Saturday, September 22, 2007

Belated thoughts on the Jena six

1. Was discussing the Jena six case with some people I know. Oddly enough, I was the only one who knew the basic facts, though various people had various impressions.

One lady said "what that makes me think is that it all would have worked out fine if the kid they jumped had a gun."

There was an odd silence as I thought "Ummm... So some cracker kid pulling a gun in a crowded cafeteria is going to IMPROVE the situation? I think it can be said that some cracker kid pulling a gun in a crowded place isn't going to improve ANY situation EVER..."

I'm pretty sure that everybody else thought that, too.

But we let it go.

It's not worth explaining some things to some people.

2. Another thing I don't get is why, what with the nooses hanging from the trees starting this, that local officials keep saying this isn't really about race and it is just the national media playing up that point. Sigh. I read a really good book on the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. at one point and residents of Jasper, Texas made much the same claim.

3. Six on one is not a "fight." The white kids deserved to get charged, too, of course, but I do object to people describing this as a "schoolyard fight." I think the violence was well past the "schoolyard fight" stage on both sides.

4. I'm not going to ask for a how of hands on this one, but I winced when I heard that Al Sharpton had shown up. In general, I view the appearance of Sharpton as a red flag that an issue is being overblown. In this case, it's not true. But I don't think I'm the only one who distrusts the man on sight and it might well be better for his causes if he stayed home.



Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
"Six on one is not a 'fight.'"


We don't know if it really was "six on one" -- all we know is that six youth were arrested and accused of a crime.

We don't know if all six youth were equally involved -- we don't know who punched and who kicked and who was just a bystander to a fight.

Perhaps we should modify the phrase "six on one" with the adjective "alleged"?

I would suggest reading the following articles:

Jena Six: Justin Barker Testifies at Mychal Bell Trial

Questioning The Context Of The Story: Was This Really Six On One?

I'm sure that Rev. Al Sharpton is just like many other political and religious figures -- he appears to love the spotlight. But his soundbite for the day was one of the best that I had heard after returning from Jena:

"The problem is that Jim Crow has sons. The one we’ve got to battle is James Crow, Jr., Esquire. He's a little more educated. He's a little slicker. He's a little more polished. But the results are the same.

Anonymous said...

I always had a rather dubious opinion of Sharpton. Much of it came from negative portrayals in the media. Then he came and preached a sermon to us one Sunday at Community Church of New York. He was really good: thoughtful, moving, aware of himself as having seen some important moments in history but not necessarily being the most important actor or infallible. As a Christian he had no trouble finding common ground with us UUs, and my general impression went up. He seems like a person who lets himself get carried away on camera, but when on the ground working with people is actually more in his element.

I think he's made some serious errors, but then MLK was far from perfect (or a saint) too. Same goes for Malcolm X.

PG said...

With regard to the nooses, the local officials claim it was not a proximate cause because of the time gap between the noose incident (end of August) and the assault (beginning of December). In their eyes, because the racial tensions were held mostly in check during the football season, there was no chain of incidents. If it hasn't been done already, someone really ought to study the relationship between football and school race relations in the South. My high school was still under a court desegregation order until 2000 that required it to remain unified (i.e., there couldn't be two high schools in the school district because of the likelihood that they'd divide by race), but even after the order dropped, the high school remained unified partly in order to maintain the strength of the football team; the town fathers don't want to divide their best talent between two schools.

What exactly did the residents of Jasper say about Byrd's death not being about race? I think that the relative level of racial tension in the South versus the North tends to be overestimated, and there certainly was a lot of that surrounding that murder. As Tim Wise pointed out, people were a lot more stressed about one horrible crime in a small Southern town -- for which the guilty were punished, some by death -- than by the semi-routine policy brutality in places like NYC.

Coming back to the football point, Mychal Bell appears to have been semi-protected from the full consequences of his prior bad acts (the assault was his fifth conviction for a violent crime, although two of the priors had been for property damage, which I don't think of as "violent" if there's no possibility of harm to sentient beings) because he was a football star, and the people in power weren't ready to throw him out until he went after a white kid.

Chalicechick said...


I have given away the book on Jasper, but my recollection is that the jist was:

"They had their churches, we had ours. They had their places to get together, we had ours. It looks bad to notherners that blacks and whites lived very separate lives, but that's the way we did things and it worked for us. Then those three dumb white trash kids killed the black community's town drunk and all of the sudden reporters come to town and start stirring up trouble and making the communities upset with each other. But they weren't upset with each other before. Everything was fine."

I guess I meant earlier that the crime itself had an obvious racial component, but those in power denied that it was part of an overall pattern that reflected on the town and blamed the now obvious racial issues in the town on the media's intrusion.

Brilliant point about the football.