Saturday, 22 September 2007

Jena Six

I was thinking about posting on the Jena Six but Ruthie's post on this subject prompted me to read more deeply and to write with a different slant.

The facts of the case and of the background are not clear cut – see the list of articles / blogs at the end of this post – and so an objective assessment is virtually impossible.

What can be said is that many believe the Jena Six to have suffered injustice and racism.

An ACLU publication carries the following quote from the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union:

The racism and injustice endured by the Jena 6 has all the hallmarks of the Jim Crow era: school officials complicit in racism; prosecutors treading lightly when it comes to whites while throwing the book at black youth; and an all white jury convicting a black teen now facing decades in jail."

Is this statement true?

I don’t know. I can’t know.

But if people have suffered racism and/or injustice themselves they are likely to believe that the Jena Six suffered similarly.

If people believe the Jena Six to have suffered racism and/or injustice then they have every right to protest. That some or all of the Jena Six may be guilty of assault is irrelevant to the charges of racism and injustice.

The Jena Six don’t measure up to Martin Luther King’s standards but they don’t need to. However unworthy the six may appear, their case has grabbed the attention and if this helps in the fight against racism and for justice then that is an excellent outcome.

Ruthie says “These students are not martyrs or heroes. I agree entirely that the judicial process was (and is) flawed, but this doesn't excuse or justify the assault.

I agree with Ruthie here but just as we condemn the alleged assault we must condemn the alleged racism.

Ruthie also says, “This is just another example of the media-drenched, racially hypersensitive climate that we live in. Just another point of contention. Just another excuse to stir up divisiveness on all sides.

Is it wrong to be outraged at racism? Surely not!

Is it being hypersensitive to react against racism? Surely not!

Were the Jena Six subjected to racism and injustice? I don’t know, but, unlike Ruthie, “I am not tired reading about it”.

Racism and injustice must be confronted even if those subjected to it are deemed unworthy.

Background Reading:

Ruthie’s post

Wikipedia entry

Wkipedia discussion re the above entry

ACLU article

ACLU background info

Common Dreams article

Help the Jena 6 article

Blog by Life has Taught Us

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 1

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 2

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 3

Houston Chronicle article

Washington Post article part 1

Washington Post article Part 2

1 comment:

  1. Nice commentary. And, thank you for linking to my post as well as the exchange that I had with the "Cheerful Iconoclast."

    I dealt with some of these same issues in a later post.

    The primary point of my post is to say that if the Jena 6 are indeed guilty of the assault (which we don't know at this point) then they should be punished. However, they should be punished fairly and equally.

    This is not happening in Jena.

    There are two systems of justice. One for whites and one for blacks. And, this is an outrage. It is this injustice that we must all fight. In Jena, the injustice is based on race. But, it could easily be based on any number of differences with which we ignorantly divide ourselves, sexual orientation, gender, politics, etc.

    Thanks for the post.