Fort Worth Report hosts a panel about racism

Panelists, L-R: Mayor Mattie Parker, Dr. John L. Barnett Jr., Dr. Whitnee Boyd and Estrus Tucker. (Bebhinn Tankard)

The Fort Worth Report held their first “Candid Conversation” in the Martin University Center on Thursday, March 9. Four panelists gathered to share their perspectives of race and racism within Fort Worth. The conversation had to be postponed from February 23 due to inclement weather and would have been held during Black History Month.

Participating were Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker; Dr. Whitnee Boyd of the chancellor’s office at Texas Christian University; Dr. John L. Barnett Jr., a pediatric dentist, and Estrus Tucker, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. The moderator of the discussion was Bob Ray Sanders, former associate editor and senior columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Is there anybody on the panel who thinks there is no racism in Fort Worth or Texas?” Sanders asked first, smiling – no hands were raised. “I just wanted to make sure we’re starting from the same page!”

From there, the conversation began with panelists addressing the concept of unity, historical Jim Crow legislation, their own experiences of racism and the role college students have to play in building a more equitable future.

“Movements happen with college students, and our students are no different,” said Boyd. “Students are coming to campus equipped in a different way than before… they understand the definitions of institutional racism, of structural racism, they’re coming with the expectation that we’re going to deal with it.”

On the subject of unity, Barnett said: “I don’t think we’ll ever have unity in America. I think unity is very much like salvation. You’re never going to reach perfection, but we ought to be found on the road to manifesting it.” He continued: “[Unity] requires us to challenge the status quo; it requires us to restructure the belief system that we were all brought up in.”
Tucker added: “I think that the price for unity is equity.”

The ticketed event was full, and the conversation left an impact on the audience, who came from a wide range of Fort Worth organizations.

“It was a very hopeful conversation,” said Donna James-Harvey, a representative of the North Texas Community Foundation, which provided a complimentary breakfast for the event. “I hope that we just continue to have these conversations and that those of us that have been able to participate and listen… take [what was learned] into our respective areas of influence.”


The Candid Conversation was held in the Martin Center and attracted an audience from a range of Fort Worth organizations. (Bebhinn Tankard)

“When I got [to Fort Worth], it was difficult to be African American, but you know, hey, we move on,” said Jim Austin from the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, who said he found the panel discussion to be empowering. “I feel that our future is great and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

“It was an honor to be included,” said Mayor Parker. “What amazing individuals that shared their perspective on these really hard issues. These are important conversations to have, so special tribute to Texas Wesleyan for hosting us and to the Fort Worth Report for starting these conversations.”