Paris, Texas – An outpouring of support for local plant Turner Industries, following the release of findings by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that black workers in the plant were discriminated against, has some questioning the ethics of officials in the town. A determination issued by the EEOC –Dallas District in March stated that black employees at Turner, whose headquarters are in Louisiana, were “subjected to unwelcome racial slurs, comments and intimidation, racial graffiti, nooses in the workplace, and other symbols of discrimination” on a repeated basis.
Turner Industries closed its doors last Wednesday so that employees could attend a rally in support of the company, after the EEOC findings were detailed in the media. Despite the evidence to support allegations of civil rights violations in the Paris plant, including pictures of a noose and racially offensive writing on the walls of the plant, Turner and its supporters insist that no wrongdoing ever took place.
Paris Junior College President Dr. Pam Anglin, who attended the recent rally stated of the issue, “PJC supports Turner Pipe…We trained a number of you as welders and we look forward to being able to train nuclear welders to where you can see this plant grow and expand and this community expand. We are just glad to be a part and work with you. We are proud of Turner Pipe.”
The Paris Economic Development Corp., the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, members of the Paris NAACP, a local judge, and the mayor of Paris are others who have expressed their support for Turner. Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville has stated in the Paris News after the EEOC determination, “None of us approves of racial discrimination but Turner is not guilty of racial discrimination.”
Mayor Jesse Freelan has also stated in the Paris News, “We’ve tried the other approach of just kind of hoping it goes away, and it doesn’t work…So it’s pretty apparent what we were doing wasn’t working very well. So it’s time for us to stand up in support when someone is being bashed. And we’ve got to support those people (Turner Industries) when we know they are wrongfully being bashed. The pictures used in support of the EEOC claim could have easily been staged at any point of the day, then submitted to the authorities.” Freelan also suggested the backgrounds of those who have complained about the incidents at Turner should be considered in the EEOC investigation.
The local news media has also explicitly taken the side of Turner on the issue. Paris News publisher Patrick Graham has stated in a publication, “Complaints about Turner just don’t ring true. Call it a gut feeling. I’ve read the determination letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the Turner Industries complaint about half a dozen times now. And I’m just not buying it.”
Paris is not new to the spotlight in regards to allegations of racial discrimination and civil rights violations. The town made national news in 2007 after the case of a 14-year-old black student who was sentenced to up to 7 years in TYC for allegedly shoving a school hall monitor. Subsequent cases that garnered widespread attention include the case of 24 year-old African American man, Brandon McClelland, who was purportedly dragged to death by two white men who were never tried for the crime, due to alleged statements by a truck driver who claimed he may have hit the man. The truck driver was never charged either. Paperwork obtained by WiredPRNews.com, show that the truck driver, Gary Clark and his employer Wesco Trucking are denying that Clark ever ran over McClelland. Lamar County Attorney Gary Young and Assistant Attorney Bill Harris are also claiming they no longer have any paperwork in their office pertaining to McClelland’s case. It is not clear who is currently handling the investigation.
Some in Paris have proposed that the recent events regarding Turner, and the showing of support of the company by local officials and others is exemplary of the systematic racism that has persisted in the town for decades. Resident Keith Mitchell asserts, “We are still stuck in the 1960s. You have pictures showing nooses and the words nigger on the walls of the plant, and then the President of the college saying she’s proud of that.”
Another Paris resident, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation amid anger the case has caused also states, “I feel like we don’t have anywhere to turn now. You complain about racism and judges and even the mayor comes out to support those who perpetrate it. I’m afraid to live here now.”
WiredPRNews.com – Paris, Texas // TiffNews10 // News Desk