To some in Paris, sinister past is back
In Texas, a white teenager burns down her family's home and receives probation.
A black one shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison.
The state NAACP calls it `a signal to black folks.'
The public fairgrounds in this small east Texas town look ordinary enough, like so many other well-worn county fair sites across the nation. Unless you know the history of the place.
There are no plaques or markers to denote it, but several of the most notorious public lynchings of black Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were staged at the Paris Fairgrounds, where thousands of white spectators would gather to watch and cheer as black men were dragged onto a scaffold, scalded with hot irons and finally burned to death or hanged...
There was the 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.
There are the Paris public schools, which are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department after repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently, and more harshly, than white students.
And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.
Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation...
Witt followed up today with a description of the internet activity and public outcry that followed:
Sometimes, as a newspaper reporter, you write a story that touches enough readers that a few write you letters or e-mails in response.
Less often, but even more gratifying, you write a story that actually changes something, like getting a bad law fixed or a corrupt politician indicted or a donation for a kid who can't afford life-saving surgery.
And every once in a blue moon, you write something that literally explodes across the Internet in ways no one could predict...