Assistant professor leaving due to racism in Stephenville
Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Douglas Tejada is leaving after three years at Tarleton due to racial targeting within the Stephenville community.
With tears in his eyes, Tejada spoke to Texan News about the experience he and his family have had in Stephenville.
“We thought we were going to stay here to live permanently, but… last year a few things happened that made us realize that we are not in the right place,” Tejada said.
Tejada is Hispanic and his wife, Sandra Yepes Tejada, is Colombian. The two met in Barcelona, Spain and now have three daughters. The family moved from California to Stephenville three years ago.
Tejada chose to work at Tarleton so he could share his music expertise and stay with his family.
“I was looking for something to get me off the road from being a musician, so I decided to start teaching. I took this job because it had more music students. The pay was $20,000 less, but the pay was never the issue.”
For the first year at Tarleton, his family spent most of their time with others who work at Tarleton. Yepes started working as a receptionist at Gilbert Intermediate School during their second year, where she first experienced racial profiling.
Yepes lost 70% of her hearing in her left ear when she was younger and uses a hearing aid. She had trouble understanding a students’ parents’ last name at the school. The parent told her, “I don’t know how they hire stupid Mexican people.”
Yepes talked to the principal of the school at the time about the incident and was told, “Don’t worry, she is like that with everyone.”
At a different time, a grandparent of a student asked Yepes, “Are you illegal?”
Yepes recalled the struggles her children would go through.
In one situation, one of the Tejada’s daughters scanned an item twice at the self-checkout at Walmart. A customer waiting to use the checkout said, “Technology is difficult for the dumb, illegal Mexicans.”
The children also struggled at school.
“My daughters would come home crying, saying they would leave her out of school activities,” Yepes said.
“We have always lived in multicultural environments, so we have never experienced not being in a multicultural environment,” Tejada explained.
Tejada said neither he, nor his family, never had issues with the university. He shared the struggles he and his family were facing to his department head, but because the issues happen outside of the boundaries of the university, there was nothing they could do.
Tejada says that a department head told him, “People have lived under those circumstances for generations and your first experience you are going to bail.”
Another person told Tejada, “This town was called “Sundown town” meaning town where someone shouldn’t be caught outside after the sun goes down if you’re not the right skin-tone.”
Tejada and Yepes decided to leave to protect their family.
“We are leaving because we want our daughters to feel welcomed and accepted,” Yepes explained.
“It makes me kind of admire the people that really put up with it because they need to. They don’t have many options,” Tejada added. “I moved here to share my knowledge. What we went through was a new experience for us but for the locals that are brown or black is not.”
Tejada and his family are moving out-of-state to be closer to his granddaughter.
This story was updated June 10th, 2019 at 3:20 pm to correct minor grammatical errors and again on June 14th, 2019 at 11:50 am to clarify that the principal of Gilbert Intermediate School referenced in the article is a former principal and no longer holds the position.