Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dr. Boyce Watkins on the Heather Ellis Case

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

I am sitting in my hotel room in Memphis after the exhausting day I spent marching forHeather Ellis, the 24-year old college student now facing up to 15 years in prison after cutting in line at Walmart. If you were to be picky about it, you could argue that Heather is technically not being charged for cutting in line. But had the Walmart employee not mistreated Heather after accusing her of cutting in line, the entire incident would not have taken place.

When the black folks rolled into Kennett, Missouri for our rally, the entire town stopped, the police showed up in massive force and there were even snipers on the rooftops. I assume the snipers were there for our protection, but after visiting the Lorraine Hotel (where Dr. King was killed) just the day before, I was honestly a wee bit nervous. There were people standing on the side of the road, taking pictures and some holding up flags with swastikas and confederate flags on them. It was very interesting.

I've put together some random thoughts about the case, the rally and everything in between. I have to be blunt and honest, since you know that's how I operate:

1) The fight is not over: Heather's trial begins Wednesday and I am highly concerned about the outcome. The idea that this young woman's entire future can be stolen over such a tiny incident is simply unbelievable. The truth is that common sense tells us that this situation should have been squashed long ago, and Kennett, MO is becoming known as the racist town that destroys the lives of young black women.

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