African-American issues

The Jena Six

Jim Crow Comes for Our Kids
By Amina Luqman
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2007-09-21

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Something about the case of the “Jena 6”
has sparked a rumbling within the black community.
It’s ironic, sadly, because there is an everyday sameness to what has happened.
A racially provoked incident and a lackluster community response --
same as ever.
Extreme charges brought for less-than-spectacular alleged crimes --
same as ever.
An overzealous prosecutor, an inept defense attorney, an all-white jury,
witnesses not called, a quick guilty verdict --
same, same, same.
any of these elements is less than extraordinary in black American life.


The story of the Jena 6 is long and filled with stunning details.
The basic points are these:
In the predominantly white town of Jena, La.,
white students hung three nooses last September
after black students sat under a schoolyard tree
where white students normally congregated.
The white students were suspended for three days.
After black students protested peacefully,
the La Salle Parish district attorney threatened them, saying:
“I can make your life go away with a stroke of a pen.”
Eventually there was
a schoolyard fight
in which a white student was beaten;
he was treated for a concussion and multiple bruises.
Although the student was well enough
to attend a school function the same evening,
six black boys between the ages of 15 and 17 were arrested,
five of whom were charged as adults with attempted murder and conspiracy.
The sixth student was charged as a juvenile.


Three Wrongs to Right
By Colbert I. King (WP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist)
Washington Post, 2007-09-22

[Emphasis is added.]
The ‘Jena 6’
the schoolyard fight
had involved only white high school students or only black students,
we wouldn’t be reading about Jena, La.
But it’s not that simple.

A tree for white students only.
Three hangman’s nooses.
Fights between black students and white students.

a white prosecutor out to put blacks in their place.
White students were suspended.
Black students were expelled, arrested and charged (as adults) with felonies.

The disproportionately heavy hand of the law on black males --
a story as old as America.

Sick and tired. Converge on Jena. Vigils. Wear black.
Peaceful protest this time.

Next time --
and there will be a next time,
unless that unfair prosecution is reversed
and our unjust criminal justice system is changed --
there’s no telling what an angry community acting in solidarity can and will do.

Justice in Jena
By REED WALTERS (LaSalle Parish District Attorney)
New York Times Op-Ed, 2007-09-22

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]


Last week, a reporter asked me whether, if I had it to do over,
I would do anything differently.
I didn’t think of it at the time, but the answer is yes.
I would have done a better job of explaining that the offenses of Dec. 4, 2006,
did not stem from a “schoolyard fight”
as it has been commonly described in the news media and by critics.

Conjure the image of schoolboys fighting:
they exchange words, clench fists, throw punches,
wrestle in the dirt until classmates or teachers pull them apart.
Of course that would not be aggravated second-degree battery,
which is what the attackers are now charged with.
(Five of the defendants
were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.)
But that’s not what happened at Jena High School.

The victim in this crime,
who has been all but forgotten amid the focus on the defendants,
was a young man named Justin Barker,
who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier.
According to all the credible evidence I am aware of,
after lunch, he walked to his next class.
As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside,

he was blindsided and knocked unconscious
by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell.
While lying on the ground unaware of what was happening to him,
he was brutally kicked by at least six people.

Imagine you were walking down a city street,
and someone leapt from behind a tree and hit you so hard
that you fell to the sidewalk unconscious.
Would you later describe that as a fight?

Only the intervention of an uninvolved student
protected Mr. Barker from severe injury or death.
There was serious bodily harm inflicted with a dangerous weapon —
the definition of aggravated second-degree battery.
Mr. Bell’s conviction on that charge as an adult has been overturned,
but I considered adult status appropriate because of
his role as the instigator of the attack,
the seriousness of the charge and
his prior criminal record.


Reed Walters is the district attorney of LaSalle Parish.

Miscellaneous Articles


Obama and Race
New York Times, 2008-03-20

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

To whites, for example, it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that

the AIDS virus was released as
a deliberate government plot to kill black people.

That may be an absurd view in white circles, but
a 1990 survey found that

30 percent of African-Americans
believed this was at least plausible.

“That’s a real standard belief,”
noted Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political scientist at Princeton
(and former member of Trinity church, when she lived in Chicago).
“One of the things fascinating to me
watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright
is that
white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme.
When if you’ve spent time in black communities,
they are not shared by everyone, but
they are pretty common beliefs.”


The ugly truth behind ‘structural inequality’
By Gregory Kane
Washington Examiner, 2009-08-06

He’s 17 and has a juvenile offender record
that runs back to when he was 10 years old;
she’s 16 and the mother of his 8-month-old daughter.

His name is Lamont Harris.
Marylanders in the Baltimore-Washington area
first learned of this hopeless cretin in early July,
when he was charged with firing the shot on a street in south Baltimore
that left 5-year-old Raven Wyatt struggling for her life with a head wound.
Harris’ arrest in the Raven Wyatt shooting was his 15th in seven years.

Her name is Dynashaya Hall.
We first met her when she, with no trace of shame,
consented to give a television interview about where Harris was
when Baltimore cops finally caught up to him.

Her comment should have set off an even greater controversy
than the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
At least it would have,
if we lived in a country that cherishes family values and morality
as much as it does victimhood.

“We was in bed together,”
Hall told a reporter about where Harris was when he was arrested.

He’s 17 and already a career screw-up; she’s 16 and clueless.
Both are black, which is pertinent to this story.
They have an 8-month-old child and,
assuming they were in bed to do what two heterosexuals do in that situation,
were probably about to make another one.

Do you get the feeling that Obama passed on
the really teachable moment that has presented itself in the last month or so?
Do you get the feeling
he invited the wrong people to the White House for a beer summit?
He should have a dressing down summit at the White House,
and the people he should have invited are
Harris, Hall and whatever four people pass as their pathetic excuses for parents.

No such lectures from the president will be forthcoming,
except in the most general sense to the most general audience.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that
the president told delegates at the NAACP convention last month:

“To parents, we can’t tell our kids to do well in school
and then fail to support them when they get home.
You can’t just contract out parenting.
For our kids to excel,
we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn.
That means putting away the Xbox,
putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour.
It means attending those parent-teacher conferences
and reading to our children
and helping them with their homework.”

Noble words, ones the delegates applauded.
But they - and Barack Hussein Obama -
know that people like Harris and Hall aren’t likely to be such parents,
and that their parents more than likely weren’t either.
So Obama made sure in his speech to fall back on the old standby:
White racism.

He didn’t say the words exactly, of course.
He used the new lib-think code term: “structural inequality.”

“We know that prejudice and discrimination -
at least the most blatant types of prejudice and discrimination -
are not even the steepest barriers to opportunity today,”
Obama told the delegates.
“The most difficult barriers include structural inequalities
that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind,
inequalities still plaguing too many communities
and too often the object of national neglect.”

I’ll not mince words:
even if by some wave of the magic wand
“structural inequality” were eliminated tomorrow,
that would help people like Harris and Hall not one iota.
By having a child way too young
and with few to no parenting skills themselves -
and with daddy likely on his way to doing a lengthy stretch in prison -
they’ve more or less assured that
their child will grow up poor and disadvantaged.

When Obama pointed out in his speech that
black American students lag behind whites in reading and math,
he failed to make this connection:
The disparity starts as early as kindergarten,
with parents who send their kids to school
not knowing shapes, primary colors
or possessing a vocabulary that will assure that they won’t fall behind.

I did a story on one Baltimore daycare center whose director told me
some children there didn’t know basic words like “fork,” “spoon” or “plate.”

Black children forced to live in such environments
are the victims more of bad parenting
than of any “structural inequality.”

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a journalist who lives in Baltimore.

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