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As Nazis casually dine in Fort Worth, hate threatens vital civil-rights victories | Opinion

History isn’t merely confined to the pages of textbooks or the corners of museums; it’s a living testament to events and lessons that shape our present. While we often believe we’ve grown beyond our past mistakes, the saying remains true: Those who forget history are bound to relive it.

This is becoming alarmingly evident in Texas, especially Tarrant County, where echoes of the past are resounding with increasing clarity.

For the vibrant Generation Z, many members of which hail from Black, Latino and other historically marginalized communities, recent events in Texas are a stark wake-up call. The shadows of prejudice and discrimination, once thought to be erased, are creeping back into the daylight, more audacious than ever.

This month has been particularly revealing. While Gov. Greg Abbott was advocating for allowing public money to pay private-school tuition, Jonathan Stickland of the influential Defend Texas Liberty PAC hosted a meeting with the notorious white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes.

Soon after, Texas Senate Republicans introduced school-voucher legislation without any protection against racial bias. This move mirrors the 1959 tactics of white leaders in Prince Edwards County, Virginia, who leveraged vouchers to defy the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and used public funds to bypass desegregation.

But perhaps the most chilling reflection of history took place recently in Fort Worth. White men brazenly adorned with Nazi insignias were seen dining at a Torchy’s Tacos, their presence largely unchallenged and their hate unrepudiated. This scene wasn’t just a casual display of bigotry. It was a stark contradiction to a significant chapter in the civil-rights movement.

Decades ago, lunch counters across the segregated South were battlegrounds of resistance. These were sites where Black Americans, weary yet resolute, sat in peaceful defiance of unjust laws and societal norms. They sought the most fundamental of rights: to be accommodated and served in dignity, just like any other citizen.

These sit-ins weren’t just about ordering food; they were a demand for respect, equality, and basic human rights. They were met with hostility, violence, and indignant opposition, yet they marked a pivotal turn in the moral compass of the nation.

Contrast that with Fort Worth in 2023, where individuals flaunting symbols of hate dined undisturbed. They sat where they pleased, unburdened by the fear of violence or the weight of oppression, a privilege never afforded to those brave protesters from the civil-rights era. This stark contrast isn’t just a failure to remember history. It’s also a failure to honor the sacrifices made by those who fought for equality.

Moreover, when public figures like Tarrant County Judge Timothy O’Hare accept over $87,000 in political contributions from entities like the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, known for its unsettling connections, it’s a stark reminder.

These events are not random; they’re symptoms of a societal undercurrent threatening to erode the pillars of equality and justice in our community. These incidents are not mere footnotes in our daily news; they’re a siren call to acknowledge that the past is ever-present. The situation demands a response. We must choose between passive observation and active preservation of the values our predecessors fought so hard to uphold.

Will we, as a society, stand idly by as hate takes a seat at our communal table, or will we unite to reclaim the hard-won rights secured by our ancestors? It’s time to re-engage with our history, not as passive onlookers but as active participants shaping our future.

The echoes of the past implore us to act, reminding us that progress isn’t just a journey forward. It’s a constant vigil against the tides threatening to pull us back. Haley Taylor Schlitz is a writer, activist and teacher who lives in Forest Hill.

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