A Death in Texas by Dina Temple-Raston

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Controversy in the Community

While reading the book A Death In Texas by Dina Temple-Raston, I found many differences in our current society compared to Jasper just a decade ago. While reading this book I noticed right away how certain parts of Texas are segregated, including Jasper. I understand that the location does make a difference. Here in Washington there wasn’t a lot of diversity a century ago and we were a lot like the 1998 Jasper. Our “Other” or “Them” were the Chinese. Whereas, just a decade ago, in Jasper, the police department was lenient towards hate crimes and didn’t care if they occurred until Sheriff Rowles was elected. He was colorblind and believed in justice for all. When the murder of James Byrd occurred in 1998 it changed everything in Jasper and drew the attention of the entire United States.

Jasper had always been segregated, even after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Segregation was just how it was in Jasper. It was the social norm. The blacks lived in Huff Creek or East Jasper and the whites lived in West Jasper. The white people of Jasper ruled the town. They created the social norms which prevented blacks and whites from interacting with each other as equals. They prevented this interaction in a myriad of ways from the segregation of bathrooms, libraries, movie theaters, and of course the proverbial lunch counter. In the poor or “colored” section of East Jasper people were raised in poor families and grew up with working at an early age, competing for the hard to find jobs. Charlene, a mother in East Jasper said “Ain’t nothing we can do” (pg. 59, Chapter Three). By this she meant that in Jasper there was nothing that the black community could do to change the way things were socially or economically. Jasper definitely had its racism issues but with the death of James Bryd Jr all these issues were brought to the forefront. The citizens of the town both black, but more importantly white had to face the...
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