Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jena 6

This post contributed by Theo Nicholson. Check out his blog at .

Jena 6. Those words evoke many feelings in blacks and whites. Petitions are being sent out to 'Free the Jena 6' and people are expressing shock over the levels of racism that still exist in the USA. Based on the controversial nature of this situation and the fact that my views differ from most of those in the mainstream has driven me to express my thoughts via this blog.Let's first understand that I am not denying the fact that racism still exists (although anyone who didn't realize this is in denial) nor that Jena, LA has a high level of racial tension and inequality. However, the presence of racism does NOT justify violent retaliation. I agree fully with the facts; the black students had to ASK to sit under a tree, whites students responded with a threatening action (hanging the nooses), racial tensions rose. Then there was an arson at the Jena High School. The DA also came to the high school to tell the black students (after protests) that he could 'end their lives with his pen'. A very threatening message from a public official (a highly egregious DA).Three black students had a loaded shotgun pulled on them by a white graduate of Jena and were charged with stealing a firearm (a clearly ridiculous charge) after they wrestled it from him to defend themselves and presented the firearm to police. At a predominately white party on a Friday night, a black student was struck in the face and beaten with beer bottles. One white participant was charged with a misdemeanor. The following Monday at school (even though teachers requested that school be postponed to allow racial tensions to settle) a white student teased the young man about the 'ass whipping' he had received and was punched in the face. Allegedly, six black students stomped and kicked the boy when he fell. This is where the charges of attempted second degree murder come into play and why most of us have received emails to 'Free the Jena 6' by signing a petition. I do not agree with the charges of conspiracy and attempted second degree murder, but I think that both the white kids and the black kids should be charged as adults (if you are over 16, I think that it is warranted in certain instances). I think that all should face aggravated battery charges (usually a felony) and be allowed to plead down to simple battery (misdemeanor in certain cases).I will admit the District Attorney's treatment of the 6 black students has been unfair and unjust, BUT in both instances crimes took place. Maybe instead of saying 'Free Jena 6', we should demand that the white students from the Friday night incident receive punishment for their actions as well.I think that the young black men are guilty of something (maybe not all 6, but a young man was beaten in similar manner to the Friday night beating) and because the justice system didn't severely punish the white kids doesn't mean that the black boys could beat the crap out of a white kid. Fighting racism with violence only helped to promote the views of the racist whites in Jena. And while the quality of the DA, police, and other government officials may be lacking (due to their inherent racism) the boys still beat another boy up and stomped on him. I think that it is a complex issue and signing petitions and sending me (or you) emails about it isn't going to change the fact that the boys committed a crime (allegedly). I feel for them due to the injustice of the situation, but there are consequences for all actions.With that said, I believe that there are larger issues involved here. The racism in Jena didn't just spring up out of midair. It is the product of (you guessed it) 400+ years of oppression. It is my opinion that we should focus on the fact that there are two Americas; black and white. Two justice systems, two sets of laws, etc. This isn't the first and will not be the last time that blacks are treated with different standards than whites. For that matter, white America has been using the legal system against other races since the inception of the legal system (Native Americans, Chinese, Latinos, and Japanese are some examples other than blacks). I am not saying that all white Americans or all minorities are inherently prejudice toward each other, but the country has a dark, bloody history of racism, prejudice, and oppression.And why isn't there just as much outrage for the Genarlow Wilson situation. He received consensual oral sex from a 15 year old girl at the age of 17 and was convicted of aggravated child molestation (his case is on appeal, though the law that put him away has been changed) and will have to register as a sex offender (he remains in jail serving a 10 YEAR sentence). Signing a petition to 'Free the Jena 6' is like being mad at FEMA (though the government's lack of initiative in strengthening the levies is also to blame) for the Katrina situation. Racial tension and inequality existed before FEMA f*&*%$ up and that is what should be addressed. Until we work on the larger issues and begin to have an open, honest discussion about the elephant in the room (RACISM) we will never move forward.

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