Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Jena Six: Race Relations in Louisiana

Click on the title to this post. You will link to the online student newspaper at Howard University. The story is about racially motivated attacks involving high school students in Jena, Louisiana. What is even more troubling is the involvement of the local DA, judge and all-white jury in unjust treatment of the involved teens, according to their race. From the May, 2007 BBC World report:

It all began at Jena High School last summer when a black student, Kenneth Purvis, asked the school's principal whether he was permitted to sit under the shade of the school courtyard tree, a place traditionally reserved for white students only. He was told he could sit where he liked.

The following morning, when the students arrived at school, they found three nooses dangling from the tree.

Most whites in Jena dismissed it as a tasteless prank, but the minority black community identified the gesture as something far more vicious.

"It meant the KKK, it meant 'niggers we're going to kill you, we're gonna hang you 'til you die'," said Caseptla Bailey, one of the black community leaders.

Old racial fault lines in Jena began to fracture the town. It was made worse when - despite the school head recommending the noose-hangers be expelled - the board overruled him and the three white student perpetrators merely received a slap on the wrist. (snip)
The Washington Post reported on Aug. 3, 2007:
A few weeks after the nooses were discovered in September, an arsonist torched a wing of Jena High School. Race fights roiled the town for days, culminating in a schoolyard brawl that led the LaSalle Parish district attorney to charge six black teenagers with attempted murder for beating up a white teenager who suffered no life-threatening injuries.

Mychal Bell, the first of the six to be tried, is scheduled to be sentenced in September. He was convicted in July by an all-white jury on reduced charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit it. Like his co-defendants -- Robert Bailey, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theodore Shaw and Jesse Beard -- Bell had no prior criminal record.

He faces up to 22 years in prison, and civil rights advocates say the reduced charges were still excessive and did not fit the crime. "Can they really do this to me?" Bell asked recently, sitting in his jail cell looking frightened and numb.

The white teenager who was beaten, Justin Barker, 17, was knocked out but walked out of a hospital after two hours of treatment for a concussion and an eye that was swollen shut. He attended a ring ceremony later that night.

District Attorney Reed Walters said in December that his decision to prosecute the black teenagers to the full extent of the law had nothing to do with race. He would not comment further on the case while it is pending
The Jena Six are six black high school students facing "prosecution to the full extent of the law." Read the full Post article, linked below for a troubling list of over-zealous prosecution of black youths across the country. Are we developing a separate system of justice for blacks and another for whites? There is a petition to the Department of Justice here

and a fund to support the defense of the Jena Six

You can read more at other sites, in case you'd like verification of the story:

Democracy Now, a daily radio and TV news show with video clips.

Whileseated, a blog with excellent links and photos, video segments here, too.

Editorial from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.


Washington Post

To illustrate why the nooses that began this mess were seen differently by blacks and whites in Jena, I include a photo of a lynching from 1930, Marion, Indiana, at www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0309/lm18.html - 100 photos that changed the world.


Villager said...

Good to see more and more bloggers sharing info on the Jena 6 situation! Are you aware of the Aug 30th Day of Justice that some Black bloggers have called?

peace, Villager

Betsy McKenzie said...

Thank you for the alert! We will participate.

Anonymous said...

"I include a photo of a lynching from 1930, Marion, Indiana..."

You spun this story, pure and simple. This is a classic example of propaganda, making the facts fit your story.

Jim Milles said...

Anonymous: so what is your version of the story?