As Trina Thompson sees it, Black people living in Killeen and Harker Heights come from all over Texas and beyond, representing a wide range of ideas and backgrounds.
“We are a very diverse community,” said Thompson, a Black woman and entrepreneur who moved to Killeen 20 years ago.
All Black people don’t think in the same way or have the same views, said Thompson, who owns several small businesses in the Killeen area and is a top parent teachers association official for the Killeen school district.
However, a statement in a recent video posted by another prominent Black woman in the community seemed to indicate that “all black people think in one mind collective,” Thompson said.
In her Facebook Live video, Harker Heights resident Aya Eneli, a lawyer and professor who champions women’s empowerment and speaks publicly about Black history and racial injustices, said she wanted to make something very clear:
“Bell County Black folk, if you’re voting for Brad Buckley,” Eneli said in the video before pausing and appearing to contemplate. “OK, If you’re voting for Brad Buckley, and you are Black or Hispanic, you are either sorely misinformed or you don’t really understand what’s at stake or you’re stupid as hell.”
It’s the “stupid as hell” part of the comment that seemed to be getting the most attention when Thompson saw the video a couple of weeks ago. Thompson, a registered Republican, said the video didn’t really offend her, but she doesn’t like it when anyone indicates that all Black people should be thinking the same. She called that portion of the video an “ignorant statement.”
Buckley, R-Salado, is a Killeen veterinarian, running for reelection Nov. 3 against Army retiree Keke Williams, D-Harker Heights, for Texas House District 54 seat, which represents Killeen, south Bell County and Lampasas County. It’s expected to be a tight race, and a seat that Democrats think they can flip after 20 years of GOP control. Buckley is white and Williams is Black.
Eneli, a Williams supporter and previous Killeen school board candidate, said last week she stands by what she said in the video.
“That video was a Facebook live video. As far as I know, it is still on my page unless Facebook took it down,” Eneli said in an email to the Herald. “Anybody who is of color (and actually anyone who loves fairness and justice) who is voting for someone who has backed a party that is wholly wedded to voter suppression (particularly of the votes of black and brown people), someone who voted against expanding healthcare in our state and someone who will have no problems continuing the gerrymandering that has led to the disenfranchisement of Black and brown people needs to reexamine their commitment to liberty and justice for all.”
It’s unclear how far and wide the video went or how much initial reaction it received. The Herald could not find the video last week on Facebook, and was notified of the video after a clip of it was sent to the Herald’s newsroom.
Thompson said the video did get some people in the community talking about it, but she wasn’t sure how big of a reaction it got.
Neither did Eneli, who indicated there was more to the original Facebook post than the 25-second video clip the Herald was sent. She refused to send the whole video or the link to the Herald.
“I’m too busy to go look for a link. I don’t know what reaction it got. I said what I needed to and moved on. My focus is on engaging people beyond sound bites and encouraging them to make informed decisions. Why is this a news story? Are we trying to silence citizens?,” Eneli said in an email to the Herald.
The Herald also asked for reactions from the candidates.
“Keke is honored that so many Veterans, small business owners, and working families across Lampasas and Bell Counties support her campaign for the Texas House,” according to a statement from Williams’ campaign office. “Keke Williams will keep fighting to bring the voices of our community to the Capitol in Austin.”
Her campaign did not answer specific questions about the video, including if Williams had seen it and what her reaction was.
Buckley said he watched portions of the video. He said his conduct as a legislator contradicts the comments made by Eneli.
“I know that throughout my tenure as state representative, I have had an open door policy for all communities,” he said Friday. “I’ve not only cared about their issues, I’ve connected with folks in those communities to try to help them solve problems in those communities.”
Buckley said he has a record of accomplishment in education, veteran issues and expanding health care opportunities for lower income families.
“I think all these things impact all the communities in HD 54,” Buckley said. “You know, throughout the session, our office door was always open; we hosted every community.”
He added that after the session, he regularly visited areas within the district to provide legislative updates and engage constituents to have them offer recommendations on things that still need work.
Buckley said he served as a member of the Bell County COVID-19 Racial Disparities Taskforce, which gathered money and resources so residents could receive things like masks and thermometers. He said he also held safe, virtual town halls during that time.
“So, I believe that my record as a state representative has been one of inclusion, it’s been one of engagement and it’s been one of absolute respect for all communities,” he said.
Buckley said he believes commentary like that made in the video serves to divide Texas residents, as opposed to bringing unity.
“Many members of all communities in HD 54 understand that,” Buckley said. “And I know that they trust me to continue to be a strong voice for them in Austin.”
Reporter Hunter King contributed to this report.