Thursday, March 12, 2009

And the South wonders why they still have that reputation

I know a great many Southerners whose open-mindedness on racial matters would put many Whites from supposedly "liberal" states to shame, but there is a persistent stereotype that much of the former Confederacy (and other parts of rural America) is pockets of bigotry and prejudice where it's as if Jim Crow never left. 

These stereotypes are bolstered by stories such as this one in the Los Angeles Times (and Chicago Tribune), about a small town in Texas called Tenaha whose police use asset seizure laws to target Black motorists passing through and bilking them of their money and belongings, often to the tune of thousands of dollars:
That's because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: Sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.

More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, Ohio, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with or convicted of any crime.
What's even more disturbing is that this type of thing, according to the article, appears not to be isolated just to this one town. In counties along the Mexican border, it appears that something similar is being done, and it is especially targeted toward Hispanics. 

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