There is still a place in America where judges demonstrate, if only for an instant, the wisdom of Anubis. Paris, Texas is one such place. It is the self-styled “Best Small Town in Texas.” The Economic Development page of the website offers us the following: “Paris is a Northeast Texas City, located in Lamar County, some 105 miles northeast of Dallas. It is in the center of a 11-county area and is the hub of retail trade, manufacturing, farming, medical care, and other economic segments in this part of Texas.”
Paris, Texas is also the “home” to three Fortune 500 companies. The Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the Campbell Soup Company (manufacturing plant for soups, sauces, beverages, etc.) and the Sara Lee Bakery Group. A movie has been made about Paris, Texas, though it was not filmed there. Vanilla Ice hails from Paris, Texas. And so does Judge Chuck Superville.
It seems that Judge Superville had an Anubis moment of wisdom in sentencing a 14-year old girl to probation after she burned down her family home. While I haven’t read his decision on the case, I imagine that he believed this young girl might have already experienced significant trauma and should not be forced to endure more tribulations after what can only be characterized as an extreme error in judgment. I don’t know that this young girl was the daughter of a political contributor, or a coerced participant in an arson scheme, or anything else. I do know that she was 14 years old at the time of her commission of a felony offense in the town of Paris – under the jurisdiction of Judge Superville.
I know something else too.
I know something that I wish were patently false. But, it is not false – and it involves Judge Chuck Superville and the town of Paris, Texas…the same judge with the capacity for Anubis moments and the same city which hosts three multinational corporations. In fact, I know something that would probably turn the heads (and stomachs) of most of the boards of directors of those corporations. It might even make them reconsider the location of their processing plants. It might cause them to reconsider the relationships of their firms with the closeknit leadership of Paris, Texas.
Judge Chuck Superville is involved in a situation with another 14-year old girl. This young girl, however, differs from the other young girl who came before the judge. This young girl is Black. The other young woman is not. This young girl was not involved in a felony offense, but was charged as though she was. This young girl is in prison – for as many as 7 years.
Now, what could this child have done to warrant a seven-year sentence from a judge who sees the merit of probation for teen arsonists? What possible non-felonious offense could this judge have been forced to rule on (perhaps by statute or political pressure) that would result in a seven-year PRISON SENTENCE?
A what? A shove. A shove is a step above a push and several stages below “beat down” and far, far below “unceremonious ass kicking.” The young Black girl presently serving a sentence of up to sever years is named Shaquanda Cotton. She is clad, now, not in the current styles of her classmates, but in the state-issued orange uniform of an incarcerated felon. Ms. Cotton may not be entirely without blame in this scenario. She did shove an employee of her school – and was charged with assault on a public official (or some such language). It does take two to tango. Still, what of the facts in evidence would lead an Anubis judge to lose all perspective and rule as if he were presiding in an apartheid state or some other neo-American white supremacist regime?
Apparently, there is little to suggest that this ruling is attributable to much more than Paris’ less-disclosed but highly-prized history as a locale for lynchings. Paris’ boasts that the town serves as an American hub…a conduit for business…echo loudly as gallows drop and cell doors close.
I am going to suggest the following…that overturning judicial decisions is slow, hard, grinding work – even for absurd cases like this. There is a tactical approach to overturning such a decision. Part of it must be legal…part of it must be waged with the public. To the extent that you can spread the word about what has transpired – and reach out to those concerned about the future (and present) of Paris, Texas, please do so. It seems to me that a great place to begin might be the Board of Directors of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the Campbell Soup Company and the Sara Lee Bakery Group.
I am sure that when black folk like former Green Bay Packer great Willie Davis sit down at the next board meeting, he will not appreciate that this is happening in a town where his company provides more than 600 jobs. There are reports that this particular case is part of a continuum of injustice with implications across the entire spectrum of social life in Paris. If that is the case, the American public would no more stand for an iconic brand to operate sweatshops in Thailand than they would allow apartheid style judges to operate in the heartland.
Speak and be heard. Mr. Davis is not the only board member who likes to get letters in the mail. I hear that phone are especially popular these days. And before you write or call, put aside for a moment your personal agenda about racial injustice or southern demagoguery or Tuck Fexas or anything like that. If you can, think for a moment of Shaquanda and her mother’s worry and frustration for every waking moment (there is no sleeping here) – and consider the urgency of your action. Don’t speak to get your agenda out…speak to communicate with the listener…speak to be felt and to influence a change in the current condition.