Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Yes, I've been gone for quite some time, but this has me upset enough that I need to say something.

The case of the "Jena Six" has been one of the most well-known non-stories in a long time. The reason I use the term "non-story" is because until the march 48 hours ago, nobody really knew about this story, which features six black teenagers being charged as adults for attempted murder in the beating of a white student, and have been expelled from school. One of the six, Mychal Bell, had his conviction overturned by a state appellate court, which said that the charges far exceeded the incident itself, and that even charging him as an adult was uncalled for. This was a week ago. Bell is still in prison.

This entire case is disheartening in many ways, most of all in that racism is still alive and well in the South. The entire catalyst for this whole thing was the simple act of a black student deigning to sit under what was known as the "white kids tree" at Jena High School (and the sad thing is that kid felt he had to ask the principal for permission to sit there), and then the next day three nooses were hung from the tree.

What happened to those kids? They only got a three-day suspension. Harsh.

Moving on, further incidents included one of the "Jena Six," Robert Bailey, being punched in the face by a white student at a party, and a later incident where another white kid pulled a shotgun on Bailey, who then chased the white kid and took the gun away from him. Bailey was charged with theft of a firearm and robbery, while the white kid who pulled the gun and stuck it at Bailey....wasn't charged with anything.

One of the district attorneys in Jena addressed a school assembly which featured completely segregated seating by unspoken mutual consent, and upset at black students protesting the lack of charges against the white students who had been precipitating these events, said, "with one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear."

That same office is now prosecuting these black students.

Tell me, how can this really be anything but what it appears to be?

A "white kids tree." Nooses. Whites pulling guns on blacks and not getting in trouble for it. Blacks attacking a white kid and being charged with attempted murder, despite the fact that the beating victim was discharged the same day from the hospital and made it back to school that night to attend a class ring ceremony. The prosecutor claiming that the charges were justified because the black students' shoes were "weapons used with intent to kill." That's right, shoes. Could this get more absurd?

I don't condone the fact that six kids beat up on one, regardless of race. I can understand how much pent-up anger and frustration went into that beating, given that white students who committed more serious crimes were not charged or convicted of anything, save for the white kid who punched Bailey (he got probation). The fact that this facade of equality went on for so long is sickening. This is indeed separate justice, but it is not equal.

There were so many opportunities for the authorities in Jena to nip this in the bud. Expelling the white kids who hung the nooses would've been a good start, because the only way a black kid in the South would read that is as a terroristic threat, a death threat. Charging the black kid who acted in self-defense by disarming the white kid who stuck a shotgun in his face with theft of that very gun turns the justice system upon its head and escalated matters, when it was the white kid who pulled the gun who should have been charged. Letting a district attorney make the statement he did, directed solely at black students, gives me great pause as to the impartiality of that office.

I will be honest. In an area where blacks are only fifteen percent of the population, in a racially charged case such as this, I do not believe they will get a fair trial. The prior actions of the authorities demonstrate a clear bias in favor of white people over black people, and it is disgraceful that I am even having to write these words right now. My mother grew up in the South, and so I've heard the stories, I've seen the pictures, and I thought we were long past such gross inequities. I thought wrong. Racial inequality has yet to die, and six black students are learning that lesson as we speak.


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