I have had a chance to speak to a number of residents in Paris, Texas regarding the fallout from the sentencing of a 14 year-old student invovled in shoving a hall monitor at school. The story has taken on a life of its own on the internet, television, and here in Dallas it became more widely known as a result of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show on Friday. I thought I'd take a moment to go over a few of my own opinions regarding some of the events surrounding the protests, the accusations, and overall perceptions of the residents of Paris.
Many of you who read this blog know that Paris Texas is my hometown.
10. Paris Independent School District underestimated some in Black Community
The Paris Schools have been accused of racism and bias in a number of specific incidents over the past three or four years. Many of the claims were frivolous and involved problem children whose parents were trying to get over for them.
However there were some disciplinary actions taken against black students that were inappropriate, perpetuated by teachers and administrators that I have known and respected. The district thought that by reassigning those involved the problems, and complaints, would go away. They did not account for the resolve of the parties involved, and hence had no long term strategy. Had the district had better follow through, and protected the students as they did the administrators, they may have been able to avoid some of the backlash.
9. The Paris Schools sent the 14 year-old to jail
The 58 year-old hall monitor who was shoved in the incident that has gained national attention, was actually the party who pressed criminal charges against the 14 year-old. The district has not made a (public) recommendation in the case to my knowledge.
8. M.F. is an appropriate word to use at a protest
There have been a number of entities that have come into Paris to protest the schools and the courts. There has been lots of finger pointing and name-calling including one unfortunate episode at the school administration building that was brought to my attention. Some of the protestors -mostly from out of town- were using what one witness referred to as "the most profane language that you would ever want to hear." Our children should be seeing examples of how to behave when you think a wrong has occured, not emotional outburst and profanity ladened tirades.
7. The African-American community in Paris is without representation
To listen to some of the accounts, you would think black folks in the town sit on their porch and wait for white people to tell them where to go and when to leave. The African-American is ably represented in city government, and by a strong church community.
Carolyn Lockett and former Paris Mayor George Fisher currently serve as trustees on the Paris School Board. And Mary Ann Fisher Reed serves on the city council as mayor pro tem and Kevin Gray sits on the council as well.
6. Any African-American who disagrees with the protest, who testified in the case, or who works for the school system is a "sellout"
This has become such and easy default these days, calling somebody a "sellout."
Now there pictures of teachers and administrators in Paris, people like Michael Johnson, Marva Joe, Robert High, and Althea Dixon, that refer to them as Uncle Toms, Sellout Negroes, and Token Weapons of Mass Destruction. Even if someone were to find fault with either one of them, this particular tactic is tired and unimaginative. Mr. High and Mrs. Joe alone have been involved in proactive efforts in the community longer than most of those analyzing this situation have even been alive.
5. The City and School is Faultless
As is the case 99% of the time, Anglo parties wonder where all of these problems are coming from for a city where whites and black get along so well. And I admit white and black do get along O.K. and it's not because black folks roll over. But the majority (for now) in this country has to understand that even though "it wasn't their fault," they are still the beneficiaries 250 years of slavery, and 100 years of Jim Crow Semi-Slavery.
My mother was in the last graduating class of the Black High School in Paris – 1966. This same school system that provided her and her peers with old, worn, written in textbooks is the same system that is charged with educating the grandchildren and great-grand children or those former Gibbons High students. The products the segregated Paris schools are still in leadership, and their children and grandchildren benefit from it whether they know it or not. This is not unique to Paris, Texas.
4. Paris Texas = Backwoods, USA
It's easy to believe that in a town of 26,000 people in northeast Texas everyone walks around barefoot toting ice down a dirt road from the general store, but that's not the case. In Paris, Texas, many African-Americans and their families are afforded a higher standard of living due to three entities: Campbell's Soup, Kimberly-Clark, and Paris Junior College. Many residents have worked for 20, 30, 35 years at these factories earning the a higher income the most Americans that don't have a college degree.
Case in point; when I went off to college at Texas A&M, I was shocked and amazed to see that the custodial staff was made up entirely (in 1992) of African-Americans. I had never seen black people working these positions in these types of numbers because most of the people I knew with at least a high school diploma had a good job working at one of the plants. There is also a high percentage of black residents in Paris who own their own homes.
Also, a lot of graduates are able to get some college hours under their belt with the presense of a two-year college in town. The nursing program at Paris Junior College opens up the medical field to many students without having to leave the comforts of home.
3. You are receiving accurate information
The more the story of Paris Texas makes its way around the internet, radio, and television, the more the realities are being distorted. MANY, MANY, MANY, people are reluctant to tell their side of the story because it involves a minor, and out of respect to her they are being silent. Their silence is being mistaken for weakness and the squeakiest wheel gets the oil. A lot of people are getting caught up in something they know nothing about, and are fighting for a short-term solution without a single thought of a long-term plan.
2. Preachers in Paris are sitting on the sideline while and innocent party is persecuted
I was SICKENED on Friday as I listened to the Rickey Smiley Morning Show at how the Black Ministers in Paris were portrayed. These men (mostly men, but that's another blog) have been going out to the schools, walking the halls almost daily to make sure that our children are they doing what they are supposed to be doing. And then to have them called out across the airwaves without response or reply was way beyond wrong.
Ask yourself; what might be the reason that the clergy or black leaders have not gotten directly involved with the principles of this protest? I had to ask myself; why Shawn has everyone that you know and respect in this town, everyone that you admired as a young man not aligned themselves with the principle organization? Why are so many people from out of town being called when so many smart and active people live right there in town? Hopefully the preachers from Dallas and other towns will call the black ministers in Paris and get their accoount of what's happening before joining or leading protests in the town.
1. The 14 year-old was sentenced to 7 years in prison
I can say that I thought this was the punishment handed out by Judge "Chuck" Superville, however I have since found out that the sentence he handed out was one (1) to seven (7) year, and was eligible for release after one year for behavior parameters. And this was juvenile court, not adult court. Still seems like a stiff sentence, though other options were considered.
Post written in memory of fallen Dallas police officer, Senior Cpl. Mark T. Nix