Monday, April 24, 2006

Some of Tulia's best friends are black

Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town
Nate Blakeslee

Blakeslee, of the Texas Observer, was the first reporter to write in-depth about the arrests on charges of dealing cocaine of 47, mostly black, residents of Tulia, a town of 5,000 on the Texas panhandle. The state had an unbelievably weak case, based on one witness -- an undercover narcotics officer with no corroboration and a spotty employment history. But most of the 47 were convicted after short trials.

The case, as well as the history of the town, is mired in the race and class issues. It was shocking to read about such blatant racism. Aren't people at least supposed to try to hide their prejudices in public and pay lip service to diversity?

is a thoroughly reported and reconstructed look at the case and its happy resolution four years later. In some places it's bogged down by the legal and procedural details, but mostly Blakeslee excels at explanation.

In addition to being an insightful examination of a social issue, Tulia is a good story with its heroes and villains and people in all their regular old flawed humanity.

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