Friday, July 20, 2007

Racism Rising its Ugly Head in the Deep South

Jena, Lousiana has become the scene of a race trial. I came across an article this morning and it shocked me. A town 220 miles north of New Orleans is embraced in a race trial that hearkens back 50 years to the old south. It began last August when a black student asked the head teacher if he and others could break tradition and sit under a tree during breaks as white students do.

The next day there were three nooses hanging from the tree, a "prank" the school considered a practical joke as did the white students. The white students were given in-school suspensions for what many of the black students considered an open threat. Nooses to black students meant the word "nigger" and lynching which is a time honored horrific tradition in the south.

The following week, Black students staged a protest under the tree. At a school assembly soon after, Jena district attorney Reed Walters, appearing with local police officers, warned Black students against further unrest. “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen,” he threatened.

Racial tensions broke out in this tiny Louisiana town. Most whites live up on "snob" hill in the town well off, while most of the blacks live in trailers and wooden shacks with rubbish in the streets. The town populations do not mix, but began confronting one another. On December 4th six black students allegedly confronted a white student and assaulted him. Some called the incident a "fist fight." Others describe the incident differently: "In the first weekend of December, a Black student was assaulted by a group of white students, and a white graduate of Jena High School threatened several Black students with a shotgun. The following Monday, white students taunted the Black student who was assaulted over the weekend, and one of the white students was beaten up."

Within hours, six Black students were arrested. “I think the district attorney is pinning it on us to make an example of us,” said Purvis, one of the black students involved. “In Jena, people get accused of things they didn't do a lot.”
Regardless, the black students are now charged with attempted 2nd. degree murder and conspiracy to commit 2nd. degree murder. That same white student was found that night at his baptist church as "his usual smiling self." This is all from a school fight.
Bail was eventually set absurdly high and most of the students have been kept in custody until the trial begins tomorrow. The students face up to 50 years in jail. The prosecutor said in his defense of the charges: 'I will not tolerate this type of behavior. To those who act in this manner I tell you that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and with the harshest crimes that the facts justify. When you are convicted I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law. I will see to it that you never again menace the students at any school in this parish.' He should have added "if you are black" because that is exactly what is happening.

Let justice be served. Thanks to some "outsiders" the NAACP and the ACLU are now involved and aiding in the defense of these young men. The more attention that this town and trial receives the less there is a chance that these young men will be railroaded. Find out for yourself what is going on in the deep south.

Update: I received several messages regarding this incident. I decided to re-post the original article and an update to what happened since. It is getting worse. These kids are being railroaded in what appears to be strictly about race. Do something. Read below.

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them. Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years.
Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the five boys who have not yet gone to trial. Know that the only reason these boys are being prosecuted is because they are black.


Daddydan said...

This story is just one more reminder that the "New South" is really just a nickname, and not reality. Racism is alive and well, and institutionally condoned and enforced. Before a country looks outward and blames other countries for not supporting democracy, it needs to look itself in the mirror and ask if democracy really exists within.

Ms.Green said...

Please don't be so quick to judge a whole group of people (southerners) over these incidents. I live in a racially diversive neighborhood (one of many) in my town here in Louisiana and we aren't running around burning crosses or beating people up. Blacks and whites live as neighbors,enjoy friendships, worship together in churches, and go to school and work together.

Both sides of this Jena tragedy are guilty. But don't condemn a whole group of people because of it. By doing so, you are practicing what you are accusing us southerners of.

magda flores said...

As a Southerner (and an oddly proud one at that), this just horrifies me but doesn't surprise me. I see my Mississippi family try to pull this kind of crap all the time. It's always "they don't want to be around us anyway" or "they hate whites too!" Always scapegoating the "other" instead of identifying as a community.

I love the South and my family. And because of that love, I will always fight to make it a better place. Certainly not every Southerner is guilty of this hatred, but isn't just one too many? And shouldn't all people be held EQUALLY accountable under the law? Doesn't seem like that's the case in this situation.

LadyLiberal said...

I'm a little confused at Ms. Green's statement that "both sides of this Jena tragedy are guilty." The way I read the story, six students wished to sit under a tree on the school's campus. How in the world can that be seen as a guilty act?

Furthermore, these black students were threatened by nooses on the same tree under which they desired to sit. Nooses that have represented the lynching of innocent black persons in the South for centuries. Again, where is their culpability in that?

Are the black students also equally guilty of the scene that took place at the gas station, where the white man pulled a rifle on the kids for no reason?

It is hard to see, by any stretch of the imagination, how the black kids are guilty in any way in this tragedy. To put things in perspective, this is about children (children!) wanting to sit under a tree (a tree!). Tell me where there guilt lies in that.

Kid Radical said...

Love your comments lady liberal. Please keep them up!!!!!!!!!!!!