Fort Bend County’s top elected official fired back at racist, anti-immigrant comments he said have been made about him on social media.
County Judge KP George, an Indian-American who immigrated to the United States and Fort Bend County more than 30 years ago from the small South Indian village of Kakkodu, said he has received a plethora of hateful and racist comments and social media messages in response to his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Fort Bend County.
“When someone criticizes my decisions that is their right as Americans,” George wrote in a letter he posted to Facebook and Twitter on Saturday. “However, when people choose to hurl racist, anti-immigrant garbage at my family, colleagues and me—that crosses a line.”
George’s office provided examples of some of the criticism he’s received about his decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He issued a stay-at-home order in March and earlier this month required businesses to utilize masks, in both cases following the lead of other Texas counties, including Harris County.
Shortly after the local mask mandate, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring most Texans to wear face coverings when in public.
“If KP George tries to take away our freedom…it will not be the first time a foreigner has attempted to do so. KP George is not an American,” said one online poster, whose name and photo were redacted in screenshots provided by the county. “How did Fort Bend County let a foreigner, an America hater, become so powerful?”
Said another commenter about George: “He came here for freedom, and opportunities, then this (expletive) is trying to destroy and take away our freedoms.”
In response, George cited his family’s history in Fort Bend County – where he has lived for decades and become a U.S. citizen – as well as his history of public service that includes serving on Fort Bend ISD’s Board of Trustees before being elected county judge.
Combatting the COVID-19 pandemic has become George’s most pressing issue. As of Tuesday, the county had reported 5,995 cases of COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the new coronavirus strain. That is more than triple the number of cases the county had in May, when Abbott began reopening the state after several Texas counties, including Fort Bend, were under local stay-at-home orders.
There have been at least 72 deaths in Fort Bend due to COVID-19, while 2,092 people have recovered.
“As your County Judge, I’ve had to make a lot of decisions over the last few months to tackle the COVID crisis head-on. I want everyone to know that these decisions aren’t taken lightly,” George wrote in his letter. “They’re made in consultation with the relevant medical and scientific experts, and with input from community leaders and residents, and in all cases, my Christian faith guides my decision-making: will this help Fort Bend County residents?”
Some residents have showed their support for George on various social media platforms.
“I may disagree with some of your decisions, but there is no place for these type of comments, especially in our county,” one resident said on Twitter. “All I ask is that every decision you make is, in your opinion, what’s best for the people you serve. I may disagree, but I will respect you in the end.”
Several elected officials from the Houston region also have expressed support for George, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who represents much of Fort Bend County.
“These are not values of the Fort Bend County that I have been privileged to represent in the United States Congress for 12 years,” Olson tweeted July 18. “Hate is not welcome here.”
George said he knows many may not agree with his choices. He also said there is no room for personal insults.
He later urged citizens to call out racist and anti-immigrant sentiments, while citing the county’s diverse population. According to a 2018 survey by Rice University’s Kinder Institute, Fort Bend County has become one of the U.S.’s most ethnically diverse counties with a relatively equal mix of Black, white, Hispanic and Asian residents.
“What has always made this country great is that anyone can come here and make something of themselves,” George said. “… I want you to know I am an American by choice with a deep and abiding passion for the values and opportunities that make this the greatest country on Earth.
“… Stand up for your neighbors, your coworkers, and your children’s classmates. Stand up for Fort Bend, our nation’s most diverse county. In doing so, you’ll be standing up for a better future America, the land of the free and home of the brave.”