Chittlin's and Chopsticks

Writer and mother, Terris McMahan Grimes, the Mother From Another Continent, an her friends share their slighty off kilter parenting views and their takes on a whole lot of other things.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Carpetbag Anyone?

Hey, I got a good idea.

Let’s all of us move to Paris, Texas, “The Best Small Town in Texas.”

Low Property Values
Property values are low there. Look what’s being asked for this huge custom built house--$160,000. I live in California. You couldn’t touch this for at least three times that amount, and our housing market is depressed. I’ve seen other equally nice houses listed in Paris for $100,000 and less. Honest.

Charter Schools?
Of course we would probably have to home school our kids. We don’t want them to be treated like Shaquanda Cotton. Do they have charter schools there? I’ll have to check on that.

Good Ole Sixties
I don’t know about the rest of the boomers out there, but I miss the sixties. We knew how to organize. We knew how to protest. We knew how to party. We knew how to get down. We just didn’t know how to dress. We would have a booming commune there by now.

Good Citizens
Let’s move to Paris and be good citizens and good neighbors. Let’s start businesses, hire employees, pay taxes, join the Kiwanis and the Rotary Club.

Memorial to Lynch Victims
We could join the Lamar County Historical Society. Maybe we could join their campaign to build a memorial to the countless people lynched in Paris. History is remembering but not repeating. History helps us see how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

Good Ole Fashion Blues
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of moving to Paris, but I’m not going with y’all. If we hurry, we can make it in time for Camp ShagBark Blues Party.

You know I love me some blues.

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At 3/19/2007 11:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paris is a great place, and we'd be glad to have you. Just leave your misconceptions about us behind.

At 3/20/2007 12:17 AM , Blogger Mother said...

I'm sure Paris is a grand place. Thank you for your welcome. I am considering it. My one concern would be my ten-year-old who suffers from ADHD just as does Shaquanda. He can be rather implusive when not on his meds. I would worry about him.

What are my misconceptions?

At 3/20/2007 1:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps that Paris is a racist place (you very well may not have that perception at all).

Truthfully, you've been one of the more reasonable commentators on this situation. The thing that concerns me most is how many people believe everything that is typed on a blog to be fact.

Much of the story has been either intentionally omitted or taken out of context to create the image of a community that wants to keep blacks oppressed as if these were the days of slavery. Nothing of the sort exists in Paris.

I believe that Ms. Cotton received too severe a sentence, however I have not seen it mentioned that she was consistently in trouble in school. Most people have pointed out that she shoved a teacher's aide but have failed to point out that to do so is assault of a public servant and a third-degree felony. I reiterate that it is my opinion that her sentence was too harsh.

Paris ISD does not treat blacks students in a racist manner. The shouts in today's protest of "Go to Hell, Devil!" directed towards Superintendent Paul Trull were mean-spirited and unnecessary. Paris ISD has been investigated for 12 complaints against it, all of which were found to be without merit. Two of the seven members of the school board are black, as are a number of the administrators.

I think it was in poor judgment on Philip Hamilton's part to call Howard Witt's article a "journalistic lynching". I do feel that it is terribly one-sided, and at best very lazy and sensationalist journalism. Mr. Hamilton's concern about how the inaccurate portrayal of our community as racist could negatively impact all of the citizens is a legitimate concern. Many residents are echoing similar sentiments.

I understand it is important to not forget our history, including that which is not pleasant to remember, but how would it be beneficial to commemorate such an ugly occurance as the lynching of Henry Smith (and thereby his heinous murder of a three year old little girl)? Surely if Paris were to build such a monument or museum, we would be criticized for doing so.

I would like to continue our civil dialogue. I hope that this incident sparks honest and serious debate and discussion.

At 3/20/2007 2:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll save you a little research... we don't have any charter schools, only three public schools: Paris ISD, North Lamar ISD, and Chisum ISD.

At 3/20/2007 7:13 AM , Blogger karrie said...

You couldn't pay me to move there!

But I like the way you think. :)

At 3/21/2007 6:52 PM , Blogger Mother said...

Dear Anonymous:

Let’s agree not to use the word “racist” in our discussions. You are not a racist, but it is just about impossible to prove a negative.

I propose we use instead the word, “legacy.” Americans—black, white, yellow, red, and poor—share the legacy of slavery, which was a form of capitalism gone bad.

Let’s stipulate that slavery was bad, lynching and other forms of terrorism were bad, and we—you and I and other decent people—are trying to deal with this legacy and find a way to live productive lives in harmony.

Okay. We’ve gotten away from the dreaded R word. Now let’s look at our legacy. How does it impact your life? How does it impact the culture, civics, and jurisprudence of Paris? How do you suppose our legacy impacts those same factors here in Sacramento, California? I have tossed out my preconceptions, so you’re going to have to help me.

Now, let’s talk about Ms. Cotton. You said you believe her sentence was too severe. Thank you. I needed to hear that from a Parisian. Now, tell me, what do you propose to doing about it? I’m making assumptions again, aren’t I. Let me rephrase that question. What have you done? How have you used your voice?

I agree that it was wrong for Ms. Cotton to shove the hall monitor. I agree she should be held accountable for her actions. Keep in mind Ms. Cotton was trying to enter the school early so she could have her medication for ADHD administered to her. My 10-year-old suffers from ADHD. Without his meds he is stubborn, impulsive, and even combative if you press him hard enough. From what I know about ADHD, the school should have been glad the child was so intent on getting medicated.

I get the impression from your statements and things I’ve read that the young Ms. Cotton was a pain in the behind more than anything—and her mother didn’t help by filing all those complaints. But that really isn’t the issue. The issue is a child who required medication to help her control her social and emotional behavior acted out inappropriately and aggressively when she though she was being denied that medication. She probably got loud, too. And she ended up in prison.

As for the museum/memorial, I’m not suggesting we necessarily honor Henry Smith or little Myrtle Vance. Smith wasn’t tried in a court of law, evidence was not presented, a record was not created. He could have been guilty, but we don’t know. He could have innocent, but we don’t know. He was innocent by law since he wasn’t tried and found guilty. What we do know for sure is he was tortured to death as a crowd of close to 10,000 watched and cheered. That much has been documented.

This legacy must weight heavily on you and other good people of Paris, Texas. That’s why I suggested a memorial. Remember what they did at Auschwitz after the liberation? (By no means am I comparing Paris to Auschwitz) They built a museum, to commemorate and to heal, to move forward and to say “never again.”

At 3/21/2007 11:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You present very valid points, and I believe that conversations such as ours can only help all of us come together to make this world a better place for people of all ethnicities.

Some of your questions will require some very serious thought on part, and I want to give them proper thought.

I'll first address the issues that are at the forefront of what I've been pondering over the last couple of weeks (since Ms. Cotton's situation has come under scrutiny at the national level).

I don't know that I can honestly say that I've given much thought to how the legacy that you refer to has impacted my life. I'm sure that in some way it has, but it's something that is so intangible for me that it's hard to give you a really concrete answer. I suspect that there are some corporations that I rely on today for goods and services that benefited in some form or fashion from slave labor at some point in their history. The only thing that I know that we can do is to move forward (while not forgetting the legacy of our ancestors and our country, but also not dwelling on that same legacy) as a unified group of people that share very similar goals in life and society.

I do believe that the legacy has more of an impact on generations of people that came before mine, than it does on my generation. I believe it will have even less of an impact on my children's generation. I give you that it is possible that the legacy has an impact on the culture, civics, and jurisprudence of Paris (as well as Sacramento), but it's very hard for me to see it. That by no means is an indication that it isn't so. Perhaps by virtue of my age, I am unaware of the influence. Perhaps it has lost its influence.

As to Ms. Cotton's issue, not only do I believe that the sentence was too severe, but I have not spoken with anyone here in Paris who is not of the same opinion. I know that there are some, but I have not conversed with them on the issue. It is important to note, that the sentence fell within the guidelines set forth by the state of Texas. I had a friend of mine who is currently a law student do a little research for me, and the sentencing guidelines for a third degree felony call for a term of imprisonment no less than two years and no greater than ten years. A fine can be added on as well. I know my understanding of law, while more than the average citizen, is still rudimentary in comparison to a law professional, but perhaps Judge Superville had to sentence her to imprisonment. Her sentence, although it has been widely misrepresented as a seven year sentence, is actually a sentence of indeterminate length that can be no longer than seven years. She was already eligible for release (after ten months), but was denied by an appeals court.

As for what I plan to do, my current plans are to continue blogging and discussing the issue with people in Paris. My online commentary has already been quoted in the Paris News, and they did quote me (although I have posted anonymously) as saying that the punishment was too severe. I will continue to be of that opinion unless further evidence comes out that I am heretofore unaware of. I have only used my voice in the manner mentioned to this point. I don't know that it will evolve into anything else at this point.

I am perhaps a bit skeptical, but is it possible that she was not trying to enter the school to take her medication? Perhaps that is what her lawyers have instructed her and her mother to claim. I by no means know any of this to be fact, and I am only speculating, but that is the job of a lawyer, and I have heard rumblings around town that that version of the story is inaccurate. I have a friend in the police force more familiar with the case than I am, and I will try to get a more definitive explanation of the events of that day. I would love to get ahold of a copy of the court proceedings, but I suspect that those records are not open.

You are absolutely correct that Mr. Smith was not tried by jury, and therefore could not have been determined to be guilty. I suspect that many innocent men were found guilty in that time, even if they were given a trial by jury. You make a valid point with the Auschwitz analogy.

It pains me to know that that legacy is a part of the history of a city that I love, but it certainly does not make us who we are today.

At 3/22/2007 2:06 AM , Blogger Mother said...

Dear Anonymous:

I would very much like to respond to your thoughtful response to my last post, but it is nearly 2 AM here and I must try to get some sleep. I made the mistake of eating a hand full of chocolate covered expresso beans (so California) earlier tonight and now I'm wired.

At 3/22/2007 1:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand. I was trying to decide whether or not I could do our conversation justice last night myself.

At 3/22/2007 1:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, your letter to the editor was published in today's edition of the Paris News.

At 3/23/2007 2:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another letter to the editor published today:

Letters to the Editor
March 23, 2007

To the Editor:

I am writing to you in regards to the Shaquanda Cotton issue. As a member of the black community and a proud black woman and mother myself, it both saddens and enrages me that this ordeal has been blown to such proportions. Yes there is racial inequality in our society. But not every case that involves an African American individual is racially motivated or biased. To assume so we are in effect of discriminating against ourselves, separating ourselves from the rest of society as a targeted group.

Every race and sex has been in some way wronged, to assume that this case is racially motivated is foolish when not all of the facts are known. Truly the only ones who know for sure what happened in this occurrence are Shaquanda and the teachers aide. The mother is only going to hear it from her daughter’s side, and many teens when faced with retribution choose to exaggerate in their favor. To blame the superintendent, prosecutor and judge, and to call Robert High "a sell-out Negro", is derogatory and presumptive to say the least. More than likely they are the only ones that know the girls past behavior and the actual events surrounding the incidence.

This whole situation is just sad, and proves that some of the reason there is so much discrimination against our race is because we first do it to ourselves.

LaShauFicka Edwards


At 3/23/2007 8:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

More insight as to why Ms. Cotton was given the sentence that she was:

Allan Hubbard, spokesperson for Lamar County (either DA or Court) said that during the trial Creola Cotton stated that neither she nor her daughter would follow any of the requirements of probation, because they felt that they had done nothing wrong.

I also heard today that Oprah's people have contacted Judge Superville about the case (although this could be nothing more than rumor that floats around a town like Paris).

At 3/24/2007 11:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Student sent to TYC for shoving aide

By Charles Richards
The Paris News Published March 12, 2006A 14-year-old girl has been sentenced to a state juvenile correction facility “for an indeterminate period not to exceed her 21st birthday” for shoving a 58-year-old teacher’s aide.The incident occurred Sept. 30 at Paris High School, while the aide was on hall monitor duty. The girl has a history of problems at school, according to court testimony.

County Judge Chuck Superville said the girl must spend a minimum of one year at a Texas Youth Commission facility. How much longer she will stay depends upon her progress, the judge said.

A three-man, three-woman jury listened to testimony Thursday and Friday before being handed the case about 3:30 p.m. Friday. The jury deliberated just 10 minutes before reporting it had a verdict: “We the jury find it true that the respondent … did engage in delinquent conduct by commission of an assault on a public servant as charged in the petition.”

Superville discharged the jury, and the trial moved into the punishment phase, which continued for about two and a half hours before defense attorney Wesley Newell and the Lamar County district attorney’s office rested about 6:15 p.m. Friday.

School officials said they have dealt with the girl, who is now a high school freshman, many times on disciplinary issues dating back several years.

Newell argued for probation, and Superville had gone on record that sending a teenager to the TYC was something he generally would do only as a last resort.

Prosecutors argued against probation, saying that the girl’s mother is perhaps her biggest problem and that the girl has no hope of getting better as long as she’s in the same home as her mother. District Attorney Gary Young said the mother’s response to any problem at school was to paint school officials as racist.

During the punishment phase, a half-dozen or so teachers — both white and black — from the high school or from Paris Alternative School, where the girl was transferred after the incident last September, described the girl as “openly defiant, generally did not follow rules.”

Michael Johnson, a teacher/coach at the alternative school, said after a teacher “wrote her up” for violation of rules, the girl told him “I’m going to bust her in the nose.” She wanted to go home, but he made her go to the office with him, Johnson said. He said she told him, “You don’t know me very well, because I’ll burn this school down.”

Johnson, who is black, said the girl’s mother berated him, calling him the equivalent of an Uncle Tom.

The jury had three women, one of whom was black, and three men.

PHS principal Gary Preston said the school district made available every resource it had “but regularly got road-blocked with non-support of her mother.” He said he knows of nothing more that can be done.

“I think (the girl) is capable, but she is enabled by a mother who won’t support the attempts to help her. … Up until now, I think it has been very harmful for her to be in the same home with her mother.”

The girl admitted pushing the teacher’s aide, Cleda Brownfield, but said she did so only after Brownfield shoved her first.

The Sept. 30 incident occurred about 15 to 20 minutes before regular classes were to begin at 8:30 a.m. at Paris High School. Brownfield was the hall monitor in a building where some students were having meetings and others were being helped by tutors.

The hall monitor’s job is to lock the doors about 8:05 a.m., keeping all other students out of the hallways until 8:30 a.m. to keep disruptions at a minimum. Brownfield said she was on her way to lock the door when the girl walked in. When the girl was told she couldn’t come in, she protested, saying she had to go to the restroom, Brownfield testified.

She told her she’d have to use a restroom in the cafeteria across the courtyard, and the girl finally left, she said. Minutes later, when another student was admitted into the building for a meeting, the girl insisted that she also be let in. When the girl told her, “I’ll knock your block off,” and moved to come in, Brownfield said, she put up her hands in a defensive posture, and the girl responded by shoving her hard.

A teacher, Jerry Fleming, was nearby and the girl complained that he had a pencil in his hand, causing a cut on her hand when he put out his hand to restrain her. He also stepped on her shoelaces, causing her to fall, and she bumped her head, she said.

School resource officer Brad Ruthart testified he was on duty in the parking lot when he was summoned to the building because Brownfield “had been assaulted by a student.” He said he found her in the lounge and the student seated outside the principal’s office.

Brownfield “was crying, very upset, holding her arm. I asked her if she was OK, and she said she was not. I felt she needed medical help. She was so upset she had difficulty talking,” said Ruthart, a Paris police officers who works as a school resource officer for PISD.

The girl “was very calm, didn’t appear to be a threat,” Ruthart testified. During the next half hour, he talked to the various teachers who were either involved or had seen part of what happened. He also talked to the girl and to several of her friends, all of whom insisted that Brownfield shoved first.

“I thought it didn’t seem like something Brownfield would do. From what I knew of her and from what others were saying, it didn’t add up,” he said. Ruthart said he had known the teacher’s aide for several years and described her as “mild-mannered, soft-spoken, a grandmotherly type.”

The girl’s mother testified late Thursday afternoon that she got dressed and drove to Paris High School after receiving a telephone call that her daughter had been involved in an incident.

“She was sitting in the office with two other girls, crying. She had a knot on her head and a cut on her hand,” she said.

She talked with Ruthart and Preston, she said.

“I was upset because my daughter was sitting there hurting, and nobody was doing anything to help her. I asked them why nothing had been done to treat her injuries,” she said.

Newell asked if she got any satisfaction from them.

“No, they could care less,” she said.

She took her daughter to the hospital emergency room, where she was treated for a contusion on her head, a laceration on her hand and a sprained neck, she said.

About an hour after the incident, Brownfield was removed from the school on a stretcher and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The girl’s mother said her daughter has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and was trying to get into the building that day so she could get medication from the school nurse.

Brownfield testified the girl made no mention of needing to see the nurse and that if she had, she would have been allowed to do so. Ruthart said the girl also said nothing to him about having wanted in the building to see the school nurse.

At 3/25/2007 12:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superville: Look at all the facts

By Mary Madewell
The Paris News

Published March 25, 2007

County Judge Chuck Superville says he fears for the community’s safety and is calling for the national media and other organizations to investigate the facts before drawing conclusions about the Shaquanda Cotton case.

The judge said a March 12 story in The Chicago Tribune unfairly painted the community as racist and a recent protest as well as the threat of future protests by organized groups with national media coverage could “spin this thing out of control.”

Superville said he has refrained from commenting until now because of his position as the judge in the Cotton case, but that he believes he has a higher duty as county judge to maintain order in the community.

“I call on the media and others involved to go to the public record to get the facts of the case before they rush to judgment,” Superville said Saturday.

Superville said after a three-day jury trial, which found that Cotton committed an act of juvenile delinquency — namely assault causing bodily injury against a public servant — he determined the best place for her would be Texas Youth Commission.

“If Shaquanda had been white, the outcome would have been the same,” Superville said. “My decision was based on facts and law and I am confident this was the correct decision based on the facts I was presented.”

The March 2006 case is on appeal with the Texarkana Court of Appeals. The court conducted a 10-hour hearing in August 2006 to consider a request that Cotton be released on bond.

The judge said Cotton could have been released at that time but would not speculate why the appellate court did not grant the bond. The judge said he presented the facts of the case and that attorneys for both the prosecution and for Cotton presented arguments.

Superville said he gave the 14-year old an indeterminate sentence up to seven years — her 21st birthday.

“Once I set the indeterminate sentence, Shaquanda holds the key to her jail cell,” Superville said. “It is up to the child and TYC.”

In explaining the juvenile process, Superville said after a jury makes it’s finding, the judge determines the disposition.

“I am bound by law to ask lawyers whether or not reasonable effort has been made to prevent or eliminate the need for the child to be removed from her home,” Superville said.

“I also must determine whether or not there is enough family support to assist the child in successfully completing terms and conditions of probation,” Superville said.

“Thirdly, I must determine whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to be removed from the home,” the judge said.

“Both lawyers presented evidence on those points,” Superville explained. “The county attorney put on a substantial amount of evidence that Shaquanda had been a persistent behavior problem at school and that the mother failed to cooperate at every turn.”

“I asked if there was anything that could be done that had not already been done and the repeated answer was ‘no,’” Superville said.

Superville said reports from Lamar County Juvenile Probation Department also weighed on his decision. Before a juvenile trial which could result in probation, the probation department conducts a fact-finding survey.

“The juvenile officer said the mother refused to cooperate and said he had no reason to believe the mother would cooperate if Shaquanda received probation,” Superville said.

“That theme was repeated witness after witness—that the mother made it impossible to help Shaquanda,” Superville said. “She blamed everyone except the child for misbehavior.”

At 3/25/2007 12:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blog this: Nothing happened at Paris High

By Phillip Hamilton
The Paris News

Published March 25, 2007

Shaquanda Cotton was NOT sentenced to seven years in prison.

The 14-year-old, who was convicted of assaulting a public servant for shoving a 58-year-old teacher's aide, was sentenced to a state juvenile correction facility "for an indeterminate period not to exceed her 21st birthday." Whether she spends seven years in the dormitory-style facility she was assigned to depends on one person — Shaquanda.

Ever since the Chicago Tribune's Howard Whit did a hatchet job on Lamar County justice, folks across the nation have believed that County Judge Chuck Superville put Shaquanda behind bars for seven years. The fact is that's just plain and simple NOT true.

Let me repeat that for our recent out-of-town guests. The judge did NOT sentence Shaquanda to seven years and she is NOT in a prison.

By definition, an indeterminate sentence is one structured so that the person's conduct determines the date of release. The truth is that Shaquanda could be out by now. She determines how soon she comes home by her actions.

But that's not something the Chicago Tribune bothered to mention during the newspaper's journalistic lynching of this community earlier this month. Why lets facts get in the way of a good story, right?

The problem is that bloggers and talk-radio blabbers in the Metroplex and elsewhere have taken the spark the Chicago Tribune story started and fanned it into flames of outrage against our community. Now, other media are flocking to Paris to write about what one CNN producer told me last week is the "broader story" about how Shaquanda's case is affecting Paris.

Shaquanda's case isn't affecting Paris, but outside influences certainly are.

In the year after Shaquanda was convicted, absolutely nothing happened except Shaquanda's mother and a handful of wanna-be civil rights activists convinced a Dallas and Houston-based tabloid that Shaquanda had been wronged. The poorly written report was laced with inaccurate information and failed to garner much attention — especially with local African-Americans who are familiar with Shaquanda's case. Credible civil rights advocates, including most black ministers, did not become involved.

Then came Whitt and the Chicago Tribune with a much more polished version of the wanna-be civil rights activists' story. As spring break arrived, Blogs Gone Wild played on Web sites across the nation as wanna-be writers ate up Whitt's tale of a vindictive, racist school district and judicial system.

By Monday, ill-informed individuals marched on Lamar County Courthouse and PISD's administration building hurling insults at Superintendent Paul Trull and Assistant Superintendent Robert High, a real civil rights advocate who march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the '60s.

By Friday, the community had been whipped into a frenzy with rumors of protests and counter protests at Paris High, the plaza and the courthouse. Amid rumors that African-American students would walk away from classes at 11 a.m. and participate in a protest rally, law enforcement officers and school officials prepared for the worse. Extra lawmen were put on stand-by status and the front of Paris High was shielded with school buses. A white line was chalked to show protesters how far they could go without breaking the law.

Guess what happened?

Nothing — absolutely nothing.

Not one Paris High student walked away from campus, which was probably a great disappointment for the news vans parked across the street and the videographer aboard a chopper hovering over the school.

I know nothing happened because I had lunch in the Paris High cafeteria with Superintendent Paul Trull, PISD trustee George Fisher and a handful of African-America ministers.

Will there be another protest organized this week?


But don't expect to see more than a handful of Paris residents participating. Those who know the facts understand Shaquanda's case is about the commission of a criminal act, not racism.


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