I’ve been in my share of fights. It’s something that happens when you’re a young racially ambiguous kid thrust into the public school system in Washington D.C. A few of them I still have scars from.

The most consistent theme in my many trips to the Principal’s office is the fact that this answer, given by the parents of the white student who was allegedly beaten by six young black men (One of whom, Mychal Bell, has already been convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy and faces possibly 22 years in prison.) who are now charged with attempt to commit second degree murder and conspiracy, would never, ever fly. And that’s not just because my middle school Principal was like Shaft in retirement. From a July 1st segment on CNN:

KELLI BARKER, VICTIM’S MOTHER: He was getting kicked and stomped.


BARKER: I don’t know. You tell me.

ROESGEN: For the first time, the parents of Justin Barker, the victim, agreed to be interviewed exclusively by CNN.

BARKER: Several lacerations on both sides. Both the ears was kind of really damaged. And both the eyes. His right eye was the worst. It had blood clots in it.

ROESGEN: Kelly and David Barker say Justin has no idea why he was attacked. But his injuries have cost $12,000 in medical bills and his parents do believe it was a case of attempted murder.

The answer “I don’t know” is simply dishonest, but shrewd, since it relies on the racism of the listener to fill in the blanks. “I don’t know” is reason enough for black people to become violent, because that after all, is our nature.

CNN tells the story of the Jena Six thustly:

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Reporters are not welcome these days at Jena High School where racial tension has led to charges of attempted murder. Back in September, black students sat under this tree in the school courtyard, where traditionally only white students sit. The next day, three white students hung nooses from the tree and were suspended. What the nooses meant divided the town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a couple boys made a mistake, you know, but I, you know, I think it’s all being blown out of proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very offended because that’s a racial slur against us.

ROESGEN: From there, things got worse. In November, someone set fire to the school, destroying one of its main buildings. Though police don’t know if there’s a connection to the nooses. Then in December, a school fight. A white student, Justin Barker, was knocked unconscious and kicked as he lay on the ground. Six black teenagers were accused of beating him.

A noose is not a slur.

A noose is a threat.

A noose says “nigger, I’m going to hang you.”

And let us not gloss over the fact that CNN uncritically reports it as “tradition” that only white students are allowed to sit under a particular tree. The way in which that fact is reported is an unqualified acceptance of the idea that black students did something wrong by not heeding the orders of white students. According to CNN, it is the black students who sought confrontation by defying “tradition”.

Not surprisingly, the July 1 CNN report only briefly touches on how out of proportion the reaction of the DA was to the incident.

This is a copy of the school handbook here at Jena High School. It says the punishment for a school fight is three days’ suspension.

But in this case, five of the six black teenagers are charged with attempted murder. And they face the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison. Carwyn Jones, Bryant Purvis, Robert Bailey Jr., Theodore Shaw, and a student who hasn’t been identified because he’s only 16, are all charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A sixth student, Mychal Bell, had his charge reduced to aggravated battery. But they all say they’re innocent. And one of them told us he didn’t even see what happened.

But a July 10 segment on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now reveals that there was much more that occurred between the live threats hanging from a tree in a Jena schoolyard and the fight in which Justin Barker was injured.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: A series of incidents followed throughout the fall. In October, a black student was beaten for entering a private all-white party. Later that month, a white student pulled a gun on a group of black students at a gas station, claiming self-defense. The black students wrestled the gun away and reported the incident to police. They were charged with assault and robbery of the gun. No charges were ever filed against the white students in either incident. Then, in late November, someone tried to burn down the high school, creating even more tension.

A white student pulls a gun on a group of black students, who wrestle the gun away and call the police. In response, the black students are charged with assault and robbery. A school fight occurs, and the black students involved, all lacking say, firearms, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

CNN also failed to report the threats that DA Reed Walters made towards black students before the fight where Justin Barker was beaten. Walters made clear that hanging from a tree wasn’t the only way in which white power could end their lives.

MICHELLE ROGERS: The kids didn’t say anything. They were listening. The kids were quiet. And so, District Attorney Reed Walters, you know, proceeded to tell those kids that “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” And the kids were just — it was like in awe that the district — you know, Reed Walters would tell these kids that. He held a pen in his hand and told those kids that, “See this pen in my hand? I can end your lives with the stroke of a pen.”

As for the potential “murder” victim? He attended a school function the night of the beating. Apparently it wasn’t as vicious as his parents led CNN to believe.

Four days later, a white student was allegedly attacked in a school fight. The victim was taken to hospital and released shortly with a concussion. He attended a school function that evening. Six black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, on charges that leave them facing between twenty and one hundred years in jail. The defendants, ranging in age from fifteen to seventeen, had their bonds set at between $70,000 and $138,000. The attack was written up in the local paper as fact, and DA Reed Walters published a statement in which he said, “When you are convicted, I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law.”

The racism in the behavior of the local government is as flagrant as anything that occurred during segregation. The institutions of government in Jena, Louisiana are operating on de-facto Jim Crow; they carry out through cultural practice what was once law. And the mainstream media has felt absolutely no obligation to cover the story with appropriate depth.

The New York Times has not covered it at all. Neither has the Washington Post, whose vast website carries a single AP article on the subject. CNN was presumably unable to adequately investigate because it was expending all of its journalistic resources attempting to fact check SiCKO and find out what Fred Thompson smells like. My mama has personally been on that ass trying to get me to blog about this and until now, I just haven’t had the words.

Consider the media attention given to Imus for his racial slurs towards the Rutgers Women’s basketball team, and consider the attention given to the Jena Six. Six young black men are about to be lynched in Jena, Louisiana, but there is no Hip-hop to blame, no “shock jock” culture, and no Al Sharpton to give the media a reason to change the subject. There is no Ray Nagin cussing on the radio, no corrupt congressmen, no looting, no lies about savagery in the Superdome.

The only thing in Louisiana waiting for the media is a mirror that shows everything that is ugly in this country that we have pretended to choke down in the name of tolerance.

And so they look away. Again.

The petition is here.

Related Posts with Thumbnails