Thoughts on Jena, Louisiana

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about racism and “Jim Crow” justice in Jena, Louisiana. All I’ve really heard about was that six black men beat one white man, and a lot of blacks have been upset about the fact that the black men were arrested. At least, that’s the surface impression that I got from it. Since I don’t have the best access to news on the road, I figured I would wait until I got home to research the story and see what was going on. I assumed that there was more to the story, if people were saying that in was unjust that these black men were arrested for beating someone. And, well, that people were coming from all over the country to protest.
Well …
I’ve researched it. From what I understand, “17-year-old Justin Barker made a racially-charged insult to an individual who had been involved in a fight just days before, which resulted in Barker allegedly being beaten to the ground, punched and stomped on by six black students”.
Okay. Let me see. Six on one. That doesn’t seem quite right. “The six were originally arrested and charged with attempted murder, with sources maintaining that had the beating not ended there, the victim would have been killed.”
So … apparently what the black community is telling us is that if a white person makes a racist statement, it’s alright for a group of black people to beat him or her to the ground.
I’m sorry, folks. A violent assault is a violent assault. Justin Barker might be a racist redneck, but as far as I know that doesn’t give anyone the right to assault him. What has to be acknowledged here is that he is a victim of a violent assault who deserves his time in court, just as a black man would had he been beaten and stomped repeatedly. This “small” fact is being overlooked in the flurry of the civil rights protests that have arisen around this issue.
Geez. What would these same critics and activists say if it were six white students who were beating and stomping a black student into the pavement? Would there be a march on Jena for the white kids who perpetrated this violent hypothetical situation or would their day in court be heralded as justice? Would critics likewise justify the attackers’ motivation because the black student had called one of them “whitey”?
According to Al Sharpton, whom I used to have a lot of respect for, but which he has steadily lost through the last couple of years, “What we need is federal intervention to protect people from Southern injustice. Our fathers in the 1960s had to penetrate the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, we have to do the same thing.”
Um … whut?
According to a black woman from New Jersey named Elizabeth Redding, who said she marched at Selma when she was in her 20s and had come to Jena to protest, “This is worse, because we didn’t get the job done. I never believed that this would be going on in 2007.”
Um … whut? She’s equating this with Selma?
According to Jeremy Penny, a black man from St. Louis, “I’m so excited to be here around our people. We’re finally going to get some justice.”
Another, Kevin Luckey, who was there with his five-year old son, and was wearing his Free the Jena Six t-shirt, “I wanted him to be a part of this event, so that he could look back on this one day, and say … I was there.”
Alan Bean, executive director of the Texas-based Friends of Justice, was among the first activists to investigate the case. “They are being branded as street thugs so they can be prosecuted, but they were all just pawns in somebody else’s game.”
Maybe my perceptions about this story have been colored by my recent run-in with the lady over O.J. Simpson, who robbed a man with a gun, but is somehow being portrayed by some people as the victim of police persecution. They were going to get him sooner or later, and all that. Sorry. I don’t buy into that. He robbed someone at gunpoint. There are no mitigating circumstances. There are no excuses.
As for these six men in Jena, Louisiana, the same rule applies. Whatever the background story and whatever led up to the beating of Justin Barker, that was a violent assault. I might feel differently about it if it had been one on one. But six on one? Come on.
In fairness, this didn’t happen in a vacuum. There were things that led up to this. Chronic magazine sums up the build-up pretty well in an article titled Jena Six: The Full Story. I contend that the background history has a bearing on this incident, and is largely what the black community is overreacting to. But it is beside the point. Assault is assault. If you demand equal justice, you can’t suddenly ask for an exception when it’s someone who your side who is transgressing.
Times have certainly changed. In the 60s people might have protested because six black men had been beaten. In 2007, they’re protesting because six black men beat someone and got in trouble for it.
Does anyone else feel like they’ve fallen into a parallel universe? Did someone put something in the water? Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are down in Louisiana having flashbacks from the 60s, and people are stomping around demanding equal justice and representation. All because one white boy got his ass stomped by six blacks. It seems to me that these days no one knows what the hell the word “justice” means.

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