Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trouble in Paris

Of course, that's Paris, Texas, my mother's hometown, that has trouble. Last year two white men went drinking with a black man and they had a falling out. The next day the black man's mutilated body was found. His drinking buddies of the night before insisted they had left him along the way, perfectly alright but under the weather. The blood found on their truck was the answer to that 'storying'. We said 'storying' instead of lying to be polite when we were kids here in N.TX.

The parents of the dead man called on the Black Panthers in the Dallas area to come in and help. They were sure without public outcry the crime would be covered up and passed over. The Black Panthers did come in and make a stink, and that's not what we said to be polite.

Dallas-area civil rights activists drawn here last year by the brutal killing of a young black man, who authorities say was run down by two white men, have divided the community they came to help: black Paris residents, some of whom invited the outsiders, and others who'd prefer that they go home.

"I really wish they would stay where they are," local NAACP president James Price said. "We are actively pursuing racial dialogue and harmony. We don't have any more problems than anyone else."

But other local blacks – wary of a history that includes a notorious 1893 lynching and the 2006 jailing of a black teenager who shoved a teacher's aide – welcome activists such as Olinka Green and her New Black Panther Party of Dallas to the northeast Texas town.

"We wouldn't have to come into that town if they took care of their business," said Green, the group's spokeswoman, who helped organize protests arguing unsuccessfully for authorities to reclassify the September slaying of Brandon McClelland as a hate crime.
(snip)
Demonstrators backed by some Paris residents accused officials of covering up a hate crime. While the designation wouldn't increase the potential punishment in the murder case, the activists hoped it would draw attention to the killing and ensure that a lesser sentence wouldn't be doled out.

The protesters railed against the legal and educational systems in Lamar County, accusing officials of harassment and abuse, unfair prosecutions and sentencing disparities exemplified by the case of Shaquanda Cotton, a black high school student who was sent to a Texas Youth Commission lockup for up to seven years after being convicted of assaulting a teacher's aide. Cotton was freed after about a year.

Activists have also taken up the cause of a black amputee who was threatened with eviction from his Paris apartment after being charged with assault. And a local factory worker filed a federal complaint last week because a hangman's noose, Confederate flag and racist graffiti were on display for months at his workplace. (Emphasis added.)


The history of race relations in the N.TX area is a grim one. In Sherman there was a lynching in the early 1900's, and the courthouse and black business community were burned. There are similar incidents in the past of many towns in this area. Those times are in the past, but not far enough.

Enlightened communities in the east are easier for me, and generally for minorities and educated people, to live in. We forget sometimes that there is real, active, prejudice at work to keep some of us from getting a fair share of opportunity. That attitude was one that I grew up with and am fortunate that I escaped. We who did escape have to keep opposing racism, and even when we get accused of making trouble unnecessarily, we have to keep on standing up for justice.

It's not easy, but we don't want to live easy lives that we have to be ashamed of.

It's the end of Black History Month, but society's not postracist yet.

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3 Comments:

Blogger jobsanger said...

After reading about this crime, I don't believe it was really a hate crime. The three had been friends for a long time, and were partying together that day.
It seems more like a violent alcohol-induced fight among friends. That, of course, doesn't excuse the two murderers and they need to get a long time in prison.
It's just odd that while this was probably not a racially-motivated crime, it did bring a lot of unresolved racial problems to the surface.
And Paris is not unique. This could have happened in any Texas town.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

While I'm not inclined to pretend to knowledge of other people's motivations, I have to point out that when there was a fight, two white men joined in against, and later gave false information about, the black man. And he is dead.

12:15 AM  
Blogger jobsanger said...

Actually, one of the men got mad when the victim wouldn't get back in the pickup, and ran over him. The other just helped him clean up and cover up.

They are guilty of drunkenness, stupidity and murder, but I still don't think it was a hate crime.

6:56 PM  

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