Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Today, Senator John Edwards issued the following statement about the events in Jena, Louisiana:

“As someone who grew up in the segregated South, I feel a special responsibility to speak out on racial intolerance. To measure our progress in the fight against racism, today our nation looks to Jena, Louisiana. Americans of all races are traveling to Jena because they believe that how we respond to the racial tensions in Jena says everything about who we are as a nation.

“When a ‘white tree’ stands outside a public school, marking a place where white students sit but black students are not welcome, there is something so wrong that the right words are hard to find. When children have learned to intimidate each other with age-old, hateful symbols of racial terror, we are reminded that we cannot take progress for granted. And we must turn to the larger truth: that we still have two criminal justice systems in this country – largely defined by race and class.

“Fortunately, we also still have in this country the desire for racial justice, understanding and tolerance. I am hopeful that justice will be served, these young Americans can look to the future, and the community of Jena will find peace.”

Check out the recent and good NYTimes story too:

“I think a lot of people recognize that the criminal justice system grinds down people of color every day,” said J. Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the civil rights group based in Montgomery, Ala. “Oftentimes, it’s nameless, it’s faceless. We know the story in a generic way but not specifically. People see Jena as the tip of the iceberg and ask, ‘What lies beneath?’ “

Oh, let me correct you, Mr. Cohen. Black folks know this story in a very personal and non-generic way — which is why it resonates and demands our response. We know exactly what lies beneath. The noose should be your first clue.

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