Month By Month, Let’s Look Back At The Egregious Acts Of Racism That Made Our Blood Boil And Earned Headlines In The Dallas Area Throughout 2017.
Racism — as it always does — reared its ugly head in 2017 just as in years past.
But, this year, it came with a special bravado as white supremacists were emboldened by the fact that The President of the United States seemed to both embrace their ideals — or at least not openly disavow them.
In fact, just a month ago, the FBI reported that there was an increase in reported hate crimes at the end of 2016, a trend that seems to have continued well into 2017. And that rise came to Dallas this year, like when white supremacists rallied around the Robert E. Lee statue at Oak Lawn Park after the city council’s unanimous vote.
But that was a public and open expression of racism. Not everything that made it onto this month-by-month look back on the racist incidents that Dallas faced this year was so out in the open. Others range from secret postings in public spaces to neighbors just quietly being racist dicks.
None of this can be construed as good news, but here’s something that indicates how things are now even worse: Unlike last year’s version of this list, we weren’t able to skip any months this time around. Meaning? We saw headlines detailed local acts of racism in each and every month of 2017.
Also like last year, we’d like to make the distinction between racism and prejudice before we dive into this list. As we all know, racism is a belief that one racial group is somehow superior to another, and how that belief is often used to oppress groups of people. Prejudice, meanwhile, is a pre-judgement of certain subsets of people (e.g. all cops shoot people of color; women can’t drive), and while prejudice can indeed be born from racism, it’s not necessarily racially motivated. To be clear, this rundown exclusively details the racially charged incidents that made headlines this year — and only those. We’re well aware of the fact that not every act of racism makes the news.
- The owner of Azle Cafe in the small Fort Worth suburb of Azle decided to honor Martin Luther King Day by offering a special of chicken and waffles with a side of watermelon. Yes, really. In her interview with WFAA about her decision, she said she previously had no idea that her special could be seen as racially insensitive.
- A man at an Irving Wal-Mart is caught on video suggesting that one of the workers at the store should go back to her country after he refuses her service and asks to be helped by a white employee. He then proceeded to say that a black woman at the store was living off “good white working people.” You can watch the exchange here, if you want.
- Student vandals in Plano tagged Plano West Senior High School with various insults, including racist terms like the n-word. Because kids are dumb, they were caught on tape doing it.
- Nancy Salem was fired from her job for tweeting anti-Semitic jokes like “How many Jews died in the Holocaust? Not enough!” and another one about killing Jewish people. She had been working as a preschool teacher in Arlington.
- The hate group-classified Bureau of Islamic-American Relations staged a small, armed protest outside a Richardson mosque. David Wright, the leader of the group, was quoted as saying the following spiel at the rally: “People at this mosque over here are raising money for terrorists and sending it overseas. They’re finished. It’s over. Obama is gone. Your free ride is done.” Locals didn’t necessarily approve, though, as a band of 15 to 20 counter-protesters showed up to call the BAIR members Nazis and whatnot.
- Breanna Harmon Talbot of Denison was arrested for making false claims that three black men had kidnapped and raped her. Of course, before her story was debunked and she was charged, some racist took to a Reddit thread devoted to Donald Trump and wrote “Three black man kidnapped and gang raped an engaged 18 year old white girl yesterday. IF THE RACES WERE REVERSED, THIS WOULD BE NATIONAL NEWS. THESE MEN DESERVE TO BE HANGED.” Hanging has not been used in Texas capital punishment since 1923; this user was clearly describing a lynching.
- Unknown persons placed anti-immigrant signs with vulgar language at Spencer F. Foster Elementary School in North West Dallas — a school that is 98 percent Hispanic. The community around the school rallied and replaced the signs with messages of love and acceptance in the days following the incident.
- A student at the University of Texas at Dallas found two copies of the Quran, the Islamic religious text, inside of a toilet in the men’s room. At the time of the incident, campus police believed the books were taken from a communal area in the student union.
- As Jordan Edwards and a group of teenagers left a party that had no drugs or alcohol present, former Balch Springs Police officer Roy Oliver opened fire on their vehicle with a rifle, striking Edwards in the head. The 15-year-old was pronounced dead later at the hospital. It would come to light in November that Oliver flipped off the car that was full of young black teenagers — and the dying Edwards — in the moments after the shooting.
- A 51-year-old black man working at Atkins Toyota near DeSoto filed a federal lawsuit against the dealership, alleging that his co-workers would openly call him a jigaboo, a porch monkey and the n-word, and that management did nothing to stop them.
- A plaque at a park at the Southlake Town Square honoring former NFL and Dallas Cowboys player Frank Edgar Cornish IV was vandalized with racist remarks. In response, town mayor Laura Hill said in a statement, “I will not pretend this didn’t happen here; it did and we are going to talk about it. Please talk to your families tonight. Let’s all demand that racism won’t be tolerated.”
- As immigration advocates protested the Texas legislature’s passage of the anti-sanctuary cities bill at the State Capitol, Irving State Rep Matt Rinaldi called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the group, basically assuming that they were all undocumented. Rinaldi’s ridiculous stunt landed him in our asshats of the year article, naturally.
- A Jesuit College Preparatory School student was caught on video saying the n-word to someone off screen followed by, “I hate him. Crucify him. Put him on the cross…”
- A group of black women were prevented from entering The Trophy Room in Uptown due to being dressed “too casual.” Moments after the incident, the women started a Facebook Live video and encountered other groups of black people outside the bar who were also turned away for dress code issues.
- A kayak rental company in Fort Worth lost its contract with the Fort Worth Nature Center after it posted “To all you broke-ass hateful know-it-all white women and Facebook trolls that think they are going to Jew us down…” in response to complaints about rising rental prices. There were reportedly more charged comments made online that were later deleted, including one that read, “The price is set in stone so stop wasting your time. This is NOT Mexico.” Y’know, whatever the hell that‘s supposed to mean.
- An interracial couple in Providence Village outside of Denton received around 20 letters that contained racial slurs and other vulgarities, including creepily specific details about their daily routines, likely meaning that the culprit(s) was closely watching the family.
- While walking with his camera around the neighborhood he calls home one morning, photographer Mark Kaplan found that a rash of racist fliers had seemingly been posted across the neighborhood overnight. The fliers insisted asked readers to “Protect White Families.”
- The predominantly black New Hope Baptist Church in Mesquite was vandalized with racist graffiti and even references to the killing of Jordan Edwards. About 40 children enrolled in the church’s summer program were exposed to the language upon arriving on campus the morning after the hate crime occurred.
- Denton ISD assistant principal Eric Hauser published a book titled The Adventures of Pepe and Pede, a book that clearly referenced the alt–right symbol Pepe, although Hauser claimed he didn’t know that Pepe and other symbols in the book were favorites of white supremacists. Still, Hauser was removed from his post and eventually resigned. He was then forced to contribute whatever profits he made from the book sales to the a Muslim rights advocacy group after it was ruled that his book infringed on the intelletual property of illustrator and Pepe creator Matt Furie, who has been outspoken in his disapproval of his character’s appropriation by the far right.
- A very small band of counter protestors rallied around the Confederate Monument during Dallas’ Rally Against White Supremacy, when about 2,300 people gathered at City Hall Plaza to call for the removal of Confederate symbols and statues around Dallas. The counter-protesters draped themselves in American flags and donned southern pride T-shirts. They also wore badges that are popular among white supremacists online.
- Two students at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson circulated racist images on Snapchat that featured the KKK, hangings and slave beatings. Their apparent intent was to show supremacy over rival school Richardson High School. One of the images also showed Michael Brown and the officer who shot and killed him.
- First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said in an interview on Fox & Friends that NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem before games “ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking a knee like they would be if they were in North Korea.” Granted, this may not be an outright racist statement, but the subtext is there.
- Two black men filed a lawsuit against chemical shipping company Univar USA, alleging that they had been working in a racially hostile work environment. As evidence, they cited the lynch-style hanging of a stuffed monkey in an office room, racist and Islamophobic graffiti, and their belief that they were denied promotions because of their race.
- A high school sports radio broadcaster was dismissed from his game-calling duties after he referred to students from Arlington’s Seguin High School as “cugroes” — a combination of “negro” and “cougar,” the school mascot. Mark Banton reportedly made racially charged comments throughout the game against Cleburne High School, even going so far as to make fun of a Seguin cheerleader’s weight. A week later, on-air personalities from Dallas sports radio station The Ticket stepped up and offered their services to the school, giving the school’s next game a proper broadcast and airing it on the station — something the station hadn’t done in five years.
- WFAA anchor Demetria Obilor was attacked online by a Facebook user over the shape of her body and her hair. This was yet another case where the racism was more in the subtext and a shining example of how women of color on TV are often subjected to harsher public scrutiny than their peers.
- Singer Tamar Braxton was denied entry to JR’s Bar & Grill the night before her The Great Xscape show at Verizon Theatre because she was told she looked “like a gangster.” She posted a video on Snapchat to call out the Oak Lawn bar. JR’s responded by saying that its door staff was simply following its own safety procedures.
- A white supremacist group that calls itself Texas Vanguard posted a white solidarity sign and homophobic fliers around the SMU university campus. The five-person crew also posted photos of itself on Twitter giving the Nazi salute on campus.
Cover image by Obed Manuel.