Monday, 24 September 2007

Jena Six: More Thoughts

One of my sources for my first post on the Jena Six was Kevin at Life Has Taught Us. Kevin has posted again and I think that his post plus our interchange of comments is worthy of a separate post.

Kevin @ Life Has Taught Us
"..............My second concern with the increasing number of voices rallying in support of the Jena 6 is that there has been an increasing call to "Free the Jena 6" rather than for "Justice in Jena." These six teenagers stand accused of a violent crime. They are accused not convicted. They are innocent until proven guilty. However, if indeed they did commit this crime, there must also be justice for their victim. For no matter how vile the alleged racist taunts of their victim may have been, we as a society cannot accept violence as a cure for hatred. Violence only creates more violence. Once again, in the words of Dr. King, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

What we should strive for in Jena is justice. Yes, there should be justice for the white teenager who was beaten in this case. If the Jena 6 committed this crime, it would be an extreme injustice to allow them to go free. But, there also needs to be justice for the accused. They must be treated equally under the law. The charges against them must fit the crime and must not be biased by race or any other discriminating factor. If found guilty, their punishment must also fit their crime.

Up to this point, there has been little justice in Jena. The teenagers who started this recent outbreak of violence by hanging nooses in their schoolyard never received a punishment that fit their crime. The subsequent incidents of violence perpetrated by both white and black teenagers have been treated unequally by the justice system. And, now, six teenagers stand accused of crimes that appear disproportionate in light of the actual incident and in light of these previous incidents.

But, there is hope. And, we can make and we have made a difference."

"I understand your disappointment at the call to "Free the Jena Six". I too believe they should face and receive justice for their actions but I can also understand why so many are calling for their freedom.

There are , as you describe, two aspects to justice: firstly the "six" must receive justice in terms of the charges faced, the case itself and the sentencing and secondly others who have committed similar crimes must be treated similarly.

Therefore, even if the "six" receive justice in terms of their own actions, if others are treated more leniently for similar actions then overall the "six" have not been treated justly.

I imagine that this is the perception among many: that the white youths involved have been treated more leniently. Under these circumstances where justice is seen not to have been done; where some have either not been charged or been charged for minor crimes demanding that the "six" be freed is not unreasonable.

Both aspects of justice must be seen to be done. Without that, I imagine, the calls for "freedom of the Jena Six" will continue and with some justification."

"I do understand where you are coming from, but I can't accept that we repay one injustice with another.

I think that it would be an injustice if in fact the youths did commit an assault and they would not be punished for it. It would be unjust to the victim in spite of how vile his words may have been.

We need to push for equality under the law and that is what we have to uphold or else we are going to start an unending spiral of correcting injustices with other injustices.

I strongly support justice for the Jena 6. That is, in the charges against them, in their having fair trials, and in a fair punishment if they are guilty or in freedom if they are innocent."

"I find this issue difficult. I believe the "six" should receive justice for their actions. It would be unjust if they were guilty but were freed.

BUT - a big "but" - it is unjust if the "six" receive the deserved punishment and others get off virtually scot-free for similar actions. I imagine that it is this injustice which will drive the protest and it is understandable if this were the case.

The protestors would have a stronger moral case if they were to ask for justice for all but, if I were in their position, I would want justice for all now. The option of justice for me now but with a long wait until all received justice would be unacceptable.

Justice for me but not for all is injustice for me and is worthy of protest."


  1. Calum -- Thanks for posting our exchange. I love it when blogs spur on conversation and dialogue. It is particularly nice to get a "global perspective" on the issues.

    Don't forget my last comment:

    Agreed. The issue of justice would be in the reduction of charges. It has already happened once for Mychal Bell. And, that is the primary issue. They are charged with crimes that are much more severe than were their alleged actions. So, a reduction in charges would be just in the case.

    Unfortunately, the judges and the prosecution have not been just in their case.

    Also, I don't know if justice is on the horizon for the Jena 6. Mychal Bell recently had a bail hearing and they refused to set terms for his release. The judge gave no reason for it. But, it looks like he will continue to be held in jail until the prosecutors figure out what they are going to do.

    I have not heard any specifics released on this decision, but it stinks of "old southern justice" to me.

  2. Kevin

    Only rarely have I had a post and comments become a conversation. I get a great boost when this happens - thanks.

    I hadn't forgotten your last comment but I wanted to finish on the quote:
    "Justice for me but not for all is injustice for me and is worthy of protest."

  3. Calum --

    I figured that you hadn't forgotten it.

    But, you are right on about blogging. Rarely do such post and comments become conversations. There is a great potential for this type of dialogue that I believe would lead to greater understanding. Of course, you usually just end up getting folks shouting abuse at one another.

    Pleasure to have this conversation with you.

    I hope you will keep following the story in Jena as well.

  4. Kevin

    Pleasure's mine too.

    I will continue to follow the story.

    Think we need to end this mutual admiration - people will talk!!! :)

  5. I'm just picking up on this, it seems very interesting.

  6. I agree with you on it, CC. White youths allegedly hung nooses around the tree! Within living memory that type of noose was used. I'm not supporting the violence of the 6 - if it is proved - but it was an extreme provocation. As I've commented at Ruthie's, to a Brit it is incomprehensible that there was"segregation" in the first place and that the black students felt they had to ASK if they could sit under the tree.

  7. But, if we allow for violence upon provocation, do we not slide down a slippery slope?

    I greatly admire the UK for having the "duty to retreat" on the law books, which states that you can only use violence with deadly intent if that is your ONLY option. In the United States, we have unfortunately eroded this to a ridiculous point where the first defense of self defense becomes deadly force.

    Despite the provocation, violence cannot be a solution.

    And, I don't want to stir too much trouble because I am not trying to justify segregation in the United States. Racism in the United States is rampant and horrible. It is absolutely disgusting. But, I don't think it fair to say that a "to a Brit it is incomprehensible that there was"segregation" in the first place." That is a gross generalization. And, when I think to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, I think that it is perhaps a misstatement.

  8. Sorry to take up so much space here.

    But, this story just came out and it shows the need for us to be better than these people. To take a righteous stance and not resort to violence. We must be better than these ignorant bigots.

    Following large protests last week supporting six African-American teenagers in Jena, LA, white supremacists have begun calling for retaliatory violence. The threats include the posting on a neo-Nazi website of the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six teenagers and their families. In an interview, the Mayor of Jena, Murphy McMillin, “praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counter-demonstrations.”

  9. Calum --

    Here is a pretty good story on the issue with the white supremacists. It appeared in the Chicago Tribune, which was the first "mainstream" paper in the US to cover the Jena 6.

    This is actually quite frightening. And, you can find out more at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  10. Kevin

    You say "Despite the provocation, violence cannot be a solution.".

    I agree but, although not a solution, violence is occasionally understandable.

    Re your N Ireland comment. Sometimes I think that those on the British mainland forget the Irish troubles were actually our troubles. I forget sometimes.

    Thanks for the links. I had already found a conversation between the mayor and a "white supremacist". Wow!

  11. True.

    Although not a solution, you are correct with violence being more "understandable" in a given situation.

    Scary things are happening over here. The SPLC website link is a good one to keep track on hate groups in America. It is quite frightening to see the incidents, particularly in the American South where we live.