I honestly thought racism was on the outs, especially in my little town of Paris, Texas. I live in one of those little Southern towns where everyone waves to everyone and everyone is a neighbor. “Howdy neighbor, how are the kids?” Things like this are not so unusual. But lately, I am seeing things a little more clearly.
There has been quite a racial stirring lately surrounding an African American girl named Shaquanda Cotton. Young Shaquanda, a 14-year-old freshman at the local Paris High School, was sentenced to seven years for “assault on a public servant.” The public servant in question was a hall monitor who refused Shaquanda early entrance in the school building, despite the fact that she had permission to enter the building to access the nurse’s office to take medicine.
Shaquanda was sentenced by the same court that, just last year, sentenced a 19-year-old white boy to one year’s probation for killing a 54-year-old Black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck. Shaquanda was sentenced by the same judge who, just three months prior, sentenced a white female teenager to probation after being convicted of arson in the burning of her family’s house.
What a shock! I knew there was still racism around, but I thought it was all covert. So I looked around. After attending an anti-racism committee sponsored by the YWCA last year, I found that my small town was notorious for Black lynchings, even past the banning of such things. Yet another surprise!
I guess it’s been easy for me. It has been easy for most white people who have never experienced racism or discrimination. But it sure doesn’t take much, once your eyes are open, to see that racism is far from dead. My eyes are open, and my spirit is ready to fight against such gross injustice to humans.
For others with eyes opened, why not send Shaquanda a letter, a bit of encouragement? Here is her contact information:
Shaquanda Cotton 1125308 Ron Jackson Correctional Complex Unit 2 Dorm 4 P.O. Box 872 Brownwood TX 76804
Ben Wheeler served as a soldier in Iraq in 2003.