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Texas struggles with racism

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - The mayor of tiny Brazoria, Texas on the Gulf Coast is attempting to lead the way for the nation to deal with racist language. The Houston Chronicle quotes Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley, "I just think it would be great if this little town of Brazoria, with 2800 people, leads the way in fighting against this offensive language." Corley has proposed that the city pass an ordinance which would make it punishable by a fine of up to $500 for the offensive use of the "n-word."

Corley told me over the phone that when he started working on the proposal, 90% of the residents of Brazoria were in favor of banning the offensive language. When he presented it to City Council, they were "non-committal." At first, Council there was a "60/40 split in favor but that has grown to 70/30 against." He said a lot of people were "missing the point" and were "concerned about first amendment rights." He told the World he was trying to change the way people treat other people and "get them to treat people with respect. After all, all men were created equal." He asked me what I thought about the ordinance and agreed with this writer that banning offensive language might help reduce violence since racial slurs often provoke violence. It might help if people had legal recourse if they were treated with disrespect and prevent them from resorting to their fists or other weapons to resolve grievances.

A couple of African American ministers are quoted as saying there are more important issues to deal with such as unemployment, poverty and education. An Anglo priest is quoted as saying the ordinance will promote respect between the races.

Brazoria was founded in 1828 by slave owners and by 1860 was populated by 72% slaves. The 2000 census maintains that the town is 10.3 % African American and 11.37% Latino. It is located 50 miles south of Houston.

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