July 3, 2007

Jena 6: Racism in America

The Electronic Village joins Natalie, the international press, AfroSpear, other bloggers in expressing outrage over the continued racism that shows itself here in America. The inability of the criminal just-us system to be colorblind is a scary thing for African American parents around the country.
"There’s been obvious racial discrimination in this case," said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who described Jena as a "racial powder keg" primed to ignite. "It appears the Black students were singled out and targeted in this case for some unusually harsh treatment."

In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a "whites only" shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn't sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn't care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.
The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena's Black population didn't take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address Black students at the school and told them all he could "end their life with a stroke of the pen."

Black students were assaulted at white parties. A white man drew a loaded rifle on three Black teens at a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school, and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six black students being charged with attempted murder. To his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are juveniles.

Click here for a Word document that gives a good case timeline and I encourage you to view a YouTube video with some photos of the Jena High School, community and such.

A few days ago, Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to face trial, was found guilty of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. Friends of Justice blog provided a comprehensive look at the case. The local paper in Alexandria, LA shared some insights about Bell's trial. Television stations in Louisiana provided daily reports on the case.

Villagers are encouraged to sign the online petition re: the Jena Six. Any thoughts on this case from your perspective?


Anonymous said...

The Jena case got international attention because of the organizing of a group called "Friends of Justice", which organizes across Texas and Louisiana to fight injustice in the criminal justice system. If people want to get involved, they can support the work of Friends of Justice by visiting our blog. There's a paypal link to support our organizing in Jena, and a place where people can sign up for Action Updates.

Unknown said...

thats pretty deep... Its sad that people still think like that..." IT IS 2007, right?????"

Unknown said...

FOJ-Anonymous - Thank you for the work that you do. I will visit your PayPal link to provide a donation as you suggest. Please continue to keep us informed on the status of the trials in Jena as well as anything else in that area that you think we need to know. Welcome to the Electronic Village!

Latoya - Yeah, it is 2007, however, some still have the mentality of 1807 when it comes to race relations.

peace, Villager

hottnikz said...

Wow that's really deep. I know racism is all over America, but it seems to be still extra thick down south. Whatever happened to the new south? As beautiful as it is down there, I'll only visit places like Texas & Louisiana. Living down there would be out of the question. Really informative post.

Foofa said...

I think the lack of media attention to this case is a huge concern. I saw it mentioned in a local paper back near the time of the fight but nothing since then. I read that the NY Times has never mentioned it (although I don't know if that is accurate).
After reading about the farce that they called a trial I am wondering why Southern Poverty Law and the ACLU don't seem to be more involved. The NAACP could take a day out to bury the n-word but I haven't heard them talking about these young men who are being buried by a lack of justice. Al Sharpton is upset about Beyonce's being called a hobot for wearing some mess of a futuristic costume but I haven't heard him speak out for these young men. Not to say that he hasn't, or that it would help if he did, but the silence surrounding this case is amazing.

Danielle said...

It infuriates me that this is not widely known. I am so grateful for your highlighting such crimes against humanity, since this is the essence of these horrors. You know I signed;}. I have dedicated July 28th to Resist, a great organization. 48 of my musings in 24 hours. WE need to take the seeds of knowledge gleaned beneath the village tree and not only plant them but act upon their fruition.

As always...

For More of My Modern Musings
Support Progressive Change

Omodudu said...

Free Jena

PurpleZoe said...

Shameful. Thankyou for sharing this.
We're in an age where this kind of thing cant slip under the radar like it used to. Information travels with lightning speed now.
I feel in my gut that our community will not continue to allow this to stand, and I don't think blood with have to be shed to fight it.
This administration is on its way out. Everything it has profited from can't survive in this world that's forming itself from the 'old' world.

Hate dissolves in a world that thrives on the sharing of technology and compassion. The internet has made everything a level playing field.
Watch. My gut is usually right on things like this.

As long as we continue to flash the light where others hope darkness will hide their corruption, they will have no foothold, and fall.

Unknown said...

Hottnikz - My observation is that there are racist fools pretty much everywhere. For every story like this that takes place in the south we can find one in the west, midwest and east. Anyhow, I appreciate your visit to the village and i hope u come back often!

Natalie - The beauty of the blogosphere (and the Afrosphere) is that we can speak out when there is a need to do so. I imagine that we are evolving into the 'new media'. I enjoyed your post on the Jena Six. Stay strong!

Danielle - You are tremendous! I don't know anything about the event on the 28th that you mention. I'll mosey over to Modern Musings to see what I can learn about it.

Omodudu - Amen!

Purple Zoe - Your words are powerful. I look forward to reading your words again in the future. More importantly, I hope that your gut is right!

peace, Villager

Michelle said...

Shameless and SICK- how could a school administration could call sticking nooses under a tree a "harmless school prank." I have no real experiences with racism, I went to a very culturally mixed High School in Denver, where my BFF was black and in love with David Bowie as I listened to Salt n Pepa and dated all her friends. It wasn't until college that required reading included more then a few pages of race issues. I still recall having nightmares after finding out what lynching was and still is! Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit brings me to tears. Evil people who participate in these acts have no empathy and therefore no soul. -Michelle

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new and it will require an intelligent response. Lives are in the balance, so this needs legal minds not emotional minds. The blacks in this case must - and I mean must - have a strong legal team. As I've said, to get a justified outcome a pro-bono civil rights legal team will have to show up. This is exactly what the other side feels won't happen. Black lawyers can you help?

Unknown said...

Michelle - Shameless and sick is accurate description of the mindset that allows you to create and hang three nooses on a tree in a public place like a schoolyard. Anyhow, thank you for sharing your high school memories with us. I hope you come back and visit here in the future.

Glendell - Good point about the legal team needed to acheive success in this matter for the Jena 6.

peace, Villager

*Tanyetta* said...

a "whites only" shade tree????????????????

in 2007????????????

why??????????? :(

Unknown said...

Tanyetta - We live in a strange world. I wonder when racism will be erased from the hearts of men?

peace, Villager

Councilman George L. Cook III said...

Racism in Jena Louisiana
Listen to my interview with Alan Bean, an activist who was in the courtroom during the trial


On June 28 2007 a young black defendant Mychal Bell was found guilty of aggravated assault against a young white man by an all white jury despite conflicting testimony from witnesses. Alan Bean talks about the things below:

The weekend before the assault took place nooses were hung on a tree.

The Prosecutor threatened black students about protesting the nooses

A black man was assaulted, no charges were brought up.

During the trial the public defender put up no defense after the prosecution rested it's case.

Listen to the interview and read about the case hear:

Unknown said...

G.Cook - Thank you for the link to your interview. It provided some insights that are only available from someone that was an eyewitness.

peace, Villager

Journey Home said...

That's pretty sad - I think as the principle -(and I've thought about this for ten whole seconds) I would ban anyone from sitting under the tree or hold a massive assembly as to why this "tree sitting" was so important.

Territory and fighting hmm - sounds like the Mideast and most cities I've been too - what are we going to do - racism is a two way street - until the color of someone's skin means as much as the color of their eyes we are all in trouble.

How about the movie Hotel Rwanda and that genocide portrayed - what was the difference between those two cultures? It wasn't skin color. It's impossible that people feel this way or blame entire races (the Jewish people come to mind from WWII) for whatever their problems are, and it's impossible that groups of people fall for this b.s. blaming other whole societies, religions, or even sexual orientation.

We all know inherently that we are all the same - you can't blame a whole group of people for your individual problems. Jerks are jerks it doesn't matter what their skin color, religion, sex or nationality is - it matters about who they are, their intentions and their actions. The golden rule people is all we need - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

I've always said their are no such things as crackers or niggers or spicks, or kikes - there are only "assholes" and the rest of us need to stand up to them and tell them they are assholes or bullies when we hear them speak their "asshole bullshit" whether it's glorifying violence, or hate it's wrong. Those of us in the group afraid to call them on it are just as wrong.

You know there is a difference between having children and raising them - we need to pass onto one another what it means to be a human being and just exactly where WE ARE in the universe - on this tiny planet. We need to knock off all this infighting between cultures and get on with "helping each other" - Imagine the good and hope we could bring to bear if we took the trillion dollars in tax payer money (spent in Iraq and given to Bush and Cheney's buddies)and brought plumbing to the third world - improved our educational system or gave health care to all those who need it. We are only one switch in point of view away from Utopia but we are looking in the wrong (selfish)direction.

Our economic system puts such a premium on profit (and rugged individualism) that we are at each others throats - a little sharing would do the world some good.

Finally, school is for EDUCATION not turf warfare - and despite the current fashion - it's not "cool" to be stupid - it's stupid to be stupid. Gangs, violence and drugs for quick cash is just the wrong way to go - live by the sword die by the sword. The easy way out is always the hardest in the long run and it's also chicken shit.

Back to the tree - I'd have cut it down.

It takes two to tango. It could have been an opportunity to introduce mandatory curriculum on the very subject of racism starting in the third grade and progressing at the middle school level and then advance studies for high school. Turn the negative into a positive.

When was the last time whitey went walking through Camden NJ or East LA or Harlem late at night so lets knock off the hypocrisy. Look at the Sunnis and the Shia's - they are all Arabs for goodness sake (sectarian violence is just another word for racism) but more importantly we are all human beings - and like it or not basically all the same!

I guess I'm a little cranky this morning - but Hate and religious intolerance - intolerance of any kind sucks - period - there are no excuses for it - across the board - I wouldn't walk through North East D.C. late at night - why would a bunch of kids want to sit under the KKK tree? There are better ways of going about getting your point across and the principle should have been more in tune with what was going on at campus.

It's stupid and confrontational there are better smarter ways to improve yourself and those around you. Finally no man is useless he can always serve as a bad example. The KKK tree could have stayed a bad example - could have been pointed out by teachers and administrators, could have been broken up by the school, the students could have used it as a forum to promote peace through understanding - was there another area that was off limits to whitey - bet there was (maybe not on campus) but certainly on the streets. Two wrongs don't make a right!

The KKK tree was a bad example and it should have been called out as one but through the mechanism of the school. Everybody is so tough so we have turf wars over the shade of a tree at a school. They should have ALL been concentrating on their grade point averages - tried to make the best with what opportunities they could find and none of this would have happened but instead we have turf wars under a maple tree - brilliant - to go along with turf wars over oil fields. Everybody needs to (en)lighten up and get a clue. Look past your nose at the stars in the sky people - if we pull apart we blow it.

Unknown said...

Paul - If this is your contribution when you've only thought about a matter for ten seconds ... I am truly scared of what you're capable of when you've had a chance to research and study a subject.

Your comments are on point. The day will be wonderful when skin color and eye color have the same emotional reaction in our society.

I also like the idea of cutting th dayum tree down from that Jena high school yard.

peace, Villager

FatBlokeThin said...

I am a grown man and it generally takes a fair amount to shock me but it has utterly staggered me that segregation can still be an issue in 2007...!

I am from England so regretably much of my outlook is tainted by the US TV created images we have of Afro-Americans - mostly utterly polarized sadly with crack heads at one end and Police Chiefs at the other.

Clearly this disgusting undercurrent of dark dangerous incendiary racism is hidden from view most of the time - I feel ashamed... not to be white, but to be a human being!

I do hope these young people learn quickly how to live together and appreciate each other for what they are - human beings...

I also hope that TRUE justice will prevail.

Thank-you for bringing this to my attention.

Anonymous said...

WOW...I can't believe they have a white's only tree. Oo I swear, my mouth almost hit the floor when I read that. Plus everything else.

This is just shocking. I can't believe crap like this is going on in this day and age. *shakes head*

Sad...very sad.

Unknown said...

Blake & Brenna - Thank you for visiting our village today. I hope that you will each bring news of the Jena 6 issue to your online community members.

peace, Villager

Anonymous said...

I live in australia and i have just seen the tv documentary on the jena township and the incident that happened at the Jena High School. I was so shocked that 6 boys could be facing attempted murder charges for a school fight.
Come on all over the world their are school yard fights.
The DA and others involved in changing the charges from assault to attempted murder when the boy was at school the next day, i am just shocked to the core. Is the whole of american like this? Is racism of this sort still going on? Grow up white people of Jena you are an embarrasment to the rest of the world. Grow up let these boys go and live the rest of their lives.

Unknown said...

Anon from Australia - Not everyone is as backwards as the citizens of Jena, LA. Hopefully, the pressure being placed on the district attorney and others will have an effect.

peace, Villager

Anonymous said...

Kathleen Blanco is a right-wing conservative racist herself! She proofed it with her decisions about the Jena6 case: Doing nothing! Now the whole world watching Jena and here in Europe most people are convinced the most US citizens are war loving racist barbarians - she decided to do a little bit...Disgusting!!!

The National guard should march right into Jena and should arrest the white racist boys, the judge, the jury, the school employees, the Mayor of Jena (a seldom seen idiot) and also Blanco and charge them with conspiracy and racisism.
God bless the liberals in the US.

Unknown said...

Anon - Gov. Blanco has done poorly for herself in aftermath of both Katrina and Jena. Hopefully, she will not be re-elected. What part of Europe are you in right now?