Digging Deeper: Race relations in Houston

Everything unfolding in Charlottesville is generating a conversation among some Houstonians about hate and bigotry.

HOUSTON - In the wake of the deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, KHOU 11 News is taking a closer look at local race relations and asking if Houston could see violent riots over Confederate monuments in the future.

“In terms of race relations in Houston, we can be a little bit more hopeful,” said University of Houston sociology professor Luis Salinas, Ph.D. "The monuments we have here in Houston, for example on Allen Parkway, we have 'tolerance,' right there on Allen Parkway. Houston has made a lot of strides in terms of tolerance."

The city has seen its share of race riots in the past and racist public displays in the last century, but most of those have dimmed with time. Long past are the Ku Klux Klan rallies in downtown witnessed throughout the 1900s.

Texas Patriot Network activists convened in downtown Houston Saturday afternoon to protest a demonstration by the Houston Socialist Movement. 

Group leaders say they do more than oppose socialists and include the preservation of Texas' historic Confederate monuments as part of their platform.

"We have no business trying to erase history," said Texas Patriot Network spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Brooks (ret. U.S. Army). "It seems they want to take down any monument that had anything to do with anyone who might have had a slave. Well guess what? George Washington had slaves. What're we going to do? Go to Washington and start tearing down the city now?"

Salinas says there is another side to the coin. He said research has shown that whites and blacks view the Jim-Crow era monuments very differently. 

Salinas says whites mostly view the Confederate statues as historic artifacts of a Southern past, while blacks see them as idolized figures who owned, and fought-to-own, other men, women and children.

"We've sort of pushed forward to where people are saying these are Confederate soldiers that we are praising here," Salinas said. "And in the United States, the Confederacy was for slavery and they lost the war."

Recent research has shown that Houston has become a city of acceptance and diversity, regardless of disparate opinions of the monuments between whites and blacks. 

Rice University's 2017 annual Kinder Houston-area survey revealed whites, blacks and Hispanics have all reported increasingly positive views concerning the city's race relations over the past ten years.

The survey found Houston to be the most ethnically-diverse urban region in the country.

"Twenty years ago at UH, the student body was majority white, very clear; and minorities were minorities," Salinas said. "And now it's the second-most diverse university in the country."

Salinas says he has seen the shift happening before his own eyes in the classroom during his decades of teaching at UH.

"You don't see one group sitting here, and another sitting with the other," Salinas said. "They all sit mixed. So if the student body of the university is an indication of what's going to be happening in Houston, we can all be happy about that."

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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