BSU Assembly Offers Discussion Of Houston Race Relations

Graham McFarland ’19

On Wednesday, February 21, in honor of Black History Month, the Strake Jesuit Black Student Union brought in Reverend William Lawson and Mr. Randy Butler, two acclaimed local speakers, to discuss their experiences with racial issues. As the assembly’s theme was “How will you write the next chapter of the story of race in Houston?”, each spoke about his background and the history of racism in Houston as well as the future for race relations.

Reverend Lawson founded the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in 1963 and served as pastor for over thirty years. His involvement with advocacy began in the 1960s while he taught at Texas Southern University when 14 students held a sit-in protesting segregation.

When asked which decade was the best for race relations, Reverend Lawson replied, “That decade is yet to come.” Lawson was deeply involved in activism during the Civil Rights Movement, fighting to help many kinds of marginalized people. He played a large role in ending segregation in Houston in 1960 by convincing political and business leaders that it would be best for profits to desegregate to avoid the protests and brutal response from authorities that plagued other parts of the South like Birmingham and Little Rock

Mr. Butler described in detail how in his small Texas hometown he was raised to disdain people who were not also white. “In my house, he wasn’t Martin Luther King. He was Martin Luther Coon,” Butler mentioned. However, his views on race went through a transformation for the better when he was finally got to know African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims. He told an inspiring story about a young Muslim man he met in a Balkan country whose family was terrorized by Orthodox Christians for months, but he helped these Christians when they were being terrorized.

Mr. Butler is now a Houston mediator and founded the Institute for Sustainable Peace to advocate for civil rights worldwide. 

Reverend Lawson and Mr. Butler encouraged reflection and hard work to improve racial relations for the future in Houston.