deCordova Friday night.  Hope to see you there!


Monica Shannon’s leadership in arts has been instrumental in the developing and emerging presence for the visual arts in Central Texas. Monica has worked with over 100 artists and continues to work in the newly designated Cultural Arts District in downtown Waco. Monica loves travel, but mostly in helping people achieve their goals.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

 

But Some of Us are Brave: Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr.

(This post is one in a series on race titled But Some of Us Are Brave.” The series includes posts from a diverse group of writers from our community. It takes a considerable amount of transparency and vulnerability for the contributors to this series to pen these posts and voice their experiences. We appreciate their courage, and we hope their willingness to be brave will spark some authentic community conversation on this sensitive and important topic. We hope you will read these posts thoughtfully and join the conversation by responding honestly and respectfully, and by sharing them with your friends and acquaintances. — ABT )

Rethinking Racism

By Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr.

And here we go again. Ferguson and its aftermath have sparked renewed interest, debate and introspection of how we Americans act against each other in a destructive manner.

The president is anguished and demonstrates his consternation by appointing another taskforce to solve the problems that are rooted beyond the grasp of Washington. Yes, $75 million will solve all ills. Local political leaders waver and walk the fence in distress, as they are afraid to address this most volatile issue. As a nation we again look at the aftermath of the Civil Rights Era and find that not much has really changed. The only change is that racism is now practiced in more subtle and sophisticated ways.

By every measure of social advancement, the poor have become poorer, the homeless remain without a home, and the illiterate have become more illiterate, the economic and politically disenfranchised remain so. Women continue to suffer neglect, not only in abusive relationships but also in their economic well being as they continue to earn at least 35 percent less than their male counterparts for the same labor. These are the seed that sow the roots that nurture racism and its exclusionary nature.

Racism, at its core, is about exclusion, pure and simple. It is about leaders who are afraid to come face-to-face with the shifting demographics and the fact that ethnic America is just over the horizon. As one who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Cesar Chavez in our struggles to expand the rights of Chicano farm workers, I know racism. I see it daily; it has its own scent and its own taste and it can be touched as it meanders within communities, its school districts, civic organizations, its congregations and its institutions of higher education. It has become so pervasive that it permeates the actions of policy brokers who fail to see it or simply ignore it as they continue with their disenfranchisement of those at the lower rungs of the social ladder. I also see its aftermath in the homeless shelters, food banks, its community kitchens, centers for abused women and community based agencies that work daily to stem the tide of poverty and the sense of hopelessness of those that wander the streets searching for a lost future.

As Bob Dylan’s lyrics remind us, “you do not need a weatherman to tell which way the wind the blows.” The wind still blows with the essence of racism and once in a while the tip of the volcano explodes and the lava flows with the hatred and frustration as a response to oppression and threatens our comfort zone.

So what is it that I have learned about racism? I have learned that:

  • It is not about hatred or purposeful malice.
  • It is not about you, me and them hating others because of their skin color, ethnicity or gender.
  • It is not about your willingness to destroy me or my will to do the same to you.
  • It is about ignorance and misinformation by one group or an individual about another.
  • It is about fear of those in “power” that those without control and influence will attempt to diminish the role of the power brokers.
  • It is about an unwillingness to share the means to bring about change in a shared community.
  • It is about a willingness to exclude those that are different, who speak differently, have a national origin that is seen as threatening, who have a different religious affiliation, and who have a sexual orientation that may be seen as abhorrent and who view the world through different lenses.
  • It is about having a feeling that someone is a threat to whatever social status quo one has and wishes to keep.
  • It is about a misguided perception that a self ordained or self-appointed cadre of leaders can “empower” the less fortunate.
  • It is about an unwillingness to become informed about the “others.”
  • It is about a failure to realize that when the boat sinks that we will all surely drown unless we all work to fix the leaks in the social infrastructure.
  • It is about hubris and a belief by a select few that they know what is best for the rest of us.
  • It is about not doing the right thing and subscribing to the principles of omission and commission to guide exclusionary public policies and their corresponding practices of neglect.
  • All politics is local and so is racism. If we cannot resolve our differences in the compressed geographic space that we share then how can we propose to affect change on a regional, national or global scale?

So the question is this: Is your or my community living near the volcano that is spewing the fire and lava of oppression, frustration or isolation that will one day erupt as it did in Ferguson? Most importantly, what will be the match that lights the next powder keg? The challenge is for us to go beyond dialogue and to assertively take on measures to be more inclusive and to commit to a system of shared accountability for our development as communities that can work together toward to becoming vested stakeholders in a common future. The option of not doing so is rather evident; it comes full-blown into our living rooms on CNN and on our smart phones. Wanton destruction only serves to pollinate the soil for the next harvest of hatred and racism.


baltazar AcevedoBaltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr., Ph.D. is a Chicano activist who spent 45 years at all levels of education. He left the University of Texas System in 2012 as a tenured professor of leadership and research. He resides in New Mexico and Waco, Texas.

But Some of Us are Brave: Ruben Salazar

(This post is one in a series on race titled But Some of Us Are Brave.” The series includes posts from a diverse group of writers from our community. It takes a considerable amount of transparency and vulnerability for the contributors to this series to pen these posts and voice their experiences. We appreciate their courage, and we hope their willingness to be brave will spark some authentic community conversation on this sensitive and important topic. We hope you will read these posts thoughtfully and join the conversation by responding honestly and respectfully, and by sharing them with your friends and acquaintances. — ABT )

by Ruben Salazar

I’ve never been shot at by a cop or chased by sheets-wearing men, but I have been at the receiving end of power-toting bigots. In many ways, I’m also surrounded by an important aspect of racism—white power (known by some as just “white privilege”). People of color will be on to something positive in our city when we can find ways to dilute dominant white power structures. In my opinion, one of the best ways of doing this is by fighting for diversity (not just tokenism) wherever there are seats at the tables of power.

My friend Sonya said something interesting to me one day. She commented about how some of us go through a ‘get back at whitey’ phase. We had been chatting about the lack of racial diversity around Waco. Sonya is a black woman. I felt an immediate bond with her because we shared the same frustration with white power and privilege. By the way, neither Sonya, nor I, nor others we associate want to get back at anyone. To ‘get back at whitey’, used in the way it rolled off Sonya’s tongue, is the desire to change the white power system. (Try reading Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, for a benign introduction to white oppression.)

Personal experiences also fuel my desire for change.

For example, I’ve been frisked a few times—for no reason—by white cops for committing minor traffic violations. A white sheriff once flipped me off for no reason when I went to visit a friend at the county jail—I was just 15. And then there was the white highway patrol officer who pulled me over for doing 62 mph on a 60 mph zone. He frisked me, then told me to get into his patrol car’s passenger seat. I asked him if this was protocol. To this, he answered with his heavy twang, “Boy, I do what I want!”

Through the years, I’ve heard white supervisors make comments about how they hate hearing Spanish spoken at work. A white manager once told me that black universities are a form of reverse racism. I’ve been told by white company leadership that Affirmative Action policies only invite unqualified black and Latino personnel who can’t do the work as well as “someone who got the job because they were properly qualified” (i.e., the white person). Two white people, just this past year, boasted to me about their racist actions: one used to shoot his BB gun at blacks walking down the street and the other used to put snakes in the jeeps of black soldiers when he was in the military. Would they admit the same in the face of a black person?

Encounters with racism and white power aren’t always so stark and in your face. For starters, there is a long list of examples of institutionalized racism. Also, there are many white people who exert white power without knowing that they’re doing so. For example, some churches and religious charitable organizations enjoy imposing their power onto non-whites and poorer whites. I used to live in an area in North Waco that is apparently ripe for “community service projects.” I’ve grown accustomed to seeing young white volunteers mow yards and clean up blighted areas for tenants who must be too poor to mow and clean. I know because my yard got mowed once, without my consent, while I was away from the house! That was the day I learned I was poor.

And get this: once, while my wife and I were cleaning our yard, a young white couple walking by stopped and asked us if we were providing “service to the homeowners”! Wow! Who knew people could take care of their own yards?

Can you think what would happen if I—a brown-skinned Mexican—moved to a white upper-class part of town, set up my charity, and began to impose changes on the neighborhood that I thought were needed?

Able-bodied people of color shoot themselves in the foot when they accept having their yards mowed or their houses painted. This acceptance just perpetuates the idea that we need their help.Never do for someone what they can do for themselves”. Now there’s a motto that, if upheld by everyone, would tear down a large chunk of the white power structure lurking in our communities.

Our society will be a better place when blacks, Latinos, poor whites, and others perceived as needy, do for ourselves, instead of relying on the handouts and freebies from entities designed by whites with power — some of whom turn around and complain about poor peoples’ demands for entitlements. This is an argument for grassroots community organizing amongst minorities, but that’s another story.

It would also help if white (and other) insistent do-gooders could begin to view blacks, Latinos and poorer whites as having strengths and abilities, instead of having deficits and having to aspire to middle class values (e.g., the Ruby Payne framework). My suggestion is that they re-educate themselves and others with white power about how their charitable acts, funds and other support, in many ways, perpetuate the very problems they think they’re trying to eradicate.

People of color should continue the fights of our forefathers and mothers for racial equality. We should continue to demand racially diverse leadership (at all tables of power—community organizations, business, government, education, etc.) that mirrors the diversity of our communities so that we can begin to diminish the historical specter of white power and privilege.


ruben salazarRuben P. Salazar is a native Wacoan who enjoys learning about history and culture. He is an artist and a do-it-yourselfer around the house. In the very near future he swears he’ll finally self-publish his long overdue book about a local dude people used to call the Maracas Kid. Gardening and being crafty are two things he loves to do with his lovely wife, Rachel.