Accountability, Atonement, and Forgiveness at SFA

President Scott Gordon of Stephen F. Austin State University

Sfa_beyond_racism_logo

We, the undersigned, urge President Scott Gordon to act on the recommendations presented to him and the Board of Regents by Alec Johnson in the letter written below. Alec speaks for me and many other people in the larger SFA University community when he writes:

By taking these preemptive steps to be both accountable and atoning, even through symbolic actions, our African-American students and community members will be able to give us all the gift of forgiveness so that together we can step forward more confidently into a united future.

President Gordon and the Board of Regents have a golden opportunity to get out in front of a situation that is long overdue for a reckoning. We hope they will act swiftly.

[Alec Johnson's Letter to President Scott Gordon delivered 12-June-2020]

Scott Gordon, President
Stephen F. Austin State University
P.O. Box 6078
Nacogdoches, Texas 75962

Dear President Gordon:

I salute you for handling the many challenges SFA is facing now; our community is in good
hands with you at the SFA helm. I also am a community leader -- representing thousands of
local residents, including SFA students -- and would like bring to your attention what I
expect will become a difficult issue for you.

A Sea Change in Public Opinion

I presume you’ve seen reports about the veritable sea change of public opinion regarding
our society’s treatment of African Americans, among other things. Also, as a trained
economist, I know we have not seen an economic collapse as swift and deep as the one our
nation is experiencing now. The challenges all of this places on your shoulders must be
considerable. I hope to lighten your burden.

A New Era of Accountability, Atonement, and Forgiveness

Last week, at the front entrance of SFA on North Street, there was remarkable protest
activity rarely seen in Nacogdoches. It represents the same energy we are seeing
throughout the country.

Now the public has a growing interest in better understanding the past suffering African
Americans have had to endure. Statues of racist historical figures are falling at an
extraordinary rate across this country. Historic figures are getting scrutiny through
different lenses that are often far less flattering than commonly held accounts. And it is
here that I hope to help you swiftly address what could become a problem without
appropriate attention.

Stephen F. Austin, revered as the “Father of Texas,” can also be viewed as “The Father of
Slavery in Texas.” I have discovered that African-American students on your campus do not
react to “Surfin’ Steve” in quite the same warm and fuzzy way others might. In fact, the
term obscures his real history while simultaneously erasing his victims. In this era of
accountability, Stephen F. Austin presents you with some challenges that could loom large
in ways that would be unproductive, unhelpful, and unreflecting of the great reputation
SFA deservedly has.

I am not suggesting that Surfin’ Steve be removed -- that would likely incite a
counterproductive furor and fail to focus the attention where it could do the most good and
achieve the most social healing. SFA is an extraordinarily creative community, and I have
every confidence that my suggestion will allow the University to get out in front of a
potentially large PR problem, turning it instead into an opportunity for:

1) Accountability: Admitting that, in addition to his celebrated actions toward creating
Texas itself, Austin concurrently was the chief protagonist for the introduction and
continuance of slavery in Texas, and instigated genocidal actions against the indigenous
Karankawa people. These are not my interpretations of his actions; they are historical facts.

2) Atonement: Perhaps the University might have a mural or sculpture that would
acknowledge the untold number of victims who suffered because of Austin’s choices so
many years ago.

Let’s not wait until such steps are forced upon us, rendering noble actions reactive instead
of proactive. By taking these preemptive steps to be both accountable and atoning, even
through symbolic actions, our African-American students and community members will be
able to give us all the gift of forgiveness so that together we can step forward more
confidently into a united future.


Most respectfully yours,


Alec Johnson
Democratic Candidate
for Texas House District 11
CC: Board of Regents


Petition by
Alec Johnson
Nacogdoches, Texas

To: President Scott Gordon of Stephen F. Austin State University
From: [Your Name]

Scott Gordon, President of Stephen F. Austin State University

I urge you to act on the recommendations presented to you and the Board of Regents by Alec Johnson in his letter delivered to your office on 12-June-2020. Alec speaks for me and many other people in the larger SFA University community when he writes:

"By taking these preemptive steps to be both accountable and atoning, even through symbolic actions, our African-American students and community members will be able to give us all the gift of forgiveness so that together we can step forward more confidently into a united future."

President Gordon, you and the Board of Regents have a golden opportunity to get out in front of a situation that is long overdue for a reckoning. We hope you will act swiftly.