Paris, Texas, a town with a long history of racial strife, is back in the news again after students at Paris High School adorned the backs of their pickup trucks with large Confederate rebel flags Tuesday.
Photos of the racist display quickly circulated through social media as parents and students expressed outrage over the flags’ presence on their campus. According to WFAA-TV, one student claimed on Facebook that her mother checked her out of school and that she refused to come back until the flags came down.
Brenda Cherry, a local civil rights activist who founded Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality, told KXII-TV that she had emailed Paris school Superintendent Paul Jones on Monday about a student she had seen driving with a Confederate flag on the back of his or her truck multiple times.
Then, on Tuesday, more rebel flags showed up on the backs of students’ pickup trucks: a proverbial brigade of racial animosity nestled safely in a student parking lot.
The timing indicates that the flags were put up in response to Cherry’s complaint.
Cherry took photos of the trucks and posted them on her Facebook account. “Apparently the spoiled white boys are standing up for their white supremacy rights at Paris High school,” the activist wrote. “I guess PISD [Paris Independent School District] wants to be in national news again.”
It ought to go without saying that every city in America has some sort of racist history (because, well, America). But even by American standards, Paris, Texas, is exceptional.
In 2010 a Texas Observer article that documented instances of rampant racial harassment at one local factory said that the town was “Mississippi, 50 years ago.” A collection of stories about the town in the Chicago Tribune noted that Paris was where a black girl could get sent to prison for shoving a hall monitor, while a white girl “got probation for burning down a house.”
But the most notorious incident may be the death of Brandon McClelland, who was killed in 2008 when a car struck him and ran him over—he was then dragged underneath it for 40 feet. McClelland was found by the side of the road with his skull smashed. Two white men were charged with the crime, only to have the charges against them dropped.
According to WFAA-TV, school Superintendent Jones issued a statement Tuesday after the photos of Confederate flags began circulating on social media. He called the students’ rebel flags an “ill-considered decision” that caused an “unnecessary and unfortunate disruption to our educational environment.”
In a phrase that should be familiar to anyone who follows these stories, Jones assured the public that “appropriate steps” had been taken to address the racist incident, but he would not disclose whether any students had been disciplined, according to KXII-TV.