The Jena 6 and the “old” South; or, plus ca change…you know the rest….

“You can’t understand it. You would have to be born there.” – Quentin Compson, Absalom, Absalom, referring to the South

Too often those of us born in the South fall back upon the ambiguity of Faulknerian explanations when we try to help friends understand why our region of the country is so obsessed with certain issues – NASCAR racing, pork barbecue, evangelical Christianity, voting Republican….

And race relations.

From the days when any visitor to the antebellum South was quizzed about family relations (as in “Are you related to the Simpsons from over at Bethany?” – a way of determining if someone had a legitimate claim to be in a slave holding state or was an interloping abolitionist), Southerners have somehow perversely prided themselves – mulishly so, it seems – on the “complexity” of black/white relations in the region where I have lived nearly my entire life.

To anyone not from the South, however, it hasn’t seemed complicated at all. For outsiders, it appears that Southern whites have systematically held blacks in some sort of bondage throughout their entire shared history. Whether it was the literal bondage of slavery, the “legally sanctioned separation” bondage of the Jim Crow era, or the less systematic but still devastating bondage of “benign racism/segregation” through the use of private schools, private clubs, gated communities, and other means – treatment Thurgood Marshall famously termed “separate but unequal” – this inequity has persisted in how the South treats her white and black citizens….

There’s a sort of famous saying concerning race relations in the North vs. race relations in the South that seems apropos to what I’m going to explore here, so let me share it:

“In the North, no one cares how uppity blacks get as long as they don’t get too close; in the South, no one cares how close blacks get as long as they don’t get too uppity.”

It’s that “getting uppity” thing that seems to have sparked new trouble in Louisiana….

In Jena, LA, (a town of about 2,900 of whom about 350 are black) last August, a black student at Jena High School asked permission to sit under a shade tree traditionally used only by white students. (No, I’m not kidding about that last part.) The school gave him permission (not sure how they could have legally refused), so the young man availed himself of a shady spot reserved for – white people. The next day, three nooses hung from the tree – a clear warning to the black student using one of the most evil of symbols of racial repression – the lynching noose. The nooses, by the way, were painted in the school colors – hardly indicative of a teenaged spur of the moment “prank.”

One parent of a black student described it this way:

“It meant a lynching. Everyone knew what it meant.” – Caseptla Bailey

The school principal recommended expulsion for the three students who committed this “prank” (as it was termed by school board members); instead, they got brief suspensions.

Another black parent, angered by the school board’s action, offered this reading:

“That just set all the black kids off. Wasn’t that a hate crime? If anyone was going to be charged, shouldn’t they have been?” – John Jenkins

Tensions between the black and white communities in Jena escalated as black leaders called for sterner action for what they perceived as a hate crime. At the school a series of fights occurred between black and white students. The local district attorney appeared at the school and warned students that for anyone who caused trouble, he could “end his life with the stroke of a pen.”

On December 4th another fight broke out at the school. Six students, all black, were charged with maximum felony assault charges carrying potential sentences of 80 years (the charges have since been reduced, and now only carry potential sentences of 15 years). An all white jury has been empaneled.

“You didn’t see the district attorney rush out to school to do anything about those nooses in the tree,” said Caseptla Bailey, whose son, Robert Bailey Jr., also was charged in the beating. “You don’t see white kids who beat up black kids charged with attempted murder. There’s nothing fair going on here.”

And there’s this:

The two facing trial this week are Theodore Shaw and Mychale Bell. Both have been jailed since their arrests, unable to make $90 000 bond.

Update: The first of the young men tried, Mychale Bell, has been convicted of second degree aggravated assault. He faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. The all white jury took less than three hours to reach their verdict.

“This [Jena] is a good town to live in for things like no crime, it being peaceful. But it’s very racist and they don’t even try to hide it. It’s like, stay in your place or else.” – Caseptla Bailey.

Now I remind you that this was August 2006 – not August 1955.

emmitttill.jpgI mention August 1955 because this incident in Jena is reminiscent of one in Money, Mississippi, in that year. A 14 year old from Chicago, Emmett Till, was visiting relatives in the South. While visiting a local grocery store one afternoon, young Till may or may not have whistled at one of the store owners, a white woman. That night, the woman’s husband and his half-brother kidnapped young Till from his great uncle’s home, beat him savagely, then took him to the banks of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, and bound him by the neck to a large metal fan used in cotton ginning with barbed wire and dumped his body into the river.

Even though they provided full, detailed confessions of their deed and were identified by Till’s great uncle in open court as the men who kidnapped his grand nephew, the two murderers were acquitted by an all male, all white jury in 67 minutes. Jurors bragged that the only reason they took so long is that they stopped to enjoy cold soda pop before returning to the court room and rendering their “verdict.” Despite attempts by the FBI to bring the two to justice, neither man was ever brought to trial on Federal charges.

scottsboroboys.jpgBut maybe the proper comparison doesn’t go back to 1955 – maybe it goes back further – to 1931. In March of that year a group of white young men got into a fight with a group of black young men (aged 13-19) who were hoboing their way across Alabama on a freight train. A posse stopped the train and nine young black men were charged with assault. Rape charges were added when two young prostitutes who were also riding the rails falsely accused the young blacks of assaulting them. The nine young men became nationally known as “the Scottsboro Boys” because their trial took place in Scottsboro, AL. After hasty trials at which the young men were denied legal counsel, eight of the nine are sentenced to death. Despite the efforts of the NAACP and various legal defense groups, each of the youths served at least 6 years in prison….

In the case of Jena High School, perhaps the young men are guilty of pre-meditated assault and deserve punishment. But the white kids were guilty of a pre-meditated act of intimidation and harassment – one that probably is prosecutable under federal civil rights laws that cover acts such as burning crosses on lawns, for instance. The black people of Jena needn’t expect any help from the Bush Justice Department, though. The Alberto Gonzales led department has prosecuted only one significant civil rights case – against a black county commissioner in Mississippi charged by white opponents with harassment, as this from the New York Times reports:

The civil rights division also brought the first case ever on behalf of white voters, alleging in 2005 that a black political leader in Noxubee County, Miss., was intimidating whites at the polls.

So appealing for help to Washington doesn’t seem likely to bring redress of grievances for the Jena black community. And here in the South, 75 years later, to the outside world, nothing much seems to have changed.

And that brings us back to Faulkner. When Quentin Compson, the Southern apologist who wants the South to be a place of honor and dignity, is asked by his Northern friend why he hates the South, he responds exasperatedly:

“I don’t hate it,” Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; “I don’t hate it,” he said. I don’t hate it he thought… I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!

Sometimes we get good news about the South, such as this story about a Georgia high school integrating its prom – finally. Sometimes we get bad news such as this story about Jena Louisiana and its racial tensions.

This is the South. You wouldn’t understand it. You would have to be born here.

Or maybe you understand it perfectly well – and it’s us who just don’t get it. And you pity us.

When one of our current crop of distinguished Southern senators can say something as stupidly telling as this about us:

We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners…. It’s nothing personal, but it takes a while to get over things. – Lindsey Graham

You’re right to pity us. Such mindsets make our Jenas possible.

But if Walker Percy could say something this poetic about us:

We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away.

Maybe your pity can turn to love – and forgiveness – and help with our own understanding.

And the South needs all of those that it can get….

75 replies »

  1. Goddammit, some of the most treacherous vermin alive are Southerners, but treachery of that magnitude breeds heroes who are as noble as the villains are vile. So let’s acknowledge those people and POINT THEM TOWARD JENA. It’s unfathomable that all these years after Montgomery, after Selma, after the Woolworth’s sit-ins we should have to talk about maybe having a civil rights march in the South, but if that’s what it takes…

    Is it going to take Federal action to step in and insist that justice be done here? Do we NEED to send in a bunch of Yankee lawyers, or can my fellow Southerners be trusted to find justice in their hearts?

    Jim, thanks for a fabulous civics lesson. Let’s all promise to keep paying attention to Jena.

  2. I always thought the Southern states were Democrats first and only came to Republicanism late in life? Shocking story all told.

    Although, I won’t tell you about South Africa, filled with racial polarisation of the most epic variety. There are whites who still behave that way here now (occasionally a farmer will hog-tie some farm-worker and drag him behind his SUV for a few miles along dirt roads, “to teach him”). And there are blacks who think all whites are like that and get their punches in “in advance”. A lot of the pressure came out after ’94 but this is still a racially-charged and awkward place.

  3. Jim, great article. Will we ever change? It’s not just the south though, look at todays SCOTUS ruling on desegragation. If you find out about any legal defense funds or marches for this, let us know please.

    The entire Jena story is absolutely sickening.

  4. Gavin,

    The South was traditionally Dem up until the GOP’s “Southern strategy” began taking hold in the ’70s. But the 1960s Southern Democrat wasn’t an enlightened liberal animal – all those racist crackers from the ’50s and ’60s that you’ve seen in history books were Democrats.

  5. Gavin –

    Further gloss on Sam’s note: Nixon, that sleazy bastard from hell where I hope he burns in a particularly hot place (I assume you’ve figured out I’m not overly fond of our 37th President) used the “Southern strategy” beginning in ’68 but especially in ’72 to appease white Southern racists by tacitly communicating to them that the civil rights legislation push would stop if he were elected. Every Republican since has appealed to the evil angels in Southerners whether over race or religion (the South is America’s hot bed of evangelical Christian dominionism movement)….

    Sam, I don’t know if the current generation of black Southerners, even with their white counterparts in support (and I feel strongly they’d have that support from an overwhelming majority) could step up in the way those early civil rights heroes did. It’s that leadership problem the Millenials have – and the problem with Boomer leaders like Sharpton and Jackson is that they seem caricatures to young blacks who look at Diddy and Jay-Z as their “leaders” – or at least as their role models….

  6. And as we have talked about in the past, America has been steadily anesthetized ever since the ’60s by prosperity and consumerism (trying my damnedest to avoid using the words “bread” and “circuses” in close proximity here). As I once said about my generation, we’ve never had anything big to force us to step up and take a stand – the Boomers had Vietnam, but our wars have become video games (Gulf 1) and All-Volunteer Poor People Force adventures (current mess). On the same day that the WTC towers came down you could have walked into a store in any city in America and bought a new video game system to play FPS games on. We were terrified, but not in a way that compelled action.

    And Civil Rights? If MLK were alive today his only recourse would be to become a rapper (and I imagine he’d have been a damned good one). But the call to action of rap these days isn’t get your march on, it’s go buy my CD.

    What was that thing Yeats once said?

  7. Lincoln was wrong. The south should have been allowed to separate itself from us, so their shame could be theirs alone, and they could reap the well deserved misfortune they were clearly asking for. Instead, we had the “civil” war, the “confederacy” lost, was absorbed into the USA, and now we have to suffer their foolishness and misfortune, and sit by while their ignorant, moronic, racist, evil ways continue to poison the rest of the country. Nice going, Abe. Down with the south!! They are not true americans. Never were. They were, and still are, “Confederates”. Let’s be rid of them before they
    finally ruin our great nation once and for all with their superstitious lunacy and their subhuman predilection for racism.

  8. I grew up in Washington, DC, with a majority black population and a city that many have held (correctly, I think) to be one of the more racist of ‘southern’ cities. Now I live in South Carolina on an island I consider paradise. There are so many things still wrong, but I haven’t given up hope (most days, at least). Graham is a clueless fucktard, excuse my French, and his colleague DeMint is an absolute moron who doesn’t even rise to the level of an empty suit. I live to engage their staff members with questions and complaints.

    All we can do is keep fighting. As long as it takes…

  9. I remember going from the north coast to New Orleans when I was 17 to go to school. New Orleans felt more alien to me than Canada, not least of all the violence and the violence of the racism. I don’t understand the virulence of the racism in the South. Is it that white Southerners blame their defeat in the Civil War on their black neighbors? The North can be hella racist too, but, like the saying, it’s usually about not letting “them” get too close. Given the amount of interracial dating I see these days, the kids are taking care of the problem. So what the hell is up with the South?

  10. First, ending segregation wasn’t such a wonderful thing. If it were, would this be happening? I actually live in the South, and accordingly have the right to say. School was hell for many black kids in my town because of desegregation. Rather than attend the Asberry School, where the members of their community taught each other (quite well in fact), they were forced into the one-size fits all, Northerners know everything and that’s why New York is so perfect model of education. The old white women who taught them instead were often quick to judge and quicker to punish, egging them on in their own ways.

    And for the self-righteous buggers who think they actually helped things during the 1960’s, I recommend you pick up a copy of Local People (hands down the best book on the subject). You can’t figure out what is really happening in your own world, how are you going to fix someone else’s? Besides, these days the racists are a very tiny minority represented equally in all races, black, white, hispanic, asian, etc.

    The difference, unlike the highly segregated neighborhoods of the north, everybody in the south deals with everyone else on a daily basis. When human conflict arises, there is a tendency for many folks to hit below the belt. It sucks to hear about people treating each other so poorly, intimidating each other and things like that but it is a fact of life which no amount of self-righteous, we know better than everyone, indignation will change.

    Face it yuppies, members of the worthless generation, you were clueless then, you are clueless now, you have been clueless your whole life! The “social upheavel” of the 60’s was a sanctioned revolution, social catharsis, you walked right in to it Congratulations suckers!

    Clean your own house first.

  11. I am half-Southern (Dad: FL panhandle; Mom: Pittsburgh) and have lived Down South and Up Nawth, mostly the latter.

    My Dixie roots go back to folks with credible claims to near kinship to George Washington (the Popes) and Mom was a descendant of Thomas Rogers, who died in Mass. the first winter after stepping off the Mayflower.

    I have not one good thing to say about slavery, Jim Crow, or the “Christian” School/gated community deal dealt blacks in the South.

    Regarding the era of the “Civil War,” however, while Confederate descendants are fudging when they pretend that the Southern cause was not, in part, to perpetuate slavery, Northerners are lying outright in depicting the war as a humanitarian effort, whereby Northern whites (and a few blacks) sacrified themselves to free the slaves, with the aspiration of blacks living alongside them shoulder-to-shoulder and, eventually at least, as political and social equals.


    Except, perhaps, in Mass., slavery was abolished in the North not on moral grounds, but on economic ones (short growing season, hadda feed ’em year-round). Abolitionism amongst northern whites in the 1850s was distinctly a minority position, viewed by many as eccentric, and opposition to permitting slavery in the Territories was more about excluding blacks from the Territories altogether, as excepting a small “fire-eater” minority amongst the Southern slaveholders, who imagined that slavery could long continue, most people knew in a generation or so, or when cotton prices fell, it would be phased out in the South, as it had in the North.

    White people in mid-19th century America, North and South, did not imagine (except, perhaps, in a very, very far-off future) anything resembling equality for black people. De Toqueville’s observation was that while Southern whites certainly were paternalistic and believed themselves superior to blacks, actual animosity, raw hatred among white people directed at blacks was stronger where slavery had been abolished.

    Education and prosperity among blacks outside the South in the 1850s were uncommon (most were farmworkers, laborers, or domestics). I believe in the election of 1860, of the 23 States that shortly were to be at war with the Confederacy, five (5) actually permitted blacks to vote (ME, VT, NH, RI and MA). Many eminent Americans, Abe Lincoln among them, wanted to ship the blacks en masse out of the country altogether. (Today, we’d call that ethnic cleansing, and how many would have died in carrying out such a program in 19th century conditions?).

    The reason why there is more overt black-white friction in the South than in the North is less that Northern whites are enlightened than that most U.S. blacks live in the South; there are only a half-dozen states outside Dixie in which the black population tops the overall national average of about 12.1%, and in THOSE states, generally speaking, there is a high degree of social stratification on racial lines, and segregation in housing. Yes, many northern whites are tolerant of very small numbers of “people of color” attending school with Justin and Tyler, but astronomic housing costs in many non-Southern states are, in large part, a function of the extent to which Northern whites will go to avoid their kids attending schools less than 80% white and non-Latino. They may not say, “nigger,” but it’s black and Latino people that whites in New Jersey and Massachusetts will pay $500,000 for crappy houses to get away from.

    And there are many Northern and Western states that are home to so few blacks that one cannot conceive of their not being affirmatively unwelcome there. There are something like 74 black people, I think, in the entire State of Vermont, and 59 of them are student-athletes at the state university. Other examples could be cited.

    Lincoln was an opportunistic scumbag and corporate tool. I have heard not a few Northern liberals, eager to show how much they detest racism among Southern whites, laud William T. Sherman — but however much you may adore him for his depradations against white people in the South, Sherman loudly proclaimed that he did not give a shit about “niggers,” and spent much of his later years slaughtering Native Americans, for the benefit of the railroads. There’s a progressive for you! Had the South been permitted to go its own way — which was its Constitutional right in this lawyer’s view — slavery would have persisted for a time, and then been abolished, as elsewhere. 600,000 people would not have died, and we might not have had the consolidated empire that, in the prescient words of Robert E. Lee (letter to Lord Acton, 1866) was certain to become, and has become, “aggressive abroad and despotic at home.”

    If America’s race problem can be, one day, more or less satisfactorily solved, it will involve lots of contacts amongst white, black, brown, East Asian, South Asian — everyone. Even in the South as it is — and I do not approve of how it is — white people (in many areas) do have frequent interactions with blacks. In much of America outside the South, they do not. Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Chicago are more segregated than Atlanta, Charlotte, and Memphis. The South remains unlike the rest of the country in some ways, but I’ve traveled most of the country excepting the Pacific Northwest, and have yet to see anyplace that looked like an inter-racial Zone of Enlightenment to me.

  12. I have lived in the Pacfic Northwest and, although it was a number of years ago–there was a acceptance of blacks. Asians on the other hand, were in a position similar to blacks in the south. I am now living in the near south (MO) and find that despite interracial dating there remains a huge gap between the races.

    Blacks get traffic stops out of proportion to their numbers. The Crime ? Driving while black.
    I have decided that I need to remove myself from this environment. Some might stay and fight ,but I’m too old to tilt at those windmills. anymore.

  13. no mention of the victim… 15000 in medical bills, just curious what do you think a just punishment is? six on one is hardly a fair fight. i live in south and believe me blacks are just as racist to whites as the other way around.. it both sides

  14. Just out of curiosity, if somebody does something that’s easily construed as a death threat against you, how fair do YOU fight?

    Stupid and hateful comes in all colors, but let’s not lose sight of the context here, okay?

  15. i live about 2hrs out of jena– you’re taking soundbites from the news and making your own.your know nothing about jena, or the south except what you read. i lived in seattle, louisiana, atlanta, phoenix and i would pick louisiana over all. “Goddammit, some of the most treacherous vermin alive are Southerners,” you should check that bro b/c your wrong there…sounds like you are sterotyping, but what do i know, im from the south… that kid never did anything against those six to signify a threat, get your facts– not sound bites. down south you don’t pop your mouth off unless you know for sure what you are talking about

    all great civil rights leaders came from the south.why? b/c that is where they are needed the most.. yeah that’s the short sighted answer.. all the great ones come from the south b/c that is where the heart is.. you guys talk it, but down south we walk it.. everyday of the week

  16. you still never answered my question.. what is the just punishment for the six?? nothing, probation, 6months.. what

    personally i think they are too young to do jail time, because you are just going to turn them into actual criminals, none of the six have prior records, they are still in jail awaiting trial except one

    an all white juor took 3hrs to find the first guilty, that bs, should have gotten the trial moved

    if you are going to argue a point use facts, not soundbites

  17. yeah im w/ aka on this one i read what a bunch of people has just tooking bits and pieces of and made them sound the way they wanted. the 1 that got beaten wouldnt even involved in the noose and the ones that were should be punished. but blacks is just as racial as whites in the south i know because where i went to school was a little more than half black.
    all in all the 6 is not on trial for beating up one of the kids that hung a noose up theyre on trial for assaulting a student that had nothing to w/ what flared the tensions.

  18. Dr.Felch your a real dumbass, the north really needs more people like you up there. this whole thing is about racism and you are just pretty much being racist yourself.
    Also back in those times slavery was everywhere in the world not just the good ol south. and it wasnt just blacks there were indians, chinese, japanese, i mean there were also sorts of slavery. It was just part of time. nothing you can do to change the past but get on with the future. no one deserves extra money because they were slaves or anything like that. Most consider a blessing for them to get brought over to the americas otherwise they can always go back the the AIDS infested motherland no tey dont want that instead they want money which is what its all about anyways now a days

  19. Yeah, aka, all I know about the South is what I hear in soundbites. That and the 30+ years I lived there. I’m a native Southerner – working class South, in fact, who grew up Southern Baptist and went to public schools in an area where the standard street term for a black person was “nigger” – the only time you didn’t use that word was when one of them was around.

    Are there facts of the case that I’m unacquainted with? Very likely, since I wasn’t there. Then again, you live two hours away, so you weren’t there, either. And the facts that don’t seem to be in question are as follows:

    1) There’s a “whites-only” tree.
    2) When a black kid sat under it, somebody played the KKK card.
    3) Nothing happened.

    It’s the 21st Century. If you can’t lead by condemning these facts then you’re going to have a hard time mounting any credibility in an enlightened debate. I don’t profess to know everything about the Jena case that I’d need to know and neither does Dr. Booth. But unless ALL the reports are lying we have enough to conclude that 2007 looks a lot more like 1950 than any community should tolerate.

  20. your “facts of the case” are not facts of the jena case. those are excuses. the “facts” that you say had nothing do with 6 people jumping on 1. your are talking about somethings that happen prior the the beating. unless you are saying– that because 1,2 and 3 happen then those 6 children were justified in jumping 1 person who was walking the other way. he was hit in the back of the head. that means he wasn’t looking. do you know if that one kid was the one that put the noose on the tree. or it doesn’t matter?? sounds to me like your saying since the six children are young and black they dont know any better, so let the off– thats racist, you’re saying black teenagers arent smart enough to act in accordance. if they really want to do something, they should have cut the tree down. now thats civil disorder (that would be kick ass)

    to this date — no one has answered my question. what is a proper punishment for the six. i am the only one here that even used logical to express why they should even get a damn retrial. there is no possible way they could get a fair trial in jena. the attempted murder charge was bullshit to begin with.

    let me know when the enlightened debate begins.. you people talk about ab lincoln, the civil war, and nixon.. like that had anything to do with this… no one down here cares about the civil war, nixon, or lincoln. you cant blame lincoln for this…

    “grew up Southern Baptist and went to public schools in an area where the standard street term for a black person was

  21. no such thing as a white only tree. its like anywhere else kids go some hang out here some over there regardless of race or creed…

  22. oh yeah and far as the word or term “nigger” goes have you not listened to your rap music lately. every other breath is N this and N that!!!!!
    theres white “niggers” also. that term has nothing to do with race now days . “nigger” is any lazy, not gonna work, lay up, have kids just so the welfare checks and government housing will be better. Its not just blacks there whites, asians, europeans, we all have some form of “nigger” around.

  23. What about the teachers that say it was because of the upcoming football game with the mustangs. maybe that was why the nooses was painted school colors maybe no one really thought anything racial of it just maybe the teachers that say thats what it was for should be the ones punished instead of any students since they knew all this apparrently they knew it was going to be done.
    All in all the students fighting still need some sort of punishment. If my kids was to do something like that hopefully the cops picked them up before i got to them because they would definitely learn a lesson as i would take them to the jail for real and let them see how harsh life can be when you do not think about the actions your gonna do !!

  24. I just found out about this today listening to Democracy Now! and wrote about it on my blog. I sure would like to know why the national press is nowhere to be found on this story.

  25. I also just found out about it today listening to Democracy Now! I have sent an email to CNN but I have a feeling that no one wants to know or do anything about it. We just put to rest the “N” word and I honestly feel that all of those people would have spent their time better going to Jena and speaking there.

    I am a military wife, a mother, a verteran, and a black woman but all of this makes me want to move to another country. My husband has been to Iraq twice and all the while a school offical can tell a group of black kids that he could ruin their lives with his pen. I think that is a form of terroism.

  26. still– no one has answered my question– what is the proper punishment for the fight? six people jumped on one– get all the facts, not just soundbites from radio,tv,etc…

    if six white students jumped on one black student, what would be their proper punishment and vice versa…

  27. AKA,

    The student who was beaten testified that he did not know for sure if Bell kicked him or not. If it were six white students and the black student said that the whit student would have had the charges against him dropped.

    You ask what the proper punishment for this crime should be and I feel that they have paid for their crime. In my opinion the city and the state and our country have showed these kids where their place in our world is and now they know their place. They will never get angry enough to do anything about racism ever again.

    When you have a 90,000 dollar bail you are guilty before proven innocent.

    AKA, this is just my opinion. Thank you for your time.

  28. “When you have a 90,000 dollar bail you are guilty before proven innocent.”
    that is almost exactly what i said in an earlier post,

    i am all open for a debate on this one– beating someone is not an answer to racism– that they got angry is not a problem, they got violent, the six young people didnt even know if the student they were beating was the one that put the noose on the tree.

    you should check my earlier post– i am the only one that used logic and reason to explain why they should NOT be in jail, and why they could NOT get a fair trail in jena. all white jury took about 3 hrs to convict.

    you make the assumption that i believe the six students somehow got what they deserve — YOU ASSUME WRONG — what i said was use facts and reason to justify your postion

    don’t just say the south is racist and im gonna move out of the country. in alot of the other parts of the world those six students would be put to death. in china they killed the head of the food and drug admin because he took bribes.

    if we want to debate use the facts– emotion has no place in this

  29. aka is right yall… look at what he/she is saying! He’s simply stating that you need to use logic in order to invoke any sort of offensive because simply stating that was b/s and shit is not gonna work! I am pissed at the situation (that many years for fighting?) but they SHOULD get punished just like the students who put up the nooses and the other people who fought should also get punished (obviously not this severely but punishment needs to happen). something is wrong in Jena people, of that we should all be able to agree and in regards to an earlier post that said whites and blacks were equally racist in that area: does that make it any less wrong? The fact of the matter is that the student’s constitutional right of a fair trial have been encroached upon and there has to be a change. Like aka said: they didnt even know if that kid put up the nooses! remember what happened after rodney king? after oj simpson? after roots? you smile but its the same situation: these people were pissed and instead of handling the situation in a socially acceptable way they jumped the nearest white kid they could find (sometimes violence is necessary to evoke change but directing it in such a way that makes it so that you–the victim–remain the victim and not the aggressor is the way to do it and these kids didnt do that)

    Now I dont believe these students should be expelled considering the way the administration behaved when someone hung the nooses from the tree but community service and a fine (which is not uncommon in any schoolyard fight mind you) seems to me an adequate punishment (considering the way the entire situation was mishandled at the beginning)… now the kid that was in the hospital can, should, and probably will sue the students that jumped him and that is ok because he didnt deserve what happened to him…. and southernbyheritage the term “nigger” still has racial connotations and you are simply reinforcing your ignorance by saying that it doesnt… you have to understand that although it IS in rap music and whatnot that doesnt make it any less derogatory (the words “bitch” and “fuck” no matter how prevalent in any type of music are still considered curse words and bleeped out of local radio)… the history of the word still remains regardless of how some people wish to change that fact… and to your comment about there “not being a white tree” you must know that that as well is surely a lie. You said: “…its like anywhere else kids go some hang out here some over there regardless of race or creed

  30. Racism in Jena Louisiana
    Listen to my interview with Alan Bean, an activist who was in the courtroom during the trial
    On June 28 2007 a young black defendant Mychal Bell was found guilty of aggravated assault against a young white man by an all white jury despite conflicting testimony from witnesses. Alan Bean talks about the things below:

    The weekend before the assault took place nooses were hung on a tree.

    The Prosecutor threatened black students about protesting the nooses

    A black man was assaulted, no charges were brought up.

    During the trial the public defender put up no defense after the prosecution rested it’s case.

    Listen to the interview and read about the case hear: http://www.letstalkhonestly.com/raceinamerica.html

  31. Everyone who can needs to be in Jena next Tuesday July 31..for the sentencing.. We need to show our support for the “Jena 6” we have a large group leaving from Natchez and driving the 50 miles together.. we had a successful fundraiser last night at Bobby J’s Lounge in Natchez with some of the parents of the students accused attending … they spoke of the incident and we watched a documentary made by the BBC.. It was very informative and angered a lot of us who did not know this was happening in our backyard.. if you are interested in making the trip from Natchez to Jena please call me at 601-392-9046 and we will have a meeting place that morning before we leave in unison to Jena.. I hope you will come! Thank You

  32. George Cook
    You said you did an interview with Alan Bean? You ne3ed to go interview someone else becuse he had all the facts wrong. The nooses were hung in September. The fire set in November. The beating in Dec. And by the way white and black kids sit under the tree they just did not want to around the Jena 6 because of the way they acted. And for those of you who did not know. The Jena 6 had been tormenting their own community.

  33. Now aka is wrong yall. Please dont make allegations without also providing proof to substantiate them. Where have you read that whites and blacks sat under the tree? Because all reports that I’ve read have pretty much said the opposite… “And for those of you who did not know. The Jena 6 had been tormenting their own community.” really? elaborate please…..

  34. let me clear this up.. someone is using my tag name the aka that posted on july 25 is not me.. someone is using my tag, whoever is doing this needs to knock it off

    i have posted on
    July 19, 2007
    July 11, 2007
    July 2, 2007


    i would not tell someone their facts are wrong without data to back it up, that is not my style

  35. its a shame 2007 and long after slavery who ever told white people to go to africa to get blacks to enslave them do you realise that white people determined how blacks should be viewed. by taking normal upright persons from there homes and bringing them to the states and elswhere and making them slaves thus creating a sub human person because of what they were forced to do. white racists and those who hold such views need to get over themselves we are Gods creation created equal they cannot dtermine who is accepted or not because of skin clor i a a proud black woman born and raised in England currently residing in the caribbean where some white here hold such views how silly immature and everything else. get over it . we are all the same dust and ashes.

  36. I was born in the north but married into the south. Growing up in the north, I thought racism was a thing of the past. Moving to the south I found it was alive and well and I was appalled with the south and southerners. Until I realized that everyone everywhere is racist to some extent, the only difference growing up in a small town in Indiana is there was noone to be racist against. Except there was – the migrant Mexicans and while living in California it was the Asian population. Even now, it’s nationally acceptable to behave in racist ways with Mexicans – look at the immigration legislation and the “english-only” laws, etc. And that doesn’t even begin to touch discrimination of women (still paid .75 to every 1 a man gets), homosexuals, caucasian immigrants, people of Middle Eastern descent, the list goes on and on.
    I’m shocked and appalled by the case in Jena – that the nooses were termed a “prank” and that the Jena 6 face so many years in prison (yes they should be punished – EVERYONE should face justice), but it’s all too easy for those of us in the north to point fingers at the south and call them racist when we have the same issues. We just hide it better. The quote about people in the north not caring what blacks (or anyone else not “like us”) do as long as they don’t get too close is right on. Until ALL of us confront our own personal racism and discrimination issues and demand equal justice for ALL, cases like Jena will continue to happen.

  37. Chris: I was raised in the South and was led to believe by the press that racism was a unique Southern phenomenon. I remember Boston blowing up over busing in the 70s, though, and thinking “hey, wait a goddamned minute…” Then I started meeting some Northerners, and while it was of a different variety than the matter-of-fact racism I knew, there was something there. Then I moved out of the South, and damned if I didn’t encounter racism that was as bad as what I knew from back home.

    So it’s a complex and universal issue. And it’s not nearly as dead as it ought to be.

  38. yeah i figured that aka (the real one)… cuz i was readin ur others and it didn’t even sound like you…

    oh yeah btw people… anyone who says that racism is limited to the south is an ignorant fool who should be educated in the facts of life. Supremacy is, sadly, all too human and until it is no longer such a serious issue about the skin color of people it will remain in our society. I just don’t understand why it has to be this way you know… Im black (notice i didn’t say “african-american” since like we’ve all learned in history humanity began in africa so basically we’re all african-somethings right? :-)–this isn’t the forum for THAT discussion though) and I just hate how everthing is decided by race! Schools need a “black” quota or an “asian” quota in order to keep their “diverse” status… why the hell won’t they just accept people as-is you know? race notwithstanding? its the same for jobs! the only thing that should require any gender/race (and I say “race” lightly since I dont believe Humans should compartmentalize themselves into sub-classes and deem it a good fit: there is the Human Race and then their is you’r “race”… thats just stupid really. why seperate? cultural identity? please…. just look at the world diversity IS the world and you dont have to rename yourself to keep your identity its the inside that matters right?) verification is jobs where it is a necessity (all i can think of is the military though… but as long as the standard doesn’t have to be lowered in order to “diversify” the workforce i dont see a problem at all…).

    I just really hate all the seperation you know…. i really do… cuz if we were all able to look past the differences things like this wouldn’t happen (the power behind the acts would be gone… and the want to do them would decrease).. there would still be racial prejudice (for a while) but eventually we Humans would find something else to bitch about to each other and it would be hispanics, blacks, whites, and asians, against hispanics, blacks, whites, and asians on issues that are actually worth a grain of salt!

  39. Nate: I think you’ll find that people here share that dream. But yeah, we’re always going to be finding reasons to hate each other, and race is always going to be high on that list – maybe for the simple reason that how we LOOK is the most obvious marker of difference.

    The only thing that overcomes hate is education. And our distaste for learning is well established….

  40. 2007. School property is paid for with tax dollars. If the students parents pay taxes they have a right to sit under any tree they choose to sit under. The adults in that town are screwed up for allowing teenagers to continue the practice of a “White’s Only” tree. Back a few centuries ago slaves were considered spoils of war, the losers either died or became slaves.

    You would think by now people would stop using people (yah, slave trade still exists, people get smuggled into this country, with promises of a better life, only to be locked away in factories or forced into prostitution). And they call us “civilized”? Makes me ill.

    September 20th I believe is the day for civil rights activists of all colors to show up in Jena. In the meantime bombard the city officials, governor and especially the attorney general. Let them know that this time of bigotry is no longer tolerated in the US of A. Thank you.

  41. Chris: Growing up in an English speaking country immigrants that want to live here should learn to speak English. That is not racist. How about if you went to Mexico and demanded they make English the National Language. The La Razas wanted Spanish declared the National Language of the USA because we had no declared National Language. The USA is made up of many ethnicities, not just “the race” of La Razas who like to tear down US flags in US cities and replace them with Mexican ones. Not all, but many, Mexicans are the racists that hate everything “Americano” while they enjoy the fruits of the labor of millions of immigrants from just about every country in the world. Many in my city opening express their hatred of African-Americans as well.

  42. Southernbyheritage, you are nothing but a racist, arrogant little punk who is too stupid to realize you’re proving the stereotypes about southerners being bigots still living in the 19th century. Now go back to your trailer park since you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  43. I think the whole situation is over rated. It wasn’t until the white student got hurt when the law got involved. I think the nooses hanging from the tree was well enough for the law to be involved. Why punish these 6 kids for a fight that will take away there whole life. When it comes to race as long as the individual is black no one talks about the age and how there academics are in school how kids make mistakes give them a second chance. But if they had been white everyone would talk about how they wouldn’t hold up in jail how they were good students and everything you could think of to pull them out of this situation. I don’t feel those students should be punished to that extreme whether they are black or white.

  44. I just heard about the Jean6 situation yesterday, and was disheartened that yes this is 2007 and we still face racism to this disgree. I immediately felt sorrow for the teens facing such HARSH penalty. However, I did reserve casting jugdement on the entire situation b/c I wanted to know was the fight the six against one, and was the one part of the “adolescent prank” initiatiors. As a proud black women that work with youth this is more than a wake up call that acting out of emotion is not the response, but neither is taking no action! I grew up in Chicago and now live in St. Louis and I must admit racism is not a southern thing it is universal and on all sides of the fence! I have also been in and seen A LOT OF SCHOOL YARD FIGHTS (WITH WEAPONS) and none of which were given punishment to this extreme. SO AFTER ALL THE DEBATES AND BLOGS WHAT DO WE DO! I took the couple steps I found out to do which were to make calls and inform others. Being a victim of racial injustice has not made me bitter to hatred it has made me angry to action! We must teach our youth (not just our natural children, but all we are blessed to inspire, invoke, instruct) how not to act on emotion BUT INTELLECT!

    Funny how we practically guaranty a fair trial for child molestor (Michael Devlin), by taking his trial else where, but throw the book at and give up on our teens (jena 6)

    the punishment should be suspension and community service. and I would say that would do, but I’d like to see the medical report of the individual “hospitalized”

    by the way thank you Jim Booth for http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/070307B.shtml


  45. It is September, and I am reading posts about the “excessive punishment” of the “Jena 6” written months ago. Actually, there has been no punishment meted out yet.

    Furthermore, describing six kids beating the hell out of one kid as a “fight” is quintessentially disingenuous.

    Perhaps all of you out there who seem to be perpetually overwhelmed by righteous indignation should wait until there is an actual sentence in the case before decrying its severity.

  46. Study the facts of the case, TWeeks. Look at the context in which all this occurred. Look at the biases shown by the school superintendent and the D.A. Look at the defense – or lack thereof -put up in the first kid’s trial. Look at the charges and bails set – bails designed to keep these kids in jail. Remember, no white person involved in the beating of a black kid at a party has even been charged. Remember that the black kids who took away the gun from a white guy who threatened him with it were charged with stealing it.

    Remember that the white kids who hung nooses – a clear symbol of racism, and a death threat – got the same “punsihment” as if they’d skipped school….

    If anyone’s being disingenuous here, it’s TWeeks. Look at TWeeks….

  47. My simple little point is that people are posting here complaining about the severity of sentencing which has bot yet occurred.

    And, once more — six kids beating the hell out of one kid is not a fight. If you actually think it is, then you certainly did not grow up in the South I grew up in.


  48. No, T Weeks, we shouldn’t. The process – and I use that tern loosely – was rigged from the outset, and even a fair finding at this late date wouldn’t eliminate the need to go back and fix the things that are so obviously wrong.

    You start hollering when injustice starts happening. If you wait until the system has its way, when the system is clearly biased, you may not have an opportunity to holler later.

  49. I think that is a shame how are them white people gone get mad because of something over sitting under a tree well it’s gone be alot of black people sitting under some trees them white people better get use to it because we here to stay and we ain’t going no where and if you don’t like to bad so sad!!!!!!!!!!

  50. My six year old son asked me why there are people with black skin and people with tan skin and people with white skin. My reply was simple: “Because God made them that way, we need variety and we can’t all be the same or the world would be boring. It doesn’t matter what color you are, never worry about that. Never judge someone on that. Judge them by their personality. Get to know them first before you decide if you like them or not.” His answer: “okay mommy that’s all I needed to know”.

    Why can’t we all give this answer? I was raised in the Northeast. I was raised to believe in God and that all people are same inside no matter what color they are. I guess, I’m naive or something, but I just don’t get it. I just don’t understand why people care about the color of your skin? Maybe I need to walk a day in someone elses shoes to appreciate it, I don’t know. But in my book you can’t group everyone in the same catagory just because their skin is a certain color…

  51. I was born and reared 20 miles north of Jena…a TOWN in the state of LOUISIANA…a state of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I think we all need to get some things straight here….are we still not dividing the USA into 2 different regions? (NORTH and SOUTH) Last time I heard is that we were all United. And we “Southerners”…and “Northerners” need to remember this. What is happening in Jena now is happening all over the world. FOR God’s sake…we have our brother’s and sister’s fighting their ….. off in another country so that we can maintain this “FREEDOM?” Whomever put the nooses up should have been expelled right from the get go…that was a hate related sign and totally uncalled for. It wasn’t done–whomever dispelled that should be fired. 6 against 1 (no matter what race)…not good either no matter what may have been conversed back and forth. What kind of punishment…the standard for this crime (no matter what race). All white jury–nope—the trial should have been moved to a larger municipality. The tree…cut the darn tree down…it’s only going to be a symbol of hatred and animosity from now on. Put a marker there and let it say…”This tree was sacrificed to provide no further shading of human ignorance but to provide sunlight for a brighter tomorrow of change.”

    Change…can only take place in the individual and then is reflected in the whole.

    Am I still proud of being born in Louisiana…a state in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?? Well, heck yeah…I’m a very proud AMERICAN!! Notice….”AMERICAN”

  52. Sonya: Your idea of cutting down the tree and replacing it with a plaque is, I think, a good one. I’m not a proponent of cutting trees down, usually, but in this case I think the need for closure might trump an environmental issue.

    I’d also like to see a “unity” tree planted that can grow and symbolize a new understanding – a place where people of all backgrounds can meet, talk, and get to know one another as humans and Americans.

  53. aka, on July 31st, 2007 at 10:44 am Said:
    let me clear this up.. someone is using my tag name the aka that posted on july 25 is not me.. someone is using my tag, whoever is doing this needs to knock it off

    i have posted on
    July 19, 2007
    July 11, 2007
    July 2, 2007


  54. Being a black foreigner, I grew up with no racism. I was just like a white person in the USA, with all the privileges my society had to offer. That being said, many of my fellow Bahamians are racist toward the Haitian immigrants (Of course they look just like us; no distinction, other than nationality, but there you go, whatever works.) So, I did not personally experience racism, but just because it was something that I didn

  55. When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
    A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
    And all the birds in the trees, well theyd be singing so happily,
    Joyfully, playfully watching me.

  56. I have one question…….did Reed Walters basically concede because he was afraid the next move would be to call for his “firing”? I think he should step down as DA…….let him use that pen to draft his resume for a new job!!!!!!!!