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Race Tears Apart Texas Town, 14 Years After Ugly Racist Murder

James Byrd, Jr.

In 1998, three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas committed one of the most heinous hate crimes in recent American history. The three men hog-tied 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. to the back of their pickup truck and dragged him to his death along a 3-mile stretch of bumpy asphalt, eventually dumping what remained of his body between a black church and a cemetery.

Thirteen years later, after many had thought the racial tensions in Jasper had died down, racism has yet again reared its head in the small town located in east Texas. However, this time it involved widespread corruption and discrimination amongst the City Council and the Police Department.

The election of Rodney Pearson as Police Chief tore the city, which is 46 percent white and 44 percent black, down the center. Once Pearson was elected white residents of Jasper began to accuse black city council members of being racially biased and cutting deals under the table, accusations identical to what blacks had claimed for years.

The white elite of Jasper quickly sprung into action, attempting to spear Pearson’s stainless reputation. The investigator who conducted Pearson’s background check found a class C misdemeanor on his record for writing a bad check. The check was under $20.

White natives of Jasper than forced a recall election for two black members of the city council who voted for Pearson. The election was the first of its kind in Jasper, and both black members lost their seats on the council.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that there are surely some whites in Jasper who do not share the same racist views as their counterparts. What is even more unfortunate is that even after having such a vicious and unnecessary crime committed solely because of race, there still remain some in Jasper who would rather continue to use hatred and divisive tactics as a way to discriminate against others

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