Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This is Fucked Up

I don't normally swear in the title, but this story is appropriate enough for it. This post is for all of the people who say that Black people are being reactionary and delusional for saying that racism still exists in America.

Six Black youths in Jena, Louisiana now face the prospect of being in jail until their 30s because they reacted to someone calling them "niggers". The following is the write-up from While Seated. I will also note that this story has not received a lot of national traction, but is a major issue in the rest of the industrialized world. Fancy that.

In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a "whites only" shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn't sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn't care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.

The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena's black population didn't take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could "end their life with a stroke of the pen."

Black students were assaulted at white parties. A white man drew a loaded rifle on three black teens at a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school, and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six black students being charged with attempted murder. To his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are juveniles.

Yesterday, I was in Jena for the first day of the trial for Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six. The D.A., perhaps in response to public pressure, tried to get Bell to cop a plea. Bell refused, and today, jury selection began. After today, we'll know whether or not the case will be tried in front of an all-white jury. Jena's 85-percent white, and it remains to be seen whether or not the six can get a fair trial.

Both off-the-record and on, Jena residents told me racism is alive and well in Louisiana, and this is a case where it rose above the levee, so to speak.

In the next few days, I'll be posting a few photos from Jena that are related to the case, as well as linking to a multimedia piece I'm working on. CNN began reporting on the story today, following the lead of the BBC, who crafted an excellent hour-long documentary that can be found on P2P networks.
This is clearly a mistrial of justice based solely on race. If you want to do something, go to Pandagon. They have a list of organizations who are working on behalf of the group to get them appropriate legal representation.