FORT WORTH, TEXAS - A new city task force on race and culture is drawing a mix of praise and skepticism, with some longtime diversity figures saying they hope "it actually does something."
The task force was officially convened by the Fort Worth City Council last week. It includes 23 members from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
It comes after a number of high-profile, racially charged incidents in Fort Worth, including the arrest of a black woman in December by a white officer after she called police to report someone going after her child.
"We push it under the rug, 'It'll be alright.' And then it festers, and you've got the problems we've got right now," says Opal Lee, who at age 90, knows a thing or two about race relations in Fort Worth.
The longtime civil rights activist, who saw her family's own home firebombed in the late 1930s, says although overt racism might be much tougher to find these days, there is still an undercurrent in Cowtown that is undeniable.
"It's still there. This is long overdue. I'm hopeful for this task force," she says. "But I hope they actually do something, some action."
Cory Session is another longtime Fort Worth resident involved in the black community.
He says he only agreed to join the task force when he got assurances their recommendations would be seriously considered by the city council down the line.
"The city has got to take a look at itself in the mirror," says Session. "We want to see results. I want to know what the Hispanics, I want to know what the blacks, I want to know what the whites, I want to know what everyone thinks who lives in this and feels the city hasn't been paying attention."
The task force became official last week on the same night hundreds of largely Hispanic protesters gathered outside of city hall. The group was furious that city brass have so far refused to join other Texas cities in legally fighting SB 4, the state's new so-called "sanctuary cities" law, something many in the crowd felt was blatantly racist.
On Inside Texas Politics Sunday, councilman Carlos Flores said he understand why so many of his voters have concerns about SB 4. He said the larger racial task force is critical to changing a larger perception issue.
"Currently, we have a race relations perception problem. We have to correct that," said Flores.
The city's new task force will meet at least once a month, according to Session. He says they're hoping to host some town hall meetings, where the public can provide input on ways to improve diversity and race relations citywide.
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