By George Smith
Every town — EVERY town — has its problems. The picture postcard myth of the “perfect” town in which “I” was raised does not exist, except in people’s slanted memories.
Bill Moyer’s incredible documentary “Marshall, Texas, Marshall, Texas”, tells a tale of two cities; in that regard, it hasn’t changed much.
As publisher of the MNM for a decade, I saw both sides…the goodness of the people, regardless of color, sex, religion, and the crass, ugly underbelly of deceit and treacherous intent.
But, Marshall has a special spirit and I was so lucky to have fed off it for a major slice of my life.
That said, The rest of the story:
Marshall’s sudden spit-fight over a meaningless statute erected about 100 years ago as a head-nod to a “romantic” era that never existed and was part of a southern strategy during a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, is so, well, typical Marshall.
When it comes to anything that remotely has to do with the (shhhhh) black-white divide in the city, residents instantly take sides, mainly by skin color. The concepts of “right and wrong” does not entered into personal equations, decisions or actions at this point.
I marveled 35 years ago at the intricacies of the Marshall’s black-white dynamics. It was no secret that a few white movers-and-shakers would pay black “activists” to distribute and collect ballots for non-ambulatory black voters to ensure “certain” votes were cast in a “certain” way. You know, the “white” way.
The irony that this widely known “secret” was common knowledge on both sides of the racial fence never ceased to amaze me.
I tried to gather evidence for a story on this pay-for-vote scam but the curtain of silence infused with money and power was thick.
Later, via an editorial, the paper backed a move to restructure voting districts to ensure that black residents were given a fair opportunity to gain a seat on the school board.
Gerrymandered school district were changed and the representative for the black community’s first order of business was to push to incorporate the colors of the closed Pemberton school into the Maverick red-and-white color scheme.
A followup editorial lamented that if the the colors red and white and purple and gold were going to be the new school colors, the the sports team name would have to be changed to…wait for it…Clowns.
The result was the first of several NAACP-ordained boycotts of the paper.
The point? The racial division in Marshall was, and in some case, still is, by design. Folks in power want to stay in power and if harmony among races is not in their best interests…it is a bad road to travel.
It’s all perception, folks…all of the division in Marshall and in this nation.
We perceive something is being taken away from us, and we become irate, even if the issue has been a moot point for eons, or should not even been on the horizon of conscious thought.
When I love about Marshall and its people is its people.I think of Marshall and my thoughts automatically turn to Carolyn Abney, Flo Jasper, Audrey Kariel, Diane Gray, George Carter, Dr. Izzy LeMond (sp), Geraldine Mauthe, Sharon Green, Gail Beil and Jerry Stallworth…folks who cared about Marshall, ALL of Marshall, not the slices and pieces they could manipulate and control.
Marshall, Texas is still a tale of two cities, and it is time for the residents of this special community to have a
“Kumbaya, My Lord“ moment and realize its potential… with all residents working together to make Marshall the best community it can be for all residents.
It’s never too late to do what’s right.
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