ALERT to the U.S. Department of Justice
Paris, Texas is back in the news. Racial animosity in this small town is like the leopard that cannot change its spots. However, I will call it racism no more. Whenever black workers cannot feel safe on the job because of nooses hanging around the job site, racist graffiti sprayed on walls and etched in sidewalks, and continued threats against the black populous, it is time to call it what it truly is: Domestic Terrorism.
“Only a few weeks ago, race relations had reached such a low point in the troubled east Texas town of Paris that federal Justice Department mediators were called in to try to bring together black and white citizens, but the public meeting quickly dissolved into rancor,” reports Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune.
“Now fresh racial tensions are erupting inside one of the town's biggest employers, the Turner Industries pipe fabrication plant, where black employees charge that hangman's nooses, Confederate flags and racist graffiti have been appearing throughout the workplace for months… One worker, Karl Mitchell, took pictures of the offensive symbols in early February and filed a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week. Other African-American employees assert that they've repeatedly complained about the racist symbols to their bosses, only to be ignored or told to keep quiet.”
Witt also reviewed his previous stories about Paris.
Paris first drew national scrutiny in 2007, after a 14-year-old African-American girl, Shaquanda Cotton, was sentenced by a local judge to up to seven years in a youth prison for shoving a hall monitor at Paris High School. Three months earlier, the same judge had sentenced a 14-year-old white girl to probation for the more serious crime of arson. Less than a month after a Tribune story contrasting the two cases triggered national civil rights protests and petition drives, Texas authorities ordered Shaquanda's early release from prison.
Then last year, a 24-year-old African-American man, Brandon McClelland, was murdered, allegedly at the hands of two white men who authorities charge dragged him beneath a pickup truck until his body was nearly dismembered. The accused killers are awaiting trial for murder, but McClelland's family and civil rights leaders have pressed prosecutors to add hate-crime charges as well.
Darwin Campbell of the LoneStarPowerPages reports the underlying concerns of one local African-American civic leader.
“One of my biggest concerns regarding the racist graffiti, noose, and other things found at the plant is the mentality of those who put it there,” said Brenda Cherry, community activist and leader of Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality. “Those same people serve on juries, and some go on to have supervisory positions or other positions of authority.”
Eddie Griffin Commentary
Brenda Cherry hit the nail on the head in her assessment of whites with these hateful attitudes occupying “positions of authority” and serving on juries. We believe this was the attitude behind sending Shaquanda Cotton to prison for up to seven years, charged with assault on a public servant for merely pushing a school aide.
We believe it is the same attitude that saw no hate crime charges file in the dragging death of Brandon McClelland.
But then, this town of 26,000 has always been in denial of its history of bigotry and racial hatred. It took over 100 years for the city to apologize for the lynching of Henry Smith in 1893.
No one can imagine what goes on inside the insidious mind of people buried in the piney backwoods of East Texas. The lynching of Henry Smith typifies to other similar stories of East Texas.
As the story goes, Henry Smith was falsely accused of a white child’s murder, simply because there were no other convenient suspects. A mob of about 10,000 whites dragged him off the train and put him on a carnival float and paraded him through town and out into the prairie. There, he was placed upon a scaffold and tortured for fifty minutes by hot iron brands to his flesh, starting with his feet and legs and working upward to his head.
A February 2, 1893 article in The New York Sun stated that, “Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd.” Eventually, the hot irons were thrust into his eye sockets and down his throat. Afterwards, finding he was still breathing, the crowd poured oil on him and set him on fire. The crowd then fought over the hot ashes to collect his bones and teeth as souvenirs.
I assert that the mentality behind these recent incidents is the same as those who found pleasure in the torture and lynching of Henry Smith.
Can a leopard change its spots? Can a vampire loose his lust for blood? Can a racist reform his mind?
I don’t think so, not without some prodding from the Department of Justice prosecution office.