Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Jena, Everyone Loses

The 1960s civil rights movement was a decade that produced many heroes. Among them are Martin Luther King, Jr., Medger Evers, and John Lewis, the latter of whom led the marchers at Selma against brutal policemen with tear gas and attack dogs. I had the privilege of meeting Rep. Lewis at a lunch at the Capitol a few years ago, and hearing him tell his story at the table gave me goosebumps.

On the flip side, I've been deflated by recent coverage (as judged by the plethora of newspaper articles and Facebook petitions) of the "Jena 6", a group of black teenagers facing serious charges in the aftermath of racial tension and violence in their small Louisiana town. Unfortunately, without even delving into the details of this cause célèbre, it's hard to overlook the fact that there is nothing heroic or noble about a group of teenagers beating someone up.

As we've learned (or as the Wikipedia entry documents), this town sadly has a deplorable state of racial affairs between blacks and whites. I am disappointed to see that in the year 2007 there are still places in this country where bitter, overt, and irrational hatred exists. And I obviously feel bad that the Jena 6 may have had poor legal representation, and that they may have to face unimaginably long prison sentences that will all but ruin their lives.

Yet the fact that these six Louisiana teenagers are the face of today's civil rights crusade reveals a troubling detail. It used to be that we marched for messages of equality and non-violence. The kids that everyone is marching for today engaged in violent criminal behavior that was both a symptom, as well as a continuing cause, of racism. These kids, and other blacks and whites in the city, engaged in a relentless cycle of destructive behavior.

When the current trials are over, and all is said and done, will anything have changed in Jena, L.A.? Life for both whites and blacks will likely be worse than before, if that is even possible. This wasn't Dr. King's "Dream", this is a nightmare.


Diontay said...

Jay we go way back to my 10th grade year, ur 9th, 8th period gym class with Mr. I mean Ms. Changuris, so you know there’s nothing but love. But first off, as Anne Moody put it in her autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi "while MLK is in Washington dreaming, we in Mississippi cannot close our eyes long enough to dream." I'm paraphrasing but the point is this...MLK had a noble dream, but it still has not come true. While he’s dreaming for a change ppl are getting killed to change it. Racism is something that must be attacked head on and sometimes with violence. As brother Malcolm once said, "by any means necessary." I'm not saying we go and kill all the white folks in the world, but to believe that a dream, a speech, a march or a rally will end racism is ludicrous. You won't find a black activist anywhere that will say jumping a kid til he loses consciousness is a way of achieving liberation or equality, but how can you explain the exorbitant sentences and charges against the Jena 6. Its ridiculous and overtly racist. Lets talk about the 22 year old white MAN who punched the black kid (16 years old) in the face and got nothing...or how about the guy who pulled the shotgun on the boys, who then apprehended it from him and proceeded to get charged with theft. If anyone deserves a beat down its the justice system. What the Jena 6 has done is illuminate the fact that racism still exist. There are ppl in this world of all colors who would rather forget slavery ever happened. They would rather not tell their kids what a noose is, where the childs game "ring around the rosie" came from. These are the ppl the Jena 6 has affected the most. So no I'm not justifying a brutal beating of anybody, but i commend these kids for fighting back if for no other reason than to show the world that in their town, everybody just aint gettin along. This aint no Mayberry.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that anyone's wearing black or whatnot in support of what the black or white kids did; I'm pretty sure most people from both races would agree that all of the kids involved were wrong and they all deserve punishments of some sort. But there has to be some sort of justice in how any government deals with crime, b/c the whole point of dealing with crime is for the greater good of society; giving a punishment that is unnecessarily harsh, or that will probably wind up creating a backlash of violence and bitterness in return is pointless....and letting that punishment slide without at least protesting it sends the message that that's okay, and would make the victims (in this case the black kids) feel even more estranged and if anything I think people are joining facebook groups and whatnot to show support for justice that doles out punishments not for the sake of hurting people, but for the sake of making society a better place for both the victims and the perpetrators; maybe that's along the same lines as what you were saying -neha

Dan said...

Well, at least I agree with you.