After a deadly shooting Sunday at a church in White Settlement, Texas, some liberals have gotten hung up on the name of the town.
Even as news was breaking that two people had been killed by a gunman during a service at the West Freeway Church of Christ, Twitter users began raising appellative concerns.
Wait. The town is called White Settlement? https://t.co/pIyU6geW6l
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) December 29, 2019
It didn’t take long for commentators, including Episcopal priest and Fox News opinion contributor Scott Gunn, to begin accusing the grieving community of racism.
In addition to the appalling violence in today’s church shooting — yet another sign of our idolatry of guns — there is the blatant racism of the town’s name, White Settlement. This nation has so much repenting to do.
— Scott Gunn (@scottagunn) December 30, 2019
New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz declared, “If you’re trying to guess how White Settlement, Texas got its name, you’re right.”
To prove his point, Marantz shared a local news story about the town’s resounding rejection of a 2005 ballot measure to change its name. He highlighted that residents who opposed the change reportedly carried signs that read: “Be Proud! Don’t Let Them Discard the Heritage of White Settlement.”
In 2005, a ballot measure proposed changing the name of the town. Residents carried signs reading "Be Proud! Don't Let Them Discard the Heritage of White Settlement." The measure failed, 2388 votes to 219. https://t.co/yCN9cTei9B
— Andrew Marantz (@andrewmarantz) December 29, 2019
Other liberals used White Settlement’s name as ammunition in theAmerican culture war over firearms, suggesting Republicans might finally be moved to enact gun control because the victims of the church shooting were white.
Maybe a mass shooting in a church which is in a town literally named "White Settlement" will finally get the Republicans' attention…?
— Pé Resists (@4everNeverTrump) December 29, 2019
The name-shaming irritated many conservatives, who accused their political opponents of once again politicizing a tragedy.
What’s truly painful about the #WhiteSettlement Church shooting in Texas is that the Left is outraged by the name of the city and whether or not it should be changed — in order for them to care about the victims. Yesterday it was a Synagogue, today it’s a Church. Grow up. Please.
— Imam of Peace (@Imamofpeace) December 29, 2019
Some accused the left of trying to shoehorn inconvenient facts — like that the White Settlement shooter, an illegally armed felon, was stopped by a licensed and highly trained churchgoer — into their preferred narrative of rising white supremacy under President Donald Trump.
A shooting in a church stopped by a good guy with a gun and this is the story they want to tell. https://t.co/8qjV1bxEsm
— Chad Felix Greene (@chadfelixg) December 31, 2019
Where does the name White Settlement come from?
As a number of Twitter users noted, white people are not actually believed to have given White Settlement its name. Rather, according to Norris Chambers, founder of the White Settlement Historical Museum, the local Native Americans named the town after the influx of white homesteaders who settled among them in the mid-19th century.
White Settlement, Texas is tragically trending because of a church shooting. Yes, the name sounds provocative. It was given the in the 1840's by Native Americans. Instead of trying to score "woke" points about the city's name, let's grieve the victims, find solutions, together.
— Shannon (@Smoore1201) December 29, 2019
A CNN explainer published Monday interviewed Chambers about the history White Settlement’s name. But it went on to point out that Native Americans in the area, as across the United States, were eventually forced onto reservations by white settlers. Today, more than 82 percent of the town’s some 18,000 residents are white and just 0.5 percent are Native American, the article noted.
Two White Settlement residents who spoke to the national press in 2005 were then misleadingly quoted, creating the false impression that they were on opposite sides of a racially charged local battle over the town’s name change.
In reality, Grant Jackson, a Choctaw Indian, and then-Mayor James Ouzts were co-leaders of the campaign to change the town’s name. What they both explicitly said, in context, is that racial tensions in White Settlement were a non-factor, and they only wanted to rename to town to make it more appealing to outsiders.
“Back in the 1940’s, being politically correct wasn’t big a deal,” said Jackson, who was the vice president of the chamber of commerce, in an interview with The New York Times. “But today our name keeps us from having a meaningful discussion with potential [business] partners.”
He added: “It doesn’t mean there’s any racial strife here, but something like West Settlement would go down a lot easier [with businesses].”