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Making race a thing of the past

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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I grew up in a time when you either had three or 13 channels of television, and finding something to watch after school meant it sounded like a fast snare drum when you changed channels.

During that time, there were public service announcements and after-school specials that put out information on just about everything, including race relations and similar items.

One commercial that still to this day rings in my ears is one where a father and son were talking about a friend who was mad at the son, who did not understand why. When the father got to the nub of the problem, it was because the son introduced his friend as his “black” friend.

The father said if they truly were friends, his son should have said only that, and leave the adjectives behind.

Every time an argument shows up in the press, or there’s a riot somewhere because a member of a minority race was killed, that commercial comes forward in my mind.

Simplistic as it may sound, I honestly believe the best way to combat racism, both real and perceived, is to stop using it as a basis of classification.

I’m not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist, because it does. Having been a victim of it more than once, it’s a pretty heinous treatment, and it should be eradicated.

(I worked at a place where there only were six white people in a staff of 50. Even as a supervisor, the names I was called and the insults that were levied at me were harsh. I also lived several years in another country and know first-hand about being considered inferior.)

Everyone should be on the same page about eradicating racism and discrimination. The federal government, along with the states, mandated things like race, color, creed, etc., but as with everything that has the touch of government on it, it was not enough.

More and more efforts are being used to eradicate what now is view as a systemic problem — in society, the justice system and hiring practices — and more and more ridiculous programs are cropping up in response.

Take critical race theory, for instance. Because it’s believed that racial issues are not being and have never been addressed, educators at every level have designed a curriculum to study this. Problem is, it’s really just a theory, and one that isn’t applied in a manner that addresses any changes.

Because of the perception of racism being ingrained everywhere, it’s being blamed for minorities being behind in education; it’s the culprit that has led to sentencing disparities in criminal cases; it’s the cause listed for income rates being less for minorities; it’s even being blamed for higher rates of illness and lower life expectancies for minorities.

Similar programs such as DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) exist precisely because there continues to be a perception of injustice, and while this, CRT and other programs are currently grass-roots level, if the trend continues, the government will begin mandating equity. Affirmative Action is a primary example of the government mandating equality, yet as always, there will be no equality when one group is knocked down to prop up others.

That there is the rub. These programs, while probably well-meaning, perpetuate racism by their very existence. If you continue to dissect society into its relative parts, then society will continue to look at each other in that manner, and people like Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michelle Obama and the like will continue to hustle race issues.

From the top down, any reference to race, religion, etc., just needs to go away. There’s no need for race questions on job applications, grant applications or the annual Census.

Children, and even adults, can be taught respect, and learning about the sins of the past as a cautionary tale will provide context and information and not stoke the fires of discrimination. Continuing down that path will instead put targets on the backs of people who are not minorities, and the process begins anew.

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Abbott’s resistance leaves Naskila Casino outside of law that regulates most tribal gaming

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RickySylestineBy Ricky Sylestine

In 1987, the United State Supreme Court issued its seminal decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, in which the Court found that because California state law regulated but did not prohibit gaming, tribes in California could offer gaming on their lands free from the state’s regulatory scheme. In response to the Cabazon decision, in 1988, the United States Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”), the regulatory structure under which nearly 240 tribes in 28 states have been offering gaming on their federal trust lands for over 35 years.

Although the traditional Kickapoo Tribe of Texas has operated a gaming facility in Eagle Pass under IGRA since the mid-1990s, a 1994 decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the other two federally recognized tribes in Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Pueblo), were not permitted to game under IGRA and the two Nations could only offer gaming that strictly followed Texas’ gaming laws and regulations.

Last June, the United States Supreme Court found that Congress intended to only bar the Pueblo from offering gaming activities Texas fully prohibited. Where Texas merely regulates a game, like it does with bingo, the Court ruled that the Pueblo – and therefore the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas – could offer the game. Further, the Court determined that Congress did not provide for state regulatory jurisdiction over tribal gaming. This was a massive victory for our tribe because the Supreme Court affirmed our right to offer electronic bingo – the game we have offered at Naskila Casino for seven years.

What the Supreme Court left unclear is whether that gaming is subject to regulation under IGRA. Legislation clarifying once and for all that we are under IGRA has passed the House of Representatives twice unanimously, but Texas Senator John Cornyn has blocked passage of the legislation, asserting that he is doing so at the behest of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. It is disappointing that Cornyn and Abbott, both former state attorneys general, cannot see that our tribe should be under the same regulatory framework as others.

In fact, last November Governor Abbott sent a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell asking that they not permit the Senate to vote on the legislation placing the Nations under IGRA. Abbott asserted that placing the Nations under IGRA will lead to expansion of gaming in Texas, an expansion that would violate the right of Texas to determine the scope of gaming within its borders. Such a claim is misleading at best. If the Nations were placed under IGRA, we would be permitted to offer the same electronic bingo they are currently offering, which is the same form of bingo the Kickapoo Tribe has offered in Eagle Pass since 1994. Under IGRA, the only way that the Nations can offer any other form of gaming, for example Las Vegas style gaming, is pursuant to a Tribal/State gaming compact. So long as Texas is unwilling to negotiate such a gaming compact, we will be limited to playing electronic bingo.

The governor knows this to be true since he and his predecessors in the governor’s mansion have steadfastly refused to negotiate a gaming compact with the Kickapoo Tribe for decades. Unfortunately, we cannot get a fuller explanation from him because for years he has refused to meet with our tribal leaders in person.

If the governor is sincere in his concern that the current gaming footprint in Texas does not expand, he should want to ensure that the tribe and Pueblo are covered under IGRA. Under the decisions in the Eastern District of Texas and the Supreme Court, we can offer any gaming that is not otherwise strictly prohibited under Texas law. If Texas permits the expansion of gaming in the future under the current state of the law, the Nations will be free to offer that same gaming and to do so without regard to state regulation. Additionally, it is IGRA that limits tribes to gaming on land it held in trust prior to Oct. 17, 1988. If the Nations are not subject to that restriction, we will be able to offer gaming on any land held in trust. For example, we have land in Leggett that is presently eligible for gaming purposes but would not be eligible if we were under IGRA.

In asking to be placed under IGRA, we are willingly surrendering some of our sovereign rights regarding gaming. Further, such legislation ensures that Texas will have a say if the Nations wish to expand the type of games they offer and IGRA will limit the location of that gaming. If Abbott continues his unprincipled opposition to legislation clarifying that the Nations are eligible to game under IGRA, there may come a time when the tribe and Pueblo decide to fully exercise our gaming rights as established by the federal courts.

Ricky Sylestine is Chairman of the Tribal Council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.

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Preserving the past can enhance the future

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenSummers seemed to last forever as a child. And when it was time for school to resume, I was usually ready, if for no other reason than to see my friends and talk about what we did all summer. As an adult, summer seems to fly by in the blink of an eye. We’ve barely bought the daughter a new swimsuit and then it’s already time to go back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes.

We typically take numerous small trips throughout the year. We’ve found that this helps keep our batteries charged so to speak and avoid burnout from work, school and other obligations. We’re talking about going on a family vacation this summer, one where we actually take a whole week off from work and go somewhere out of state. We don’t have many summers left with our daughter so it seems all the more crucial.

All this talk of traveling and the various things to see and do when traveling has me reminiscing about some of the really neat, funky refurbished downtown squares we’ve seen in our travels throughout the state – Denton, Georgetown, McKinney, Bastrop, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Taylor. And then I realized they shared a common denominator. All of these towns are designated Main Street Communities.

Not familiar with Main Street Communities? Under the umbrella of the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Main Street Program was born of the belief that downtown revitalization is a crucial tool for enhancing the economic and social health of a community. In addition to being the most visible indicator of community pride and economic health, the historic downtown is also the foundation of the unique heritage of a community. The historic buildings in a downtown are prime locations for the establishment of unique entrepreneurial businesses and can also be tourism attractors, all of which add to the community’s sales tax collections and property values.

A community’s unique historic resources are valuable and the appropriate preservation of these resources contributes to the community’s overall economic, social and cultural vitality. And these are just a few of the reasons why preservation is so important.

The Texas Historical Commission annually designates the month of May as Preservation Month. Preservation Month acknowledges the mission across the country to cultivate a love of historic places, to help others understand the importance of saving history and to demonstrate the importance of saving real places that tell real stories.

During the month of May, members of the Polk County Historical Commission placed “Preservation Matters” signs throughout the county where buildings or homes have been preserved, including structures that are in the process of being restored or needing restoration.

I can’t help but chuckle about the fact that our daughter was well into her teens before she realized that not everyone went to museums and historic sites on their vacations. Following that revelation, the outings she had enjoyed immensely over the course of her childhood now seemed like drudgery. But that’s okay. We’ve seen her love of history, and appreciation for it, blossom considerably in recent years. And I can’t help but think that part of that is due to her visits to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, the Texas Capitol, the Alamo, San Marcos Springs and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, NASA, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center, San Antonio Center for Art, the Marfa & Presidio County Museum, the Sue & Frank Mayborn Natural Science and Cultural History Museum Complex in Waco, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Institute of Texas Cultures in San Antonio, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis and several forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So when you plan your summer vacation, think about visiting historic sites, museums and courthouses. Stroll down main streets and support businesses that invest in the historic fabric of their towns.

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House lawmakers defy Abbott on vouchers

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State Capital HighlightsA key House education committee adjourned last week without voting on a school voucher bill that is Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority this session, the Houston Chronicle reported. Barring some unforeseen maneuver in the last week of the regular legislative session, the bill is effectively dead for now.

The Senate had approved a bill that would provide Texas families $8,000 in taxpayer money to fund private or charter school tuition. The House narrowed the scope so that it would only apply to students with disabilities or those attending schools with a failing grade issued by the Texas Education Agency – an estimated 800,000 students. The Senate bill would make vouchers available to 5.5 million Texas students.

State Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, chair of the House Public Education Committee, said he doesn’t plan to call a vote on the measure. Abbott has threatened to veto the House version or call a special session if the House does not approve the Senate version.

Opponents of the voucher system say it would take money away from public education.

“These voucher proposals have been brought before — in 1957. A  tuition grant bill was passed through the House. It failed ultimately, but it was to allow kids to leave integrated schools and join white-only schools,” state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said.

Bills favoring natural gas power plants advance

A Texas House committee voted Thursday to send to the House floor a Senate bill providing  $10 billion in taxpayer money for low-interest loans to build natural gas-powered electrical generating plants. The plan is still subject to change in the waning days of the legislative session, however.

The Dallas Morning News reported the call for plant expansions stem from the near collapse of the power grid during the devastating winter storm in 2021. Hundreds of Texans died during that blackout.

State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and chair of the House State Affairs Committee that is considering the bills, said the $10 billion loan fund and other power generation measures remain “works in progress.” The legislative session ends May 29.

House, Senate closer on tax relief plan

The Texas House and Senate appear to be nearing a deal that would deliver billions of dollars in property tax relief, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The proposal combines House Speaker Dade Phelan’s preference for cutting appraisal caps by half with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s preference for increasing homestead exemptions.

The Legislature was under a mandate from Abbott and Patrick to return nearly half of the state’s $33 billion budget surplus to taxpayers. The latest measure would lower the appraised value cap from 10% to 5% for all properties. The House version would also raise the state’s homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, with an added $10,000 exemption for seniors and disabled homeowners. Patrick’s original proposal was to raise the exemption to $70,000.

Draft budget bars tax dollars for Paxton settlement

House and Senate budget negotiators plan to bar using state funds to pay the $3.3 million whistleblower settlement negotiated by Attorney General Ken Paxton and his former aides, the Statesman reported.

The settlement was reached in February after four former employees of the AG’s office sued Paxton, accusing him of bribery and abusing his office. Since that time the four aides were fired or have resigned. Paxton denied their allegations, but as part of the settlement apologized for calling them “rogue employees.”

Paxton said when the settlement was reached that it would save taxpayer money in the long run by avoiding an expensive court battle.

“I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions,” Paxton said in a statement at the time. “This settlement achieves these goals.”

Suspected fungal infections linked to Matamoros surgeries

The Texas Department of State Health Services is sounding the alarm to the public and doctors about suspected cases of fungal meningitis among Texas residents receiving surgery in Matamoros, Mexico – across the border from Brownsville. So far, the investigation has found at least five affected patients, four of whom are now hospitalized and one who died.

The patients traveled from Texas to Matamoros for surgical procedures that involved an epidural anesthetic, which is injected around the spinal column. One of the possible elective procedures conducted under an epidural is liposuction.

“It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis,” said DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford. “Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly.”

Anyone who had surgery involving an epidural in Matamoros this year is advised to contact a doctor, DSHS said in its news release.

More than $9 million in EMS student scholarships

The state is funding more than $9 million for 1,500 emergency medical services scholarships. The goal is to expand the state’s EMS workforce, especially in underserved and rural areas. The funding comes from legislation passed during the 2021 legislative session.

“This funding to support EMS education opportunities and to increase the workforce will ensure a strong EMS system in Texas,” said Joe Schmider of DSHS. “These scholarships are impacting the current and future emergency care throughout all of Texas.”

Potential EMS students can learn more by going here: dshs.texas.gov/emstexas.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Burning both ends of the candle to light the middle

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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In my daily travels through the bizarreness that passes for news stories, I constantly come across examples of projection and denial of epic proportions, particularly when it comes to politics.

Those currently in power, regardless of stripes, will lambaste certain groups with accusations of division and hate while exhibiting those very same qualities.

It’s like one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” where two last members of the planet Cheron were locked in a never-ending deathmatch over something as simple as color.

For the uninformed, the antagonists/protagonists were half black, half white, but with a difference: one was black on the left, the other on the right.

It plays out as a perfect analogy for the current political situation — left vs. right — with acid dripping from both sides.

One of the most heinous examples of this is the battle over inclusion and diversity, in particular the hatred coming from liberals, who blame conservatives for keeping minorities and disenfranchised subsets of society down.

Funny thing is, though, is that in order to stifle any argument, the left will lob Molotov divisions, such as white privilege or evil Christianity or rich people hatin’ on the poor by not paying their fair share of taxes for whatever hairbrained scheme that comes up next.

It’s not just limited to the government, either, since public groups existing in the name of social justice have to have demons to prop up their existence, and these things are even now creeping into the private business world in the form of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion scores.

All that being said, it’s a pretty easy leap to figure out what portion of society is demonized for all of the country’s evils: white folks and Christians.

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments: Christians, supposedly proselytizing love and acceptance, have too much influence in this country, forcing groups like transphibians, the alphabet corps and minorities into hiding because of their narrow-mindedness and inability to love unconditionally.

Of course, you never hear about Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists or any other religion being roasted on the coals of public discourse for a variety of reasons; my belief is that the perception of Christianity being mostly white having something to do with that.

By using these kinds of tactics, though, it evokes the pure, unadulterated hatred that led to the rise of the Sturmabteilung (German brownshirts), who started with simple rhetoric but escalated to violence and ultimately the Night of the Long Knives.

While we may simply put hateful and purposefully divisive speech off as grandstanding, it’s the one side of the candle being lit; the hypocrisy on the part of the speakers, and the use of government as the hammer to the anvil is the other side. When the flames meet in the middle, someone or something is going to get hurt or worse.

It happened in czarist Russia; it happened in Germany; it happened in Cambodia; it happens in Israel; it even happened in the U.S. during World War II and the interment caps for Japanese people.

If something like open and honest dialogue were ever to occur, we could maybe find a way to get beyond such pettiness before it gets out of hand. Historically, though, it probably won’t happen, at least not until acceptance is practiced on all sides.

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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