Nooses and N-Words in East Texas

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/49024304@N00/2470601639/" target="_blank">anyjazz65</a> (Creative Commons)

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Via the Texas Observer, this may be the feel-bad story of the day. Late last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged a Paris, Texas, metal pipe factory with fostering a culture of Klan-era workplace intimidation (pdf), regularly harassing African-American workers with “unwelcome racial slurs, comments and intimidation, racial graffiti, nooses in the workplace and other symbols of discrimination.” As one employee told the Dallas Morning News

“I’ve been called colored boy, coon, monkey,” said Dontrail Mathis, 33, a painter’s helper at the plant in Paris who began highlighting racist conditions in December 2006. “When Obama won, they went off. My superiors said ‘If he ain’t white, it ain’t right.’

“I saw nooses, swastikas on the wall,” said Mathis, a father of three. “It was horrible.”

When black employeesand a few white onesapproached management with their complaints, they were fired or ignored.

Turner Industries, the Baton Rouge-based corporation that owns the pipe manufacturing plant, issued a terse, nothing-to-see-here letter to workers denying any wrong-doing. At least one other employee at the Paris factory, meanwhile, has decided on his own to help silence the whistleblowers. The Observer‘s Forrest Wilder obtained this handwritten threat received by a white worker who’d assisted the EEOC:

“We know where you live you and your family over on 30th…Eather[sic] drop your case or we’ll show you about race trading you f—– n—– lover.”

I certainly don’t think this case represents the state of race relations in the United States, but this kind of deep-seated hatred doesn’t generate spontaneously. As one Dallas civil rights leader put it: “East Texas is Mississippi 50 years ago.” Events like those at last summer’s White House “Beer Summit” can kind of trivialize things, but there really is a wealth of hard evidence that racism is pretty widespread in 2010, for all the progress we’ve made.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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