Catchin' Up w/the Jena 6
I have two reactions to it - practical/logical, and emotional.
The practical/logical side of me says this case was bungled from the very beginning. If you're not sure how, consider this:
- If you're familiar with the story, then you know that simmering racial tensions in that town intensified between young people, after three white students at Jena High School were found to have hung nooses from a campus shade tree, the day after a group of black students violated an unwritten campus "rule" that designated the tree a white hangout spot. So the district attorney in that neck of the woods was tasked with deciding whether or not the draping of the nooses constituted a crime. He decided the action was an ill-planned prank and declined to prosecute. The principal issued a stiff suspension to the guilty parties, but the school board overrode the suspension and issued a lesser one. the DA is legal advisor to the school board. He should have recused himself from the start to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.
- Second, the DA reportedly declined to investigate reports of numerous fistfights between groups of white and black students and the alleged brandishing of a rifle or shotgun by a white student at black students. If those reports are true, then shame on the DA, because this whole mess could have been handled and done with six months ago.
- Third, if the young black men charged with beating that young white man unconscious are guilty of the charges, they should be punished. They should do time. That beating, as its been described in news reports, meets the legal standard for assault. Or, depending on the motives and circumstances, it's battery. The attempted murder charges they originally faced though? Not so sure about that. Intent to kill is extremely difficult to prove.
OK, so that's the practical/logical side.
My emotional side wishes we could sweep this thing under a rug, 'cause disputes rooted in different skin colors never end well.
My emotional side cringes a little, 'cause I hate to see young men who remind me of myself 15 or 20 years ago get in big trouble. But I know that being flustered and feeling intimidated can't be a real defense for violent behavior, unless you can say you feel your life is in danger, you have no escape, and your only recourse is to get the person who's threatening you first. 'Cause if we could just beat every person who looked at us cock-eyed and muttered threats, I swear I'd have stomped new orifices into half the drunks and wannabe bad asses in my neighborhood.
My emotional side is angry, 'cause I feel like the DA - if the news reports are true - made no effort prior to the beating that caused the uproar to investigate alleged intimidation tactics like the noose drapings and the alleged gun-brandishing. He could have prevented this uproar.
My emotional side is angry, because I believe that protesters and marchers in Jena who wore t-shirts with the slogan "Free the Jena 6!" sent the wrong message. If those young men are guilty as charged, they shouldn't be freed! They should be locked up. They just shouldn't be locked up for decades, unless the DA has absolute proof that they intended to kill the young man they jumped.
My emotional side is angry that these young men gave into emotion and ignored common sense. If news reports are accurate then the young man they beat was in no way connected to the nooses in the tree or the other racial intimidation. They dove head first into trouble that could ruin the rest of their lives because they were angry over racial slights - some real no doubt, and some perceived no doubt. But none worth losing your cool and going to jail over.
But my emotional side is also angry, because I feel that reasonable people who are calling for stiff but fair punishments for the accused assailants are being drowned out by extremists on both sides who want to use this case to create greater divisions between races.
And then I realize that all jokes aside, I really do wish I could just quote Rodney King and make all of this go away.
UPDATE: Least there is any confusion, when I say this whole thing could have been avoided, I mean if the noose hangers had been appropriately dealt with in the beginning - charged with a crime under federal hate crime statutes. Look at it this way, if those little weasles had hung nooses in a black family's front yard or say lit a cross on fire in their front yard, they would have been arrested and charged with hate crimes promptly. But because they hung nooses from a tree in a school yard, all that warranted was a short suspension? Wrong. But still, unless the guy who was beaten here had something to do with the nooses or the other reported acts of racial intimidation toward black youth in this town, then the accused should not have even thought about jumping on this kid, much less gone through with it.
Labels: Jena 6