East Texas, we have a problem. Years after national headlines over James Byrd's dragging in Jasper, a series of unrelated high profile events have kept the region's reputation of racial intolerance alive and well.
John Craft, an assistant U.S. Attorney in the criminal justice division of the Eastern District of Texas, posted derogatory comments about Trayvon Martin and President Obama in a private facebook group. In reference to Stand Your Ground laws Craft wrote:
How are you fixed for Skittles and Arizona watermelon fruitcocktail (and maybe a bottle of Robitussin, too) in your neighborhood? I am fresh out of “purple drank.” So, I may come by for a visit. In a rainstorm. In the middle of the night. In a hoodie. Don't get upset or anything if you see me looking in your window…kay?”
Read the response by the U.S. Attorney's office below the jump…U.S. Attorney Malcolm Bales released a statement Wednesday distancing his office from the comments saying, “This office neither supports nor condones the views expressed on Facebook by Mr. Craft. He was not speaking on behalf of the US Attorney's Office,” Bales originally told the Beaumont Enterprise that his office would “look into” the comments and that, “”It speaks ill of our office in connection…We don't think like that. We don't act like that.”
Unfortunately there are plenty of folks in high profile positions who do, and anyone being paid with taxpayer dollars with the discretion to prosecute individuals should have to face some disciplinary action, or at least have their professional performance reviewed for obvious and intentional discrimination. Craft's only response to his comment was that they, “were not related to the U.S. Attorney's office,” and Bales assured the Enterprise that, “We are doing cases for the right reasons.” That maybe so but the lack of real consequences for such actions can further deteriorate the confidence citizens have in the fairness of their justice system.
The real tragedy isn't in an individual comment or the national dialogue over high profile cases, but the rampant culture of discrimination that happens daily and generally goes unreported. The ACLU recently published a study that found that even though, “Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates,” in East Texas, blacks are 4 to 34 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana thanks whites. Texas is the only state with two counties appearing in the nation's top five for racial disparity.
Sadly elected officials don't always provide the leadership and thoughtful guidance to help heal their communities. When a rodeo clown was banned from the Missouri State Fair for mocking the President, Congressman Steve Stockman invited him to perform in Texas. Not everyone in East Texas feels represented by the type of reputation those antics foster, and believe East Texas deserves leadership that focuses on improving the lives of all its citizens and not making a mockery of our justice system or inviting controversy. Michael Cole, Stockman's Democratic challenger penned an Op-ed on the matter that he published on his campaign website.
Steve Stockman seems to be using his usual smoke and mirrors and is hell bound on inviting chaos to his district…I would strongly suggest the good people in Stockman's district hold him accountable…We need to be focused on the economy, on education, and on equality. I hope it shapes up to be a serious talk about the issues and not a race filled with innuendo and mudslinging.