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U.S. Justice Department Paris Involvement Offers No Guarantees for Justice/Peace
Talk Cheap as Gap Widens and Problems Continue to Mount
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
PARIS- When speaking of city-wide race dialogue in Paris, talk is cheap.
The path to equality in Paris is still a two-sided road with one side promoting a chamber of commerce approach and another side taking a non-violent approach of civil disobedience to bring attention to the neglect and abuse of civil rights and bring attention to the injustices and failures in the criminal justice system – something the Diversity Task Force is not addressing.
The new involvement of Carmelita Freeman, Southwest Regional director, and David Penland, both of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service offers little hope for change or that the diversity task force and other residents opposing protests will warm or open up to the concerns of citizens crying out for justice and equality.
Diversity Task Force leaders contended the meeting at Calvary United Methodist Church was a start and opens the doors to better relations and discussions on race and brings talks into the open.
The meeting is the first of several planned in the coming months at the combined request of the Community Relations Service, the Paris Chapter of NAACP, The Black Ministers Alliance and the Diversity Task Force of Paris.
However, civil rights activists are not as optimistic and contend the communication gap continues to widen as injustice issues and problems continue to mount.
“Although the Justice Department meeting was nicely arranged and everyone was shaking hands and friendly, I was not impressed,” said Brenda Cherry, Lamar County activist and leader of Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality. “I’m hoping improving image is not the main goal of these meetings as far as the NAACP, black ministers, and Diversity Task Force are concerned but I suspect it is. No matter what the intention, we will not stop our protesting or fight for justice and equality until we see change.”
According to Cherry, multiple meetings were held in 2006 regarding racism in the Paris Independent School District and those meetings were mediated by the Justice Department and the district backed out. Also, CCRE met with the NAACP and black ministers and the Diversity Task Force – with no apparent progress.
“I am skeptically optimistic,” Bond said. “Overall the meeting brought people to the table. The future success of this effort depends on the good white people of Paris and Lamar County stepping forward.”
The DTF and some local groups still oppose what they term “outsiders” coming into LamarCounty and Paris to monitor or help with efforts to improve the racial climate in the community.
One group even opposes the New Black Panther Party, Irving NAACP founder and activist Anthony Bond’s intervention in the process.
“Up until the last protests, all of those meetings yielded the same results, which was a claim that there are no race problems or racist actions in Paris,” she said. “One citizen attending the meeting proved otherwise. He stated that he represented a newly established group calling themselves, “Regular Citizens of Lamar County” and stated he wanted “outsiders” to stay out of Paris.”
The New Black Panther Party has been actively involved and most recently in the case involving the dragging death of Brandon McClelland and the alleged injustices coming out of the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office.
Neither the Justice Department officials nor the Diversity Task Force raised objections to that kind of non-constructive thinking and divisive talk of the RCLC.
According to the mission of the RCLC, the group directly opposes any racist groups that would come to Lamar County in order to defame our citizenry as racist.
“We believe that as a whole, our community consists of good, hard working citizens with high moral turpitude. Their have been several questionable incidents that may or may not have racial overtones. But in our opinion, these occurrences are isolated and do not reflect the true nature of our citizens and we oppose groups that would state otherwise.”
The Regular Citizens of Lamar County contends it is not a racist group and membership is open to anyone that wants to restore our county’s good name through affirmative action.
According to information on the organization, it states, “Our efforts will primarily consist of lobbying local groups to write letters on official letter head requesting that certain active racial groups do not come to our county for any kind of protest action.”
The group statement includes a threat to “outsiders”.
“If they refuse and return to our county, we will disrupt there rallies in a civil manner that will prohibit there message from being heard. We will maintain a non violent and non racial communication with the opposed groups. We are adamant in protecting our county’s good name and to remove the stigma of the perception that we are, as a whole, racist by groups that would propagate that idea.”
The RCLC is one strong piece of evidence why Cherry and other freedom fighters in Paris and LamarCounty needs more support.
The RCLC group clearly presents itself in the same manner that the KKK did in the past to intimidate activists in the Civil Rights Movement.
“Their online mission statement says their purpose will be to attend any future protests and stop the protesters from being heard,” Cherry said. “The statement says they “will protect the county’s good name”. One of the things mentioned at the Dept. of Justice meeting was the need for the image of Paris to be improved. Some citizens don’t want it to be seen as racist because they fear it will be viewed as such. Actions and threats like this are neither productive nor symbolic of improving good will and creating honest dialogue”
“I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
If only the RCLC, the Diversity Task Force and the Justice Department would hear and demand that Dr. Kings words be respected, honored and followed in Paris/ Lamar County in 2008.