The Jena Six Was Not About the Jena Six
Kyla Ebbert is back in the news. Ms. Ebbert, the former Hooters waitress, made national and probably global when she was flying on Southwest airlines and a flight attendant asked her to cover herself up during the flight. Ms. Ebbert was so humiliated that she went on television to show everybody her skimpy outfit. Her skirt was so short that one of the networks pixilated her crotch when she sat down to keep the camera from picking up a panty shot when she sat without crossing her legs. Now it appears that the woman whose skirt was too short to be riding the plane without being covered up with a blanket has done a deal to appear on Playboy Magazine’s website. The leggy exhibitionist will be in the nude as well as wearing lingerie. This news was made public Thursday, November 15th. Since then the internet has been abuzz with people searching for information regarding Ms. Ebbert.
Whether or not Ms. Ebbert is Playboy Magazine material is not even close to being an issue here. Besides, I’ve seen magazines that exist to indulge men’s sexual appetite and some of the models that have been featured would not have been my first, second, third, or four thousandth choice. I’ve seen much worse. But has anyone given any thought as to why Ms. Ebbert is the source of the public’s new found infatuation?
Leggy women are a dime a dozen. It takes absolutely no talent. All it takes is one of these established magazines to give someone an opportunity to flaunt their body across its pages. A lot of people, like Ms. Ebbert, would jump on the chance. But why is she given the shot?
For any given opportunity there will be a multitude of opportunist lining up for the chance. With few exceptions the employer nearly always has the advantage and their pick of talent for hire. One of the few times the candidate has the advantage is when a particular candidate has gained name recognition on their own and the employer is looking to capitalize on their notoriety. Once someone has name recognition other people want to harness that resource for their own benefit. Kyla Ebbert has such name recognition thanks to a fluke that started with an opportune meeting between a closet exhibitionist and a prude of a flight attendant. Had the flight attendant kept her disapproval of Ms. Ebbert to herself or had the former Hooters waitress got on the plane with a more modest outfit things would have been much different.
A similar situation happened with Robert Bailey Jr., Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Mychal Bell, and an unidentified minor. Through a series of unfortunate events that commenced with a noose hanging from a “white” tree and culminated with a march by mostly black supporters through the streets of Jena, Louisiana, these six young men became known as the Jena Six. These young men became one of the latest symbols of discrimination that the black community suffers at the hands of the dominant white corporate community. In this particular case, these black people were discriminated against by the local district attorney’s office itself. When violence broke out between the black kids and the white kids, the black kids were the only ones charged and they were being charged with murder.
Tens of thousands of people made their presence felt in Jena, Louisiana that September 20th day and many more people who were unable to participate and make the trip were doing their best to support the marchers and the Jena Six vicariously. The fate of these young men became synonymous with the fate of that segment of the black community that is more susceptible to the effects of subjugation. Thankfully, someone came to their senses and was able to use their influence to get the local district attorney to back off of his persecution of black people. But now that the Jena Six has become a household name someone is looking to capitalize off of their notoriety.
It was rather appalling to see the photo of two of the young men from Jena posing like typical hip hop wannabes at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards and doing their best to capitalize on their newfound notoriety. Rap star posers are a dime a dozen. Point a camera at most kids in the urban area and they will automatically snap into some typical rapper stance. The photograph only reinforces people’s stereotypes of black people. People already think that gangsta rap culture is black culture. This photo does absolutely nothing to dispel that association and everything to reinforce it. And where exactly was BET when these black men were fighting for the rest of their lives? Home come this alleged black media network failed to put its considerable resources at the disposal of the black community? But now that these men from Jena have some name recognition BET now wants to harness that resource for their own benefit.
All the protest and the marches and the blog writing that the black community did on behalf of the Jena Six were not about the Jena Six. It was about the black community. It was about protesting against a system wrought with contempt for people in the black community. Although they were at the forefront of the matter, these six young men were not the only ones facing injustice. If black people simply stood by while these members of the black community were railroaded into the dominant culture’s system of injustice under trumped up charges of attempted manslaughter, we would have been that much further behind in our never ending struggle for some semblance of racial equality here in America. Yes what these men did was wrong. But to destroy these men’s life over a school fight was criminal in itself. And yet, the white men who actually initiated the entire altercation go free without a care in the world.
So the Jena Six are free to do their hackneyed portrayals of the black community that so many people in corporate America would like to see black people do on a regular basis. The new found name recognition and relatively instantaneous celebrity status for a twist of fate gives them the opportunity to take profit and personal advantage. These men who are now examples to the black community can hip hop and rap and dance and laugh and party their way into the hearts of people across America. But there may be tens of thousands of black people who probably wish they wouldn’t.