Two recent cross-burnings at a predominantly African-American and Hispanic church in East El Paso present an odious threat to the safety and well-being of that congregation. We must acknowledge that the only role of a cross-burning in our society is to strike fear and cause deep trepidation in the hearts of the targeted community—feelings intended to undermine the ability of those families and individuals to feel safe in their place of worship, in their exercise of their civil and human rights, and in their persons. That this has happened is entirely lamentable and condemnable, and the Border Network for Human Rights strongly decries what has happened and stands in solidarity with the victims of this crime. Whoever is responsible for this act must be held to account for this crime.
Furthermore, this horrific moment brings to the fore an ugly spectre of racism and racially-motivated domestic terrorism that all of us, as friends and neighbors, as El Pasoans and Americans must, personally and collectively, reject, denounce, and combat. It is essential that everyone, regardless of creed or color, age or sexual orientation, class, national origin, or physical ability feels safe in their person and in the free exercise of their human and civil rights.
We have a relatively long and proud history in El Paso of providing these rights and opportunities. El Paso was the first city in the Old Confederacy to desegregate local schools after Brown in 1955 and all remaining public places in 1962. We elected a Hispanic, Raymond Telles, as Mayor in 1957, years before peer cities in the Southwest. Texas Western was the first university in the University of Texas System to desegregate, also in 1955, and the 1966 Men’s Basketball team opened doors for African American athletes across the country. Incidents such as this cross-burning are anathema to this history of what we have done as a community these past decades and cannot be allowed to set the path for where we go from here.
When something like this happens that specifically targets Black and Hispanic residents of our community we must not look away and should not move on without confirming to ourselves to the idea that the rights and lives of these neighbors matter, and committing ourselves to struggle on behalf of their cause. The Border Network is committed to this struggle against racism and oppression and we look forward to working alongside multitudes of our fellow El Pasoans to craft a more respectful, more just, and more peaceful world.