Assistant professor leaving due to racism in Stephenville

Diana Valdez

Multimedia Journalist

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.

Photo of the Tejada family, courtesy of the family.

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.

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17 Responses

  1. Bob James says:

    This makes me ashamed for Stephenville. Surely this town can do better than that. I spent a great amount of my early years there and I never saw any racism. It is really sad what we have become.

  2. Jennifer Hawthorne says:

    What in the world is this quote supposed to say? What is “as wise of being here?”

    “We thought we were going to stay here to live permanently, but as wise of being here, last year a few things happened that made us realize that we are not in the right place,” Tejada said.

  3. N D HOLCOMB says:

    So sorry, and so disappointing! But I have observed such experienced by many others. Not only racism, but sexism, religious/spiritual condemnation, and political ridicule, especially if you are not a Trump supporting Republican.

  4. Maria B. Meras says:

    Just to let you know I am a 7th generation Texicana…have lived here since 1967 (12yrs Old then), graduated from Stephenville High in 1973, I was given the honor of Cross Timbers Business and Professional Women’s 2004 Woman of the Year, worked in the SISD system for 20 years, was Migrant Tutor and Coordinator, pioneered programs like SOY IMPORTANTE at the high school, Erath County Centro de Familias, was on the Community Health Council, Extensión Center, PROJECT HOPE directors board, and was very welcomed in this community all this time. I am now working for an international magazine…never discriminated and was parent liaison for 4 years at SISD.

    • Sergio says:

      What was the point in this flex? LMAO, just because you didn’t experience racism in that area doesn’t exclude the fact that places like Stephenville have a problem with it. Clown.

  5. michelle helms says:

    I didn’t let them run me out of town, and you shouldn’t either. You have every right to be here.

  6. Ely borrero says:

    It’s spelled colombian.

  7. Moumin Quazi says:

    Colombian, not Columbian

    very sad story

    • Gail Lockwood says:

      This is a very sad story and I relate to the wife. My hearing loss at 60% and a brain injury that makes it harder to process language is very much what she is experiencing. Shrugging off the behaviors and ignorance of others is NOT how we can move forward.

  8. Professor Marcy Tanter says:

    The comments left on other social media sites related to this article are somewhat distressing and highlight the need for discussions of racism in this community. It’s preposterous to say that anyone should have to put up with this kind of treatment and our campus community should be up in arms that a respected professor is being hounded out of town like this.

    • Johnwayne922 says:

      I am so disgusted to the people who pushed this family away because I considered them my family. Mrs. Tejada was my Zumba instructor and I was so close to crying because I considered her my mom. Now because of ignorance of other people they drove the person who I had a connection with. I’m also Hispanic almost the only one in my classes who also deals with Tarletons discrimination.

  9. Scott B. says:

    That family would be more welcome in either Austin or McAllen (I’m from a dual-household family), I’ve found both cities diverse, inclusive, and educated. The mid-west Texas counties can be a challenge for inclusiveness and intellectual curiosity.

  10. Adam says:

    Very sad. My son attends school there and you can tell the difference between the residents. We live in Temple, which has a mix of all people and this area or Austin would be better for them. I not surprised. Growing up in west Texas I heard things like that all the time.

  11. KT says:

    I’m a Tarleton graduate and daughter of a local doctor who grew up in a mixed race household in Stephenville. My parents have lived there since the 1970s and still do.

    In the 1970s, dad was asked by his boss to stop wearing his turban because it was off-putting to the locals. He was referred to as “the monkey doctor” at work and talked down to because he did part of his residency in Africa. We were friends with the Hindu doctor and the two Jewish doctors because they all faced the same subtle and not so subtle racism at work. One doctor moved because of it. The rest stayed because the majority of the community was okay and many patients loved them and have stood by us all these years.

    After 9/11, I experienced a serious upswing of misguided and ignorant hate, as did the Hindu and Muslim students at SHS. In middle school I was chased by a series of students and pelted with to is for hateful reasons. No teacher intervened because they felt threatened by the number of students involved. I got to sit in the library and read for the remainder of the recesses in the school year because the Intermediate School didn’t know how to deal with it.

    At Tarleton I had to argue with people about the fact of the moderate Muslim majority. The professor let that be my problem. I had to defend Dr. Gita Randarajan’s credentials to rude students who didn’t even try to get past the accent.

    I do commend Tarleton for providing a bubble of diversity by hiring academics of all stripes, holding international study abroad programs, and pushing diversity and inclusion as core values. I wish the rest of Stephenville could learn from that example.

    The Baptist Church’s anti-booze crusade got us Rockin’ P. Then the whole KKK rally because of the racist MLK party. Then the Civil War memorial and flags fiascos. Is anyone really surprised Stephenville might need to work on inclusion and creating a more diverse environment?

    I don’t even want to know how brazen things are following Trump’s election as racist bile has poured out of the woodwork all across the US in that time. Yes, there are good, worldly, non-judgemental folks in Stephenville. Unfortunately, there are also ignorant people in Stephenville that can make just about anyone feel unwelcome.

    It’s not a new thing. Whether or not it is fair to ask a family to deal with it is up to that family. We always chose to stay in spite of these issues, but we watched as non-WASP friends fled Stephenville precisely because of this sort of thing and the lack of diversity inclusion in town.

  12. james wright says:

    Some things can not be taken at face value as dumb comments are dumb comments and two/three over a few years should not convict a community.

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