Former Cop Talks Racism in Jasper, Texas

The first black police chief of a town made infamous by a 1998 hate crime says he was fired over race.

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"My husband's firing has changed everything about our family," Sandy told The Root. "It's changed the way we feel about the town that our children have grown up in. I've always loved Jasper. I've always defended Jasper, especially after the Byrd murder. People would always ask where we were from, and we always defended Jasper. Once he was named police chief, they went from attacking my husband to eventually attacking me. Everything that was normal a year and a half ago is now gone."

For his part, Pearson says that he hopes that the suit will draw attention to what he sees as deeply entrenched racism and the importance of challenging deleterious attitudes in the 21st century.

"A lot of people have said, 'you are going to be a rich man,' " he said of filing the suit. "It's not about the money. It's about the principle. I was raised with morals. You treat people the way you want to treated. In this case, I was treated unfairly. And it's more of the pride in me to show the world that it's not just about the money. This is the 21st century, and things like this shouldn't be going on in America."

Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor for The Root.

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