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A White Person’s Meditation on the Jena 6 Students

Thank you to OpEdNews for publishing this article first. The link brings you to oped news, a wonderful resource for progressive news and opinion. Below is the article in its entirety published here:

A White Person’s Meditation on the Jena 6 Students

I am a white woman. This article is my perspective on the Jena 6 Students and their plight.

In one of the progressive organizations that I belong to, we have been having heated discussions about the Jena 6 Students. Our first press release, and the majority reaction, includes agreement in our organization to join the chorus of voices demanding that all the charges against the students be dropped entirely. Though, there are a few people in our organization–a few white people–who have questioned that stance. And, I have stumbled across some progressive writers who have also questioned the correctness of asking that all charges be dropped against these 6 black students who beat up a fellow student.

The bottom line is that Mychal Bell and the other 5 students from Louisiana charged in this incident, have faced racism from the institutions around them: the school, the district attorney’s office, and even the media. So, the only proper response is to free Mychal Bell from jail immediately, and to deal with this entire situation in a school-based manner, as it should have been from the beginning. Mychal Bell was a 16-year-old dutifully attending school. As a student, the school and the government had a responsibility to treat him as someone with the potential to succeed and the potential to change any bad patterns.

I would ask that white people who may be “doubters” on the issue of dropping all the charges, study the situation more, and reflect more on the racism surrounding the issue. I feel strongly that the only proper role for white people in this situation is to either join the demand for all the charges to be dropped, or stand aside while others struggle to do.

Of course, as with any injustice labeled as “racism”, someone is going to proclaim that it is not truly based on racism. Race is a hard word to swallow, especially for white people, who unlike most black people in America, can sometimes go for whole days, weeks, months or even years, without having to acknowledge racism. Racism is scary to admit to. And, often hard to prove.

Since the Jena 6 students did do something wrong, and since that something included violence, it is easy for white peace activists and progressives to believe that the system is just running its course. It is easy to want to believe that there was no racism, because this time, it might appear the black young men involved actually “deserve” the punishment they are receiving from the criminal justice system.

Though, it is clear that the 6 black students did not receive fair justice. First of all, it is easy to see in the abstract, that black people cannot receive justice from our inherently white and inherently racist criminal justice system. When white defendants enter the system, they almost always have “peers”, not only as jurors, but nearly always as judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and even court officers. And, to the extent some of those characters in this story may be black, to be truthful, because of our system, even those black judges, attorneys or prosecutors probably answer to white supervisors.

Though, in addition to this underlying racism, that precludes any black person from receiving justice in our white, racist criminal justice system, there are also the very specific failings evident in this case. It is clear that at every juncture, the Jena 6 students were treated more harshly, and entirely differently, than the white students who hung the nooses, and even differently from other white students who beat black students up in the weeks leading up to this incident.

Applying Education Law

One piece of logic which is missing from many people’s examination of the case is the whole body of education law. I work at an education advocacy center. Due to my experience there, I can see clearly the many junctures where this whole situation was handled in an absolutely unfair, negligent, and biased way by the school administrators and government people involved. Through the paradigm of education rights, law and processes, the whole Jena 6 saga – from nooses, to months of racial conflict that was not addressed properly, to the prosecution of the 6 black young men – was all handled entirely wrong and entirely biased.

I realize that it is a lot to call upon a casual observer and commentator on the Jena 6 Students’ case to have a deep understanding of education law. But, I would say: If you believe you have a right to publicly assert that these children should face criminal charges, then you should have a responsibility to know something about the law which exists, and these children’s rights under that law.

There are at least 3 federal laws, and 1 Louisiana law, which, if followed by the school system, would probably have stopped the whole Jena situation somewhere at (or maybe even before) the hanging of the nooses. If someone wants to assert that justice demands that Mychal Bell deserves some criminal charges because he did something wrong, then justice would have to admit that school administrators deserve criminal charges as well.

Louisiana State Law states: “Standard 5 of the Health Education Content Standards (2002) requires students to receive instruction in non-violent conflict resolution. RS 17:13.1 (1992) requires the State Department of Education to develop and implement minimum guidelines for a program on prevention of crime and disruptive behavior in public schools, which includes coordination of school safety programs and any other existing programs that address gang membership and violence.”1 A cursory study of the situation would show that there were not adequate prevention programs in the school, if nooses were hung. And, then, after the nooses were hung, the school did not manage in 3 months to apply non-violent conflict resolution and safety programs to stop the other events from happening.

The Safe Schools Act of 1994 is a federal law which demands that “every school in America will be free of…violence and will offer a disciplined environment, conducive to learning, by ensuring that all schools are safe and free of violence.”

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a federal law which includes various responsibilities that a school has to make sure that schools are free from bullying and violence. This law also asserts that, “Parents of children who have been the victims of a violent crime at school or who attend ‘persistently dangerous schools’—as determined by the state—will be offered school choice.”2

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law which provides that “A free appropriate public education must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school…” None of the Jena 6 Students stopped being students because they harmed another student. None of the Jena 6 Students should have been denied an education, and their full rights under education law. Mychal Bell did not stop having his right to a free and appropriate education when he beat up another student. He should not have been placed in adult prison as a first step.

One of the main problems with the way that school and government authorities handled this situation, is that they totally skipped over the fact that the Jena 6 children were students, and as such, they were all protected under education law.

When Mychal Bell had repetitive discipline problems, it was the school’s responsibility to notice, and to question whether he might have a disability that would require special education services. “IDEA requires all states to have a “comprehensive Child Find system” to assure that all children who are in need of…special education services are located, identified, and referred.”3 If a child has a discipline problem, one of the first things the school should do is consider having testing or evaluations done to see if the child might have a hidden learning disability that causes his frustration and/or an emotional problem which the school could address with counseling and/or a more structured environment. When you are 16 and still in school, educators are supposed to see you as a moldable human being, with potential, who deserves nurturing and redirection. And, an alternative school is a much better placement, a much more appropriate education, and a much less restrictive in environment than a jail.

No one is saying that the 6 young men who beat someone up should not have a consequence. Dropping all the criminal charges would not leave them without consequence. Dropping all criminal charges would bring the responsibility and the solutions back where they belong, at a school-based level. All of the actions, and even the relationships which created those actions, circled around school issues (including mistakes the school had made in its poor handling of previous situations.) So, the consequence for the students could have been and should have been school-based.

Much of the inherent racism can be seen in the fact that when the Jena 6 Students, who were black, caused harm, they were looked at as criminals. Though, when white students hung nooses, it was looked at as a childish prank, even though the real implication was a death threat to a group of other students. White people need to face the real implications of those hanging nooses: It was a cowardly, anonymous death threat to all black people in the area. But, that action was not treated as a crime. The white students who hung nooses were given a school penalty only. First they were threatened with expulsion, then that was watered down, and the noose-hangers were only suspended for a time.

But, when a white student was beat up, even though the victim attended a school function the same evening, the beating was portrayed as attempted murder and as a criminal act, that the government, and not the school, would judge and give out consequences for.

The fact that actions of the white students were dealt with at the school level, and the actions of the black students were taken to the criminal justice level shows the racism in the system and in how justice was applied.

I believe that it is subtle racism that allows white progressives and the media to have been confused into not seeing the schism in how the two sets of students were treated. It is inexcusable racism that the some in the community and in the media have been so willing to view the two sets of students as different–one set as childish pranksters who deserved another chance, the other set as criminals worthy of punishment in the adult criminal justice system. And, the media is an institution which should have access to legal consultants and other professionals who could have noticed the violations of education law.

Education Law for the Noose Incident

Education law also points to better ways for the school to have dealt with the white students that hung the nooses. Those children should not have just had a punishment, they should have had meaningful evaluations and/or some kind of class or therapy to address their behavior. And, the students who hung the nooses could have been placed in another school, so that all the black kids did not have to know that those threatening students were allowed back to potentially threaten them again.

I think it is important and difficult for white people to understand, but once the noose-hangers came back to school, they were still white, and the other kids were still black. So, people who really understand the racism that permeates our culture should realize that the noose hangers came back as overlords to the black kids. If you were black you could feel the injustice, and the fear that those children being in your school would invoke.

I am also surprised that neither the media nor the community have slowed down enough to realize that the noose incident could still be dealt with in the strong way that it should have been. There are very long statutes of limitations on civil rights laws. And, it might give more perspective to the situation, if Jena students (both the Jena 6 and other students) filed class action suits against the school and against government officials for their negligence in dealing with the noose incident. It seems clear that the school did not use due diligence to create safe schools in the manner called for by Louisiana Law RS 17:13.1; The Safe Schools Act of 1994; and The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. To white progressives who say “Dropping all charges against the Jena 6 condones violence,”, I say, “Not stopping now to demand civil rights litigation against the noose-hangers and the school condones hate crimes.”

As the news has pointed out many times, LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters made the choice that the nooses being hung–which is clearly a death threat–was not a crime, but to beat someone up was not only an adult crime, but was attempted murder. Those two views are not consistent logic. I was captured by the Jena 6 Demonstrator’s analysis, as quoted in the New York Times: “Latese Brown, 40, of Alexandria, La., saw it differently. ‘If you can figure out how to make a school yard fight into an attempted murder charge,’ she said, ‘I’m sure you can figure out how to make stringing nooses into a hate crime.’” 4

Education Law as applied to the rights of all the black students in the school

Also, if you think about it, you could say this: When the nooses were hung, every single black youth in that school was victimized, threatened and demeaned. The wounds went on for 3 months of various racial tensions, including an arson no one has accounted for. Since every student is entitled to a free and appropriate education, and since every student is entitled to a safe school with no bullying, every single black student in that school should have been given whatever it took to heal them: guidance counseling, outside therapy, peer counseling, a racism workshop with white students to try to heal the bridges. But, the school did not do that. They were negligent. They were stingy. They did not meet the needs of the black students who were victimized. So, when the black students do something wrong, we must also lay partial blame on the school, for the fact that the black students were traumatized, and the school did not do enough to heal them.

I cannot imagine going to school, as a black person, the day after a noose was hung in a tree. The closest I can think of is that one time, shortly after I was engaged to my Jewish husband, there was a threat made against my husband’s synagogue. For the High Holy Days, we all had to go to synagogue with a police car parked conspicuously in front of the building. And, we were told an undercover officer was there to watch us. I know that small bit of experience with the anger and fear that threats create can not compare to how black Americans feel everyday. But, that is the closest I ever got to being the object of a racial threat, and I would not recommend that feeling to anyone.

I will also note that, at least in my situation, the fears created by the threats were addressed by the government. The black students who attended school after the nooses were hung did not get that level of government service and protection.

Sticking to our progressive principles

I have heard some white progressives claim that in order to respect “non-violence”, a person must not ask that all the charges be dropped against the Jena 6 Students. It is argued that since the 6 students hurt someone, we must join the government in demanding that they be given some criminal sentence.

As stated above, that skips the whole piece of logic, that adults could demand a consequence for the young peoples’ behavior, but, have that consequence be school-based rather than criminal justice based.

In addition, I would say that as progressives, we usually ask that the response to crime and violence be rehabilitation and restorative justice, rather than punishment. How could we forget that when speaking of 6 young men involved in a schoolyard skirmish?

In addition, should progressives ever really want children under 18 tried as adults?

Being tried as an adult means:

You can’t vote and participate in government. But, the government can put you in jail.

You can’t un-elect or affect the prosecutors and other politicians that can put you in jail.

So, even if this child, Mychal Bell, should ever have gotten any criminal-system consequence, it should not have been an adult-system consequence. And, since it was–and the appeals court says that was wrong–why shouldn’t Mychal Bell now be released and charges dropped to make up for the fact that he already served time in adult prison? How can society ever make it up to a child that the school, the prosecutor, and the community made a mistake, as recognized by an appeals court, and that mistake put a 16-year-old into an adult prison?

Also, as a member of the progressive community for many years, I think we all understand that when there is a call to support someone accused of a wrong, you should either help or get out of the way. None of us will ever be privy to all of the information. No one knows what really happened, or what the 6 young men were really thinking and feeling when the beating occurred. None of us knows what pieces of information might be being withheld by the prosecutor or the families or the school based on privacy rules or strategy.

Though, when someone sets up a call to “Free thus and such” or “Come to court support for so-and-so” we are not supposed to use the fact that attention was drawn to a defendant to take pot shots at the defendant. We can trust that if the criminal justice system wants to find this child guilty and punish him, they will do so without our help. Our job is not to decide if we think that he needs a certain level of punishment. Our job is to study the situation, see where we can help and do so, or just be quiet and stay out of the way, as another poor soul (innocent or not) struggles through our patriarchal, racist, unfair criminal justice system.

Why the heck would any progressive take the time to publicly state a position in line with the prosecutor? The prosecutor already has enough power, enough of a platform, and enough of a chance to win.

I was falsely arrested once, at a ritual for a tree. I would have been very surprised if anyone but the police and the District Attorney’s office had taken the time to publicly state why they thought I was partially wrong and deserved some kind of punishment.

In recalling what it was like to be arrested, I also come across another hypocrisy in saying that if we truly believed in non-violence, we would not want all the charges dropped. If Mychal Bell remains in prison, his hands will be cuffed, he will be detained in a small room, he will be physically poked and prodded by prison guards. Isn’t that violence? And, why would we want that for anyone, if we truly believe in non-violence at all costs? How could we, as progressives and proponents of non-violence, justify applying more restraint than necessary on a child whose crime is a school yard skirmish?

Who should decide what it is right to ask for?

To be free from racism, we must acknowledge that it is wrong for white people to pass judgement on black people.

Mychal Bell deserved a jury of his peers, a jury of black people, to determine his fate. But, it was a white jury that convicted Mychal Bell. (Which verdict has been overturned.) I just saw a media justification saying that it was an all white jury, because there are not a lot of black people in Jena, and the black people who were called as jurors did not show up. That is a ludicrous argument. Could it be there are so few black people in Jena, because the nooses and the attitude that produced them makes black people feel a little unwelcome? Could it be that potential black jurors are too economically oppressed to take time off for jury duty? Or, that potential black jurors are afraid of what happens to them if they vote against white people on a jury? Any understanding of diversity and lack of diversity would say that you recruit, seek out, and encourage until you find black people for the jury box in such a situation.

And, in the wider sense, it is the community of black adults who should decide what happens to a black child who makes a mistake. White progressives do not need to interfere with the messages that black leaders are sending out about what needs to be done, and what needs to be demanded.

The Black Community–not just Rev. Al Sharpton, but also more moderate figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Conyers, and the NAACP–have said what they think is fair. They have expressed their understanding of the system and the situation, and they want to say what to do with this young child of theirs. All that white progressives need to do is follow the direction of the black leaders. The black leaders are the ones who can best identify with the students. The black leaders are the ones that the families’ of the black students have met with in person, to share the story with.

Second-guessing the strategy of the people “in the frying pan”

Also, when a white person says that it is wrong to demand “that all charges be dropped”, that white person is judging the criminal justice system and what should be done by her own, personal integrity. She is saying, “The students deserve some small sentence, so I should go on record asking for a small sentence.”

Here is the problem with that: The criminal justice system is totally unfair. And, sentencing and the law are executed as manipulative games by prosecutors. So, if the black community takes the time for 20,000 people to go down to Louisiana, and asks for “time served or 7 months”, then that is their highest demand, and the system will probably negotiate them down from that, anyway.

Actually, prosecutor’s almost always trump up the charges against a defendant. In this case, almost everyone agrees it was a distorted lie to have ever charged Mychal Bell with attempted murder. But, the prosecutor probably did that manipulative move partly in order to frighten the defendants into agreeing to something else. If the prosecutor can set a fake and wrong mark in the sand that overreaches, then the defendant–the weak person in the system–and his supporters need to be able to make a fake mark in the sand that overreaches. And, who is a white progressive in another part of the country to question the defendants’ right to do so?

When you are watching from the sidelines, removed, and not privy to all the history, and all the confidential information, you can not demand that the people more passionately involved-in this case the families of the students and the black leaders-act in the same way you would. You are most likely missing private information, important strategy, and the expertise of the legal team. Again, since you can’t understand everything, and you are not the person facing a long prison sentence, you should either help or get out of the way.

That is why I think that white people must understand that the white system “took” a 16 year old; the Black Community wants to propose we do and say xxxx to try to get the child back from the jaws of the racist criminal justice system. So, we should support the Black Community and say xxxx – even if that means to drop the charges. We should not consider if by asking to drop the charges, we are being too harsh on the criminal justice system, or troubling our own sensibilities about what the punishment should be.

Saying that criminal charges must be upheld, in order to teach Mychal Bell that violence is not acceptable, also assumes that he did not already learn his lesson based on what he has been through.

A white prism

It is so difficult for white people to hear accusations of racism.

I suppose that because I had recently attended a “Dismantling Racism Workshop” and happen to feel in an understanding flow about race issues, when I heard about the NAACP and thousands of people going to Jena to demand justice for the Jena 6 Students, I viewed it as a beautiful sign of support for young people caught up in the criminal justice system. It was even stated that part of the gathering was a celebration, because the appeals court had overturned the lower courts decision against Mychal Bell.

But, some white people in Jena became so reactive to the thought of all those demonstrators, they seemed convinced that the demonstrators’ presence was an indictment of their town. So, that some white people from Jena interviewed by the news seemed more interested in defending themselves as “not being racists”, than in considering the situation at hand. It is sad that the white people’s fear of being called racist is so dynamic, that it precludes those white people from hearing other important messages being communicated, such as: “We are blaming the system, not the people in the town for being racist” or “We know you are not being racist on purpose, but please help us with this subtle racism which is hurting our children.”

Though, it is not only the white people in Jena who are blinded by their abject worry to not be called racists. I believe some white progressives are tied in knots, trying to figure out which position they should take, to be sure that they are being objective and not racist. But, to truly free oneself from racism, you have to admit that, as a white person, you carry the burden of racism to some extent, because here you are in this culture, benefitting from your white privilege. And, honestly, I would say, that as a white person in our culture, it would be nearly impossible to not hold some subliminal racist stereotypes in our minds. (And, I beg you, please don’t let admitting to such baggage make you feel guilty. The situation can not bear more paralyzing feelings of shame. When we understand our white privilege and racism, we are supposed to face it and work through it.)

When you are a white person, it is so hard to examine a situation and admit that racism is a factor. If you are a white person, you don’t have to deal with discrimination and prejudice everyday, as black people do. So, it is easy to look at a situation, write a script for yourself where it is fair, and assert that racism did not happen. A lot of white progressives are trying to do this with Jena. They tell themselves something like: The 6 kids actually did beat someone up. That is violence. I don’t like violence. The kids have to be punished. There is a court to take care of it. I know I would feel the same if 6 white kids beat up a black kid. The part about racism must be made up.

If you are a white person, and you want to test to see if there is any racism involved in a situation, you will have to go to extreme measures to overcome your own training, and your own desire for racism not to exist. In order to measure if there was racism, you might try various exercises to look as objectively as possible at the situation.

For example, you could apply a “white prism” to what happened in Jena. Imagine the Jena 6 Students as white, and reverse all the other roles. Then, write or recite this new, white story. And, study these new characters and how you feel about them.

Here are some ideas about how to examine the alternate universe of “The Jena 6 Story Through A White Prism”:

Change the two students hanging nooses -which white kids did as a blanket threat to all black people-to: What if two black kids wrote a letter saying that they would “bomb the school”. How does the reaction seem different in this alternate universe, where now all the kids – even the white kids- have been threatened?

What should the punishment be for two students who try to anonymously threaten a large group of other students and get caught doing so?

Change the 6 black kids beating up a white kid-where the claim is that the white kid teased about racial issues-to: What if 6 white kids beat up a black kid, so that the black student passes out, but goes to a school function that evening.

Do the 6 white kids in this alternate universe get taken to the criminal courts? (Actually, do the black victims and their families trust the government enough to bother accusing white kids in criminal court?)

Does the prosecutor in this alternate universe, charge the 6 white kids with attempted murder?

Also, why do we have the phrase “beat up” for school? Because, fights happen all the time in school, and schools deal with it. How come people are more likely to use words like attacked, assaulted, and attempted murder for black kids who hurt another student at school? But, when white students do the same thing, they are just beating people up?

Also, taking the white prism to another layer: Think about yourself, at 16-years-old. Maybe you actually did get in trouble. What if you beat someone up?. At 16 would you expect to be charged with murder?

Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Conyers, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP all agree that the charges should be dropped. But, many progressives are doubting that that is a fair answer. Try to put the situation and these people through the white prism: What if white students were facing charges, and Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Prince William, and the ACLU called for the charges to be dropped?

Summary

A great injustice happened to the black community of Jena. Nooses were hung in a tree, bringing up a painful history and frightening threats. The Jena school handled it very poorly, and more and more racial incidents happened. Young people from the black community were caught up in the conflict. The black community has gathered the information, gathered together, and determined what they think needs to be done to protect their young people. The black community has called for all the charges to be dropped against all the students.

If white people who are progressive, would like to sign onto this cause and help, that is wonderful. Those progressive white people should support what the black leaders and the families of these students have asked for. The progressive white people should do what we do for our own–provide moral support, court support and donations.

What is not needed, is for white people to start publicly expressing doubts about 6 young men already caught up in our white, racist criminal justice system. It is certain that there are already laws and people inside the system that will scrutinize the students and what they did. How would you feel if your words against the students wound up in a prosecutor’s closing arguments against a child?

Here is what white progressives need to do: Help or get out of the way.

What is needed now is a strong demand for all the charges to be dropped against all 6 young men. What the black leaders–from the students’ families, to preachers, to elected officials, to the NAACP–have determined is that the charges should be dropped entirely.

So, dear white friends, I ask you as one white person to another, please do as you should, and join the chorus asking for all the charges to be dropped, or just be quiet. I beg you, do as your mother told you and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

~Kimberly Wilder

Footnotes

(1) http://www.nasbe.org/healthyschools/states/states.asp?Name=Louisiana

(2) http://ed.gov/nclb/freedom/safety/creating.html

(3) http://www.childfindidea.org/overview.htm

(4) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/21/us/21cnd-jena.html?hp

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18 Responses

  1. I have been a cop for the past 20 years in a large mid-western city and I have seen almost everything. However I must say that I have seen very little white on black violent crime but I have seen a high number of black on white crime. I get to see and hear the stuff that they do not print in the papers. Example: 4 male blacks raping a white girl and making racial remarks when doing it. No civil rights violation for them but lets turn the table and and make the perps white. The march would be on then. Lets treat everyone equal not just special laws for special people.

  2. I’m for the school handling the fight in all cases except Bell. Bell was on probation already, this was his fifth conviction. In most school systems, he’d be removed for that reason alone. Because he play sports, he got a pass and managed to rack up five convictions in two years. The others don’t have that history. I don’t lump all six together for that reason.

  3. I second that, Tony. All the people involved in this incident should be punished accordingly. I feel badly for the families of the boys (both black and white), but punishment is deserved on both sides. The noose-hanging should never have happened. However, the other boys need to learn that this is what happens when you beat somebody up…it is assault and you go to jail. Simple. Their feelings were justified but their actions were not. They didn’t only hurt Justin Barker when they beat him up, they hurt themselves. That record will stay with them.

    *Kendrick, wow! Mychal Bell is only 16 and he’s been in that much trouble? Hopefully this will open the eyes of everyone involved.

  4. Good post.

    Besides the nooses, white students attacked and beat up Robert Bailey and got one misdemeanor. He was hit over the head with a beer bottle and has scars on his head to prove it. Isn’t a beer bottle a more deadly weapon that sneakers? A white man pulled a shotgun on three of the Jena Six who were charged with theft of a weapon because they wrestled the gun away from the thug who pulled the shotgun.

    This isn’t about hanging nooses versus the fight against Justin Barker. It’s the extremely unequal justice meted out to white and black students.

  5. Isn’t a shotgun a more deadly weapon than sneakers.

    This is the inequality of our criminal justice system.

  6. […] issues that should concern ALL with school aged children (at least). The full post can be found here. This is GOOD […]

  7. Tony Jones – you’re statement about the rape case is absolutely false. Take the current example of Big Creek, West Virginia. An automatic determination HAS NOT been made to charge the attackers with a hate crime, even though there were clear elements of bias. Cases should be looked at in their specific contexts until facts can be ascertained – and then they can be assigned to patterns, if appropriate.

    I hate to law enforcement jump the gun. Cool your heels.

  8. […] Related post: A White Person’s Meditation on the Jena 6 Students, by Kimberly Wilder […]

  9. Ms. Wilder this is really good. As a Black male, lawyer, activist, and blogger I am too often dismayed and outraged at the responses from the white progressive world to Black activism against racism. I’ve often wondered why there was so much reticence to help us when we need help, but so much pretense to our inclusion in the liberal and progressive ranks. I’d given up hope that I would ever understand, and in fact become quite bitter and cynical about it. Your meditation has allowed me to briefly have hope again. I say briefly because the very first comment brings me back to the reality that there is still a long way to go on a road that’s been far too long already. This essay is worthy of publication at the highest levels of correspondence and I hope you won’t mind me directing the few loyal readers of my humble blog to view it. It should be required reading.

  10. […] Article: A White Person’s Meditation on the Jena 6 (re: education law, etc.) Music: Jena, Take Your Nooses Down – John Mellencamp […]

  11. Racism yes in Jena, La. My white boys get everyday from the blacks in Jena, La. How dare you give these boys an excuse for what they have did. If it would have been a child of yours would you have been so forgiven. It doesn’t matter what color you are wrong is wrong. Should we say go on and do what ever you want we will be behind you to get you out of trouble. Today it is beating up someone tomorrow it could be a death and it is people like you that want black people free because of their color that is wrong. I wish you could come here to Jena, La and ride with my boys and see how the racism is you would be surprised i promise you that. It’s sad that you have to pick what store you go too because you will get jumped if you go to the wrong one and that is the truth, I challenge you to come here and find out the real truth. Send me a e-mail when your ready to find the real truth.

  12. To Susan:

    I wonder why it’s like that in Jena… I’m sure we (blacks) didn’t start the segregation thing. You have to pick what stores you go to because (and yes there is a reason) of the racist environment the community perpetuates.
    You fail to understand that there was a time that we’d get killed for going to one of your whites only establishments or even getting too close to one. Those sentiments are still in our hearts not imply that there is a reason for violence but you do have to say that there are motivations that drive people to do negative things. For instance, decades of intolerance,unfair treatment and the continuance of both.
    That is the truth and I didn’t even have to waste anyones gas money to make a trip there. Because it’s not just happening in Jena, Susan.

  13. Damien that was a long time ago when are the memories going to end as long as you have them in your heart and memory it won’t change. This is now and that was then. I guess it don’t matter what color you are you think there is racism. Get over it and live you life to the fulliest. Mychal Bell has commited some serious crimes to his own black community. You don’t see no blacks here behind him unless it is one of the Jena 6 family. The black jury people won’t even show up because they are scared of him. That’s sad. What you portray is what you are… If you portray to be a thug that is what you are. They need to be jailed for what they did and not their color. They commited a crime. I wish I had you email address so I could send you some articles of what has really happened what you hear in the news isn’t the whole story.

  14. Susan,
    I understand what you are saying, but this wasn’t only about Mychal. I wonder what would happen if you told a jew to get over the holocaust… I guess its all good since they got a whole country over it.
    You’re right, I don’t know all the facts about Jena, I don’t claim to. All I’m try’n to say is that mistakes were made on all levels… starting with the noose on the tree incident… or the non-conviction of the boys that jumped the black kid at that party. You seem like a good person, Susan. I don’t know all the facts and I’m sure it’s under a whole lot of crap and would be hard to get to.
    I was just try’n to enlighten you on the black experience in this country a little. Cuz, first you’d have to be open to it and not so dismissive when we mention the hurt in our hearts and souls. That our captors and those that profited from it still profit… that my ancestors played a big part in building this countries wealth. But, we still get treated like crap.
    Yes, Mychal Bell maybe a bad guy… but attempted murder is a little bit much. I’ve had fights with bullies when I was in high school noone was charged with Attempted murder… If the people there are that afraid of a child then that is sad.

    Thanks for responding Susan.

  15. This is largely based on false beliefs. In the Christian Science Monitor recently was a piece by a local journalist who said that many of the assumptions made were untrue…

    And it turns out that the beatdown delivered by six thugs on one kid
    had no connection to nooses. None. Did you know that?

    Did you know that Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, was already on probation for another assault? Just a bully-thug acting like a
    bully-thug.

    And the oak tree that some say was for whites only. The locals say that wasn’t true. Besides, is that a reason to hit someone from behind
    and beat him into unconsciousness? Six on one? Is that ok?

    Did you know that all the SUNY schools, and many others, have black only dorms? Do you know that every school in America has tables in the lunch room that end up being claimed by whites. And blacks. And skate-boarders? And goths?
    May the goths beat the skate-boarders into unconsciousness? Is that okay?

    You need to do some Googling and reading before just repeating the
    liberal party line.

  16. From the editor:

    Some of your premises are just comical.

    For instance, how could anyone KNOW that the nooses being hung before had nothing to do with what happened?

    What happened? Was the memory of the nooses erased from all the black students? Did someone wave a magic wand and say, “Now you won’t feel threatened and unwelcome, now you will forget that someone hung a symbol of hate in your schoolyard?”

    I imagine I did a lot more research than you did.

    And, made a lot more sense.

    And, if you read the article, you would see, that I do not in anyway condone violence. I understand that beating someone up deserves a punishment. I just think that charges of attempted murder were out of proportion.

    And, I think that the school itself could have handled the punishment.

  17. Oh, and did not know about it. Thanks for the information …

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