Thursday, July 02, 2009

Nate Blakeslee: Tulia

When you live in a politically correct metropolitan area by the coast and you wear custom-fitted rose colored glasses, it's really easy to forget that Bum Fuck Nowhere still exists in this country. I try so hard to pretend that W. was an abberration, that the US under his reign was a bizarre bad dream, and that his warm up in Texas was out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

Yeah, it's easy living in la-la-land, but not particularly enlightening. In the late 1990s, an "undercover" cop busted 50 people in a tiny town of less than 5k people in the Texas panhandle for dealing coke. This "cop" was white and the alleged dealers were black. Most of them had a history of drug use of some kind, but few had actually used coke (crack was the black drug of choice in Tulia) and the cop had no proof on a single one of his busts. The black men and women were literally rounded up at the crack of dawn swat-style, while they were all in their pajamas. Tellingly, not one of them was found with drugs at their houses or on their persons. They were all sentenced to decades or hundreds of years in prison. On the word of one REALLY corrupt cop with a history of skipping town, theft, wife battery, etc. I'm not saying shit doesn't happen in Oakland (Oscar Grant was killed here) and that there isn't rampant corruption in places outside of BFE, but Nate Blakeslee makes a solid case for a really messed up situation.

This book is amazing. As I was about 30 pages from finishing it, I heard this amazing and relevant Marlena Shaw song on KALX. I highly reccommend listening to it while you read- Shaw demands that legislators do something about the ghetto. She's right- how are you going to pick which child to feed? And how to fight when the system is so much bigger than you, and the sherrifs and the judges and the lawyers aren't even going to give you a second look, when the truth is on your side?

Luckily, the story in Tulia has a happy ending, thanks to some dedicated pro-bono lawyers and national media attention. (All of this gave me a little squirmy feeling inside- the big PC, up-to-date, educated folks coming in to enlighten the natives- but at least it had the desired result? Haven't made up my mind on that. Jury's still out...)



thb said...

I loved this book and amazingly there are many other stories around similar to what happened to this town, who knew!