Monday, June 8, 2015

0 McKinney, USA

By: Marvin DeBose
It looked like a scene out of the 90s TV show Walker Texas Ranger; a cop running toward the camera at full speed.
But it wasn't a TV show it was a viral video showing a police officer in a suburban community responding to a reported disturbance in the area. Within the first few seconds of the video, Corporal Eric Caseboldt, a 40-year-old Navy veteran, who had been with McKinney police for 10 years, is seen on the video running at top speed  down chasing an unseen perpetrator.
At first glance, it almost seems as if he might be chasing a suspect who is armed. 
Then the camera pans right, and the officer returns back in view of the camera, and reality sets in, the officer has a hold of the suspects.
Those "suspects” whom Caseboldt was chasing are swimsuit-clad teen African American boys, most of them appearing to be no older than 15.
“Don’t make me fucking run around here with 30 pounds of goddamn gear on in the sun ‘cause you want to screw around out here,” he yells to the young boys, while pushing them onto the ground, forcing them to sit.
In the background, a group of teenage girls are heard yelling, inquiring about why these young boys are being accosted by the police. Caseboldt responds by telling the girls to leave.
As the girls begin to back away from the scene, Caseboldt grabs one 15-year-old girl by the arm and slams her on the ground, pinning her down with a knee in her back and her arms behind her. Two other young teen boys in the area rush over to the girl’s aid, as the officer is becoming increasingly rough with her, and in response, the officer pulls his gun on the boys, and consequently, they back up.
Cpl. Eric Caseboldt grabbing a 15-year-old girl
The sensible person might ask: What type of crime elicits such a brutal response for unarmed civilians – children in swimsuits at that?
Well, that's a question for us all to ask ourselves.
As much as people will try to attribute this incident to “one bad apple” or “the ways of the South”, this problem is much bigger than just this one incident, and much more deep-rooted than Eric Caseboldt, police brutality and even Texas.
This is connected to issues that are deeply embedded in this nation's history and culture of exclusion and racialized fears.
McKinney is a predominately White small town north of the Dallas area and has been growing in the past 30 years, gaining an influx of more Latino and African American families. But these demographic changes aren't necessarily accepted by everyone. 
Texas has a reputation for what are known as sundown towns, which are purposely all-white communities, usually suburbs outside of a metropolitan area, that have been openly hostile to the presence of non-White ethnic groups in their towns throughout history, especially at night.
These areas practiced housing discrimination, passed laws aimed to reduce the presence of “outsiders”, and oftentimes, these towns would commit acts of violence against various ethnic groups within the area. 
Such towns were known have signs near them on major roads with ominous messages to non-White travelers warning them, "Don’t let the sun set on you in this town.”    
How does this tie into McKinney, TX? Well, McKinney is a part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in North Texas, which is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the US.
Interestingly enough, North Texas is a region home to many notorious Sundown Towns as well
There is Irving, a town west of Dallas, in which oral histories note that blacks were to be out of the area by nightfall. There is also Sunnyvale, a town 45 minutes south of McKinney, whose residents fought vehemently to prevent “low income housing” from being placed in their town by passing zoning ordinances and a 1971 town council resolution banning apartments from the town.
Such signs were seen on billboards, in newspapers and in many other strategic places as late as the 1980s
There’s also Highland Park, a suburb only a half hour away from McKinney, which, after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, preferred to send its few black students to school in Dallas rather than allow them to attend school in Highland Park. Highland Park is still known for its strict exclusionary rules for "outsiders". 
Although McKinney itself doesn’t have an explicit written history of being a sundown town, the culture of xenophobia and racial exclusionary tactics which contribute to sundown towns are still prevalent there.
In fact, in 2008 the City of McKinney was sued by a housing nonprofit organization for standing in the way of the development of public housing for mostly Black and Latino low-income families on McKinney’s predominately White west side, which is where the pool party incident occurred.
And what sparked this whole pool party incident? It was an altercation that occurred when a white female resident of the area reportedly made racial slurs toward some black teens in the pool area and told them to “go back to their Section 8 housing".
What we have to understand is that issues like this don’t happen as mere isolated incidents, they aren’t simply a result of “a need for police reform”, they aren’t deviations from the norm, because in America, systemic racism is the norm.
The police officer, Eric Caseboldt, knew exactly what he was doing when he chased after those boys and forced that young girl to the ground, he was making an example out of them. Why? Because, to him, they represent a threat. 
And what response did he get from members of the West McKinney community after the incident? He and the police department received a poster saying, "Thank you, for keeping us safe."
"....Keeping us safe?" From teenage kids at a pool party? What does such as response that say about that community? What does that say about us as a society?
These children may have not have been arrested or charged with any crimes, but they have been sentenced to a life of coping with the traumatic experience of being treated like criminals when their only crime was being in a town that never wanted them there in the first place.
Their only crime was their existence. As was Trayvon Martins and countless others.
Whats sad is that many black youth face the same criminalization every day, and some don't get to go home to their parents when its all over. What even more sad is that there were adults members of the community present who stood and approvingly watched the whole thing. 
Some may lazily attribute this incident to being “The way things are in The South." But, as Malcolm X once reminded us, “As long as you are South of the Canadian border, you’re South.”
This country needs to take a serious look at why we treat each other the way that we do. We need to reexamine why we view other taxpaying Americans as "outsiders" in their own country. We need to look at why believe in the concept of inherent criminality for an entire race of people.
Most importantly, we just need to start asking "why?"


  • Loewen, J. W. (2005). Sundown towns: A hidden dimension of American racism. New York: New Press.


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