Jena 6 update: The NAACP finally gets involved, the good old boys have some fun, and whites in Jena say “we’re not like that, that’s them people over there” yadda yadda…

uncledub.gif When Doug Marlette died July 10th, bringing to an end his wonderful comic strip about the South, Kudzu, most of us who “don’t hate the South,” as Quentin Compson would say, were saddened by the thought that, as Sam Smith put it so nicely recently, we lost “a Southern strip that wasn’t condescending and that didn’t set us back another ten years every time it appeared.”

One has to wonder what Marlette thought about the travesty in Jena, Louisiana, that I’ve posted about here and here in the last month – if he knew about it. And especially how he’d feel about the antics of some “good ol’ boys” this week.

As Alan Bean, former Baptist preacher and activist who’s been working in Jena and who attended the trial of Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena 6 defendants tried, reports at the Friends of Jena site, perhaps the perpetrators of the Jena crisis are the white men – the school superintendent and the district attorney – who refused to treat the behavior of white students with the sternness they reserved for black students:

People are beginning to understand that the official response to the noose hanging (symbolized by the public comments of Mssrs. Breithaupt and Walters) validated the color line the noose hangers were desperate to preserve.

In this atmosphere students were left, Bean believes, to “work things out for themselves.” This led to fights – in each case with whites’ actions treated differently. Bean says this was done for one reason – so that the district attorney, who had warned black students specifically that he could make their lives disappear with the stroke of his pen, could make good on his threat:

People are beginning to realize the true significance of Mr. Walters’ threat. He was setting up a situation that was bound to end in racially-tinged violence. Sooner or later some white kid was going to take his lumps at the hands of black kids–and when that day arrived, Mr. Walters planned to be waiting at the courthouse, pen at the ready.

And now the NAACP and other important racial equality organizations are turning their attention to Jena. And how does the town respond? By treating the actions of the men who destroyed the church sign and the lawn of the Antioch Baptist Church where the first NAACP organizational meeting was held, as the work of “outsiders”:

What I find interesting is that these men are not from Jena…Seems like outsiders (of all colors) love to come in and make more trouble. I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest. How shameful! – Alexandria Town Talk commenter on the story of the vandalism at the Jena church

Those words – “Seems like outsiders (of all colors) love to come in and make more trouble” – reveal more than their writer intended. For any native Southerner (like this one), they’re part of an old, old code that goes all the way back to the “peculiar institution” in which Southerners spent the first 60 years of the 19th century. They’re inherently paternalistic, racist, and xenophobic. They’re the reason I referred to the old question asked by Southerners to this day: “Are you related to the …?” It’s a question meant to discern friend from foe – dating back to antebellum days when white Southerners strove to identify “troublemakers” such as abolitionists – and a question still used to test whether one seeks to cause that greatest of upsets to Southerners of that mind set – change to the status quo….

Marlette’s character “Uncle Dub,” (pictured above), often referred to in the comic strip as one of “the last good ol’ boys,” is renowned for his irreverent attitude, best expressed by his personal motto: “I prefer clutches to churches.” Holder of the Nobel Prize in auto mechanics, he’s dubious of the religious right, critical of both Democrats and Republicans, and especially trenchant about the foibles of bad acting good ol’ boys. His creator might have him say this about the vandals who targeted the Antioch Baptists Church in Jena, the Jena school superintendent and district attorney, and the kids themselves, black and white, tangled in this sad and sorry mess:

A pretty good definition of maturity is knowing how immature you are. A pretty good definition of sanity is knowing how crazy you are. A pretty good definition of wisdom is knowing how foolish you are. – Doug Marlette

Let’s hope that Jena, LA, heeds such sage advice soon.

Update: Lydia Bean of Friends of Justice, the grassroots organization that brought the Jena travesty to international attention,  shares their site and solicits donations: http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com .  Please go there and donate what you can. This is too important a cause not to support.

Categories: Race/Gender

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21 replies »

  1. Obviously we’ll never know what Marlette would have thought about all this, including your post, but what was always striking about the strip was its humanity. Those who don’t know the South often try and reduce it to The Dukes of Hazzard and the worst of Montgomery during the Civil Rights Movement, and unfortunately a lot of our fellow Southerners make it easy on them.

    I’ve been saying lately that there are two ways to stamp out bad stereotypes. First, don’t spread them. Second, don’t reinforce them through your actions.

    I think Marlette got this. A lot of folks don’t.

  2. This is my first visit to your blog. I was drawn by your writings on the Jena Six affair. Actually, I wasn’t aware of the NAACP involvement until seeing your post in cyberspace.

    Anyhow, I hope that all of us with blogs take a moment to update our readers on the injustice taking place with the young people known as the Jena Six.

    peace, Villager

  3. If folks want to get involved with the Jena 6, they can donate to the Friends of Justice, the grassroots organization that brought international publicity onto this travesty. Our website is http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com
    There are links to our donation page on the blog or on the “Get Involved” page.
    Thanks! Lydia Bean at friendsofjustice

  4. This is an amazing situation for 2007. It has been my experience in cases like this that one side of the story gets told and the other is glossed over or ignored, see the Duke rape case or several of the supposed American atrocities in Iraq as an example. I cannot imagine what could be said on the school board side of this mess, but if anyone has a reasonable explanation for their actions, we would all like to hear it.

  5. An Open Letter To The Jena Six
    By Joseph Young
    Washington Informer
    Dear Mychal,
    I keep thinking about you. I also think about the other young men who have fallen prey to racial hatred. Its existence, more than a century after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, makes me fearful for your life, your safety. The freedom that it promised was tenuous.
    It was not entirely without strength. In the proclamation, issued three years into the Civil War, Lincoln declared, at the urging of Frederick Douglass, that the former slaves would be accepted into the Union Army and navy, making the liberated the liberator. By the war

  6. This is a typical example of reverse racism. Was it wrong to hang nooses from the tree, absolutely. Should those students responsible for hanging those nooses be punished, absolutely and they were. Now to say that 6 black students jumping a white student and kicking him in the face is ok, that is wrong. If it were the opposite, if 6 white students jumped a black student than the NAACP, rev. Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton would have had a 10,000 black people protesting a hate crime, but because it was black on white and the students responsible are being punished appropriately the black students are being treated “unfairly”. Enough is enough, black, white, or purple, 15 or 50 when you jump someone 6 to 1 and you kick them in the face while they are on the ground regardless of the injuries inflicted they should be punished to the full extent of the law. Stop using racism as a blanket to protect black people from being prosecuted from doing things that are clearly wrong.

  7. I agree with NAACP, and supporting blacks. But when a white person wants to get involved don’t make them feel like they aren’t welcomed there. And when things like with the Jean 6 boys, don’t consider all white people racist. Grow up.

  8. personally , i dont believe that ALL white people are racist; …. i dont believe that all white people want to be racist either . they judge us now adays based upon how we treat each other .not all black people are vulger and violent . the media wants society to see all black people as evil doers and thieves.we love hard just like every other race …..when we do make our mistakes; our entire race has to pay for it in one way or another……sad

  9. True, Breath, black people Do do this, fend of assistance from white, whom they view as the ‘perpetual’ enemy. They’ve appropriated the N-word AND Martin Luther King, pissing all over what he really stood for: UNITY

  10. bigg timm you are right when one black person get into trouble every black person is lable. I am up set and it needs to stop, i considrer myself brown so is my 2 brown girls my brown husband and the rest of my family, so stop calling me black , i love who i am will noy change it for the world, what happen to those six young man is worng and they need to let the school deal with it. hats off for the naacp for comming to there rescue they will try jail then for life. racist are still going on but not in my home.

  11. i think that we need justice to be served the rigtht way and that if it is not served the right than all that our ancestors and Dr. King faught for is becoming non existant. We have to remember that everyday that we walk out of our houses as a Black man or Woman we have a heavy burden on our shoulders to just be seen as real men and women in this country lets try and stop hate with each other and start appreciating each other just because we all go through the same struggle no matter how rich or poor your are or color

  12. I am just curious – why is it wrong to prosecute the Jena 6 for beating someone unconsious? i am not in the US, so please tell me what is the big deal?

    I know that the white kids hung nooses, and that is wrong and they should be punished for vandalism and threats. but why should violence go unnoticed