The Great Vidor Blackout

This Vidor, Texas, billboard pictures one of the town’s eight African Americans.

A big hubbub that could turn into a brouhaha or perhaps even a schiamazzo has been taking place in Southeast Texas over a CNN report that some residents watched while others were unable to view it.

The “Paula Zahn Now” show had been doing special reports on race in America and one of the towns featured was Vidor, Texas. Vidor, only 10 miles or so from where I lived before moving to North Central Texas a few months ago (Beaumont), is infamous for its past history as a so-called “sundown” town and Ku Klux Klan haven. Sundown as in African Americans once were told they should be out of Vidor by sundown, or else.

CNN Reporter Keith Oppenheim visited Vidor and found that townsfolk continued to struggle to live down the city’s racist past. It seemed like a pretty balanced report to me. However, the final person Oppenheim interviewed was every chamber of commerce’s nightmare.

Betty Fruge, sitting in a Vidor cafe, told Oppenheim that blacks would be welcome to her neighborhood although:

” … as far as mingling and eating with them, all that kind of stuff, that’s where I draw the line.”

Many in Vidor feared the report which aired last week on Zahn’s show would cast the city, once again in a negative light. One can certainly understand when you have a city with such a notorious past and still have less than a dozen blacks living in a town of more than 11,000. So Vidorians sat around in their trailer homes (okay, I know that’s a cheap shot, sorry)on the night of the broadcast waiting to see how they were going to be pummeled on national television. Only, most in the Vidor area did not get to see the broadcast because 13 seconds into the show all that could be seen was a blue screen for the next six minutes. By that time the picture returned to normal the segment was over.

Time Warner Cable (Yes, the same Time Warner that owns CNN) said the interruption had been a goof by one of their engineers in their area office in Nederland. The blackout (or blue out) was big news the next day in the Beaumont area, which is the largest city near Vidor. Some told CNN that they thought Time Warner was involved in a conspiracy because they were afraid some customers in Vidor would take offense.

A Time Warner spokesman said an engineer inadvertently unplugged the equipment connected to the CNN feed while trying to fix the QVC shopping channel signal. The timing was all a coincidence.

On the surface, the timing did seem suspect and the reasoning for the blackout somewhat heavy on the flimsy side. But having been a customer of that particular Time Warner system I think things could fly either way because of the combination existing there of ineptness and arrogance. That isn’t to say all Time Warner employees working out of Nederland are like that. It’s just the ones who were responsible for my Roadrunner Internet service to continually crap out. You all know who you are!

A televised town hall meeting is being planned in Beaumont with Zahn and some other notables as the Rev. Jesse Jackson in attendance. That should be a good time for all.

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