Yesterday was the five year anniversary of the question that triggered the debacle that blew up into a civil rights demonstration the nation had not seen for decades. Jena, Louisiana became ground zero in a conflict that had the potential to be perceived as one of the greatest challenges to race relations. It started as a clash between white youths and black youths. But when the local authorities got involved, there were only white victims and black perpetrators even though there was plenty of blame to go around. After a black student asked the Jena high school principal for permission to sit under a tree historically reserved for only white students, nooses were hanged. Depending on perspective it was a warning message to the black students at the predominantly white school, or it was just a racially insensitive joke at the black students’ expense. After a series of challenges, scuffles, fights and attacks, a white youth, Justin Barker, went to hospital and six black students, the group that became the Jena 6, faced prison. All but one of the black students faced attempted murder charges.
The mighty arm of law had to face the mightier arm of public awareness. Once national attention reached a critical point and a sizable portion of the black community came together to protest, resources were put together to challenge the lopsided appearance of justice applied and denied. The black students that were all but sentenced to decades of imprisonment in what should have been slam dunk prosecutions now had the means to fight their prosecutions. The charges of attempted murder were dialed back significantly and although the black students didn’t get off scot free, they weren’t singled out to have their lives destroyed for getting into a school yard fight that should have never happened in the first place. In twenty first century America, black students asking for permission to sit under a tree reserved for white students is itself uncalled for. The fact that it would eventually lead to such disparate treatment from authorities is a true indication of our post racial society.
An argument regarding the unfairness of our justice system could be made over the fact that black students could face attempted murder charges for a school fight with a white student. While no one is saying that the black students shouldn’t be punished, attempted murder is hardly appropriate. Although the white student was sent to the emergency room, after treatment he went to his prom held later that night. Most people who suffer a life threatening attack or a brutal attempt on their life would hardly feel the need to go dancing later that evening. Attempted murder hardly seems proper. Maybe the prosecutor didn’t like the fact that those black boys could be so impertinent to think that they could attack a single white kid so a message needed to be sent that such behavior would not be tolerated. And if that was the message sent, maybe it would be easier to receive if it was uniformly applied.
Two months ago, on an early Sunday morning just before dawn, a group of white teens were drinking alcohol in predominantly white Rankin County, Mississippi when one of them made the suggestion to “go fuck with some niggers”. With bravado fueled by alcohol and a sense that they can get away with a racially motivated crime, they got on the interstate and drove to a predominantly black part of Jackson, Mississippi where they pulled off the highway and found their victim at the Metro Inn Motel parking lot. James Craig Anderson was a forty nine year old auto plant worker. He was standing next to his car. The teens jumped out of their car and started to unmercifully beat Mr. Anderson repeatedly while yelling racist slurs.
The event was partially captured on a security camera video. Although the beating happened out of view, the camera shows the two vehicles, a white Jeep Cherokee and a green Ford F-250 pickup truck, carrying the white kids pulling into the parking lot and stopping next to Mr. Anderson’s car. The video shows the white teens getting out of their cars and going back and forth between their cars and where Mr. Anderson was determined to have been standing based on testimony from witnesses who told authorities that this is when the repeated beatings took place. The video showed that after the beating some of the white teens left in the Jeep. The remaining white teens jumped into the green truck. Next, the video showed Mr. Anderson as he staggered into view, no doubt dazed, confused, and more than likely looking for help. The green pickup truck suddenly surges straight into Mr. Anderson and killed him as it sped away from the scene.
Eighteen year old Deryl Dedmon, Jr. was the driver of the pickup and the leader of the white mob that assaulted James Anderson. He was charged with capital murder. The entire incident is being described as a hate crime. One other white teenager, John Aaron Rice, was charged with simple assault. The other white teenagers who assaulted Mr. Anderson that Sunday morning have not been charged with any crime whatsoever. If Mr. Anderson was senselessly murdered there probably wouldn’t have been any crime at all. Nobody was so relaxed about justice when that day when Justine Barker made the choice to get up and go to the prom.
Mr. Anderson is dead. He didn’t get up and go to a dance later that night. He didn’t play a prank to provoke anybody’s anger. More than likely he never knew why he was being pummeled that morning and why that pickup truck drove him over. He was just a man going about his business that morning when a group of whites drove sixteen miles to show him and the world that racism is very strong and well in this post racial society. We have two white youths being held for their participation in this crime. But if the people who run our justice system want to pretend that there is an effort to assure that the system is fair and that it’s not biased based on the skin color of the victims or perpetrators, it seems that it would be far more appropriate to charge every teenager that participated in that assault as accomplices to murder, especially given the fact that their victim ended up losing his life that morning.
It should come as no surprise that I didn’t expect much out of Soledad O’Brien’s earth shattering documentary Black in America being featured on CNN. Ms. O’Brien has never given me the impression that she recognizes or understands or sympathizes with the issues that plague the black community. In fact, none of the reporting on the CNN network has given me the impression that these people are aware that the black community even exist.
I remember watching CNN when Tony Harris was reporting breaking news on the incident that became known as the Jena Six more than a year after the incidents were initiated. While CNN was busy reporting on such perils as the dangers of people having fat pets or Roland Martin reporting on What Would Jesus Do to talk about the commercialization of Christmas or some other nonsense from Jenny Moost, six young black men were being railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor for second degree murder for a school fight with a young white man. The network could have given a rat’s ass about this first class example of racial prejudice and racial discrimination. And instead of the network reporting the facts of the case, the article simply reported the opinion of people living in Jena, Louisiana. We were given a chance to hear what the white people of Jena think and then we were given a chance to hear what the black people of Jena think. Then we were allowed to formulate our own opinion about what actually happened.
So when CNN started promoting its Black in America series with the tag line, everyone will learn what it means to be black in America, I honestly didn’t expect much. But I could have been wrong and waited with everyone else to see what CNN thinks being black in America means.
I’ve seen four of the segments. There was the one that started with the report from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee talking about Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior and his dream for the black community. There was the report from the town hall where some notables from the black community got together to discuss issues of education in the black community. Wednesday was a report about individual experiences of a handful of black people in America. And Thursday night’s broadcast focused on a few stories about how some black men can make the American dream and make it very successfully while some black men will suffer the American nightmare of incarceration, drugs, alcohol, and poverty. I watched these shows and I’ve come away scratching my head and wondering what exactly is the common connection all these people have that makes their experience exclusive to the black community.
I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with poverty and poor education. I really don’t think the black community has an exclusive on this experience. I know that there are white people in America who have to deal with losing their homes and being evicted for not being able to pay the mortgage or paying the rent. I know there are white women who are raising their white children alone because the white father is absent. I know there are white people who are looking at dating outside their race. I know there are white people who are doing well while their siblings are doing poorly. I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with issues of drugs and alcohol. Believe it or not, I know there are white people who get thrown in jail. Are we to believe that these white people are now experiencing what it is like to be black in America?
These shows do little to show me what it means to be black in America. Ms. O’Brien has simply taken the experience of a handful of black people and pasted their stories into a documentary. If somebody did the same thing with people from the white community, who would come away with the impression that they now know what it is like to be white in America? While some people might find the program entertaining not every white person would relate to these examples. There really is no reason to think these stories define what it means to be black in this country.
I was hoping to see something that would help to explain what people in the black community are going through as a collective. Black people have to deal with higher rates of school dropouts. Why? Black people have to deal with higher rates of unemployment. Why? Black people have to deal with higher rates of incarceration. Black people have to deal with higher rates of home foreclosures. Why? I was hoping to learn what the main components were of the complex social issues that all of these black stories share in common.
The purpose of the program was never to show the issues facing the black community. The program was designed to show instances of how black people choose not to respond responsibly to their environment for whatever reason. I came away thinking that we are depicted as simply surviving instead of assessing our situation and planning to act accordingly. Many of us simply refuse to pick ourselves up by our boot strap and instead simply adapt to our circumstances. The majority of people in the black community continue to do what we do and simply hope for the best outcome or we simply fail to better ourselves for our future and the future of our families. And all of this of course happens in a vacuum without any external influences from outside the black community. As far as being an eye opening documentary on life for black people in America, this piece of work falls terribly short.
But in at least one respect, Ms. O’Brien really does hit the nail on the head on what it means to be black in America. To be black in America is to be depicted in the most simplest of terms. Negative experiences of most black people are the result of a stereotypical lack of planning and black people’s refusal to take responsibility for developing their own solutions. Some black people made it. Black people who study hard will get the good job and the nice house and drive the nice car and will become examples of how it can be done for others in the black community. Because we all know that if everyone in the black community gets a doctorate today come tomorrow unemployment will drop to zero. Black people who make the choice to stop acting like typical black people will stop being typical black people in America.
Another dangerous white person has taken his proclivity for violence to serial killer levels. Robert Hawkins took an AK-47 assault rifle to the local mall in Omaha, Nebraska, went to the third floor of the heavily populated passageway of one of the anchor stores and opened fire on the people in the area. According to the early reports on the CBS Morning News, Hawkins fired thirty five times, killed eight people, wounded five people with two of them critically injured, and then he committed suicide. He left a suicide note with his landlord for the past year Debora Maruca-Kovac saying something to the effect of, I was a piece of shit all my life and now I’ll be famous.
Robert Hawkins had troubles. His parents put him out of their house a year ago and Ms. Maruca-Kovac took him in. He lost his job at the local McDonald’s. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend. He had been accused of petty theft from the department store involved. This nineteen year old or so young man’s life was closing in all around him. So he figured he’d throw in the cards and check out early. But instead of being able to just go away and do his suicide he had to do it in high profile style by taking out as many people as he could around him.
How the hell do you get fired from McDonald’s? What type of character does this man have where he gets fired from one of the easiest jobs on the planet? Just do what you’re told and show up to work on time most of the time and you’re set. I know a lot of people who quit McDonald’s for whatever reason. But fired? And to compound this question we have to throw in the fact that this is a person, barely out of his teen years, who was kicked out of the family home.
This is the type of character who is looking for the proverbial pity party. Ms. Maruca-Kovac said, “He just said how he was sorry for everything, that he didn’t want to be a burden any longer to anybody, that he loved his family and he loved all of his friends.” He didn’t want to be a burden to anybody. And yet, this man takes a rifle into a mall and burdens at least eight families with the senseless lost of a loved one and five other families with worry over the recover of their loved one. He doesn’t want to be a burden, but he wants to be famous for his cowardly act of suicide. This is the type of character that wants to be remembered as a heinous, infamous murderer. I really don’t know for sure if this man truly lived his life as a piece of shit. But I certainly do know that he died as one.
Add Robert Hawkins to the list of mall shooters. His peers are people like Sulejmen Talovic, the eighteen year old Bosnian immigrant who killed five and injured four when he opened fire in the Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City, Utah back in February of this year. Another one is Dominick Maldonado of Tacoma, Washington who injured six people at the Tacoma Mall and took others hostage while he held police off for five hours. When he surrendered he told police that he had been humiliated during a troubled childhood and that recent problems made him want to be heard. These people rank right up there with the Columbine shooting brethren.
Be it some kind of place for shopping, a school, a place of employment, or any place where the public gathers some white guy some where is running ideas and scenarios in the back of his head for some time in the future when he looses it because he’s having a bad day. This happens more often than many people care to admit. But interestingly, even with all this activity and all this history of white men’s violence, it is the black man that is constantly depicted as the one that is most violent
Martin Lee Anderson was killed by authorities and yet he never killed or stole anything from anyone. Genarlow Wilson was jailed for engaging in consensual sex with a girl only two years his junior. The young men from the Jena Six may have been accused of trying to kill Justin Baker with their tennis shoes, but if they wanted to commit murder then they should have followed Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s example. Kheil Coppin was a black Brooklyn teenager who needed some understanding. Instead he got a butt load of bullets for holding a hair brush. And these are just some of the high profile abuse of black people who are supposed to be so much more violent than white people.
But if one takes an honest look at who is truly committing violent crimes without the predilection to prove black people are evil because they are black people, the examiner will see that black people are not the most murderous of thugs that require the heavy hand of the law as a response to this imagined threat. Not by a long shot from an assault rifle inside a mall at the height of the holiday season by the hands of a real killer.
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.
I don’t remember why or exactly when but I stopped watching Bill Maher earlier this year. I understand the fact that the guy is a comedian first and a talk show host second and a white a close but unforgettable third so I do take a lot of the things he says with a twenty six ounce box of salt. But I’m not a big fan of Home Box Office and with my Netflix subscription it just became harder to justify the extra cost on the cable bill. So sometime in February or March of this year I cancelled HBO and stopped watching Bill Maher. But, earlier this week somebody was talking about Mos Def and Dr. Cornel West had made an appearance on the latest Real Time with Bill Maher. My curiosity was piqued and I looked for the episode on YouTube (click here to see the episode).
I actually had a dream where Mos Def made an appearance once. I don’t have immediate access to the dream journal I wrote it down in. But I remember I was running through a building with lots of classrooms. In one room a couple of men were hanging thick, black, velvety cloth in order to block out the light and absorb sounds. In another room a classroom of students were waiting for their teacher. Another room held an incredibly thin black woman with black, oily looking fluid oozing out of every orifice of her body. But in one room there was Mos Def at the chalkboard writing out some incredibly complex mathematical equations. My bachelor’s degree is in mathematics so I know complex math when I see it. I couldn’t differentiate an equation right now to save my life but I know one when I see one.
I’ve never been a big fan of Dr. West. Although I try to listen, sometimes the language the brother uses goes over my head and I have to make sure I have a way of recording what he said so I can go back and dissect it and study it to make sure I understand it completely. Dr. West made the statement, “Truth lies [prostrate] on rugged hills with nameless cavalries.” This is followed up with a “what I mean is” with even more confusing figures of speech and symbolism. This was a serious scratch the head moment for me. I will admit I am far from the shiniest marble in the bag. Sometimes Dr. West appears to be trying to get people to focus on issues of racism. But then he’ll try to say it in a way not to offend anybody. But if someone is being racist chances are they are offending me and other black people. Why should we be careful about offending them?
Mos Def on the other hand pulls no punches and his appearance on Bill Maher was no exception. His language isn’t sophisticated. I read a comment someone made that Mos Def sounds like a drug user. That may be true. But I’m sure its part of the persona he wants to front for the public. His acting in such movies as Something The Lord Made is evidence that his speech patterns can be less urban if he so chooses. But it is nevertheless refreshing to see someone say exactly what he means without having to rewind and write down what he says to find the meaning. If truth is lying prostrate on them hills, clarity is hanging from a branch on the side of the cliff about to fall down into the crocodile infested river at the bottom of the ravine below.
Mr. Def thinks that the Electoral College should be trashed and a simple majority of the people’s vote for President should rule. He said that the American public should have an entire weekend to cast their vote for a presidency instead of trying to have the entire population vote in a single twelve hour period. When Bill Maher said, “You have to admit there are people who do want to kill Americans”, Mos Def didn’t hesitate to reply, “Yeah, some of them are called the police.” Later when Mr. Maher asked Mos Def, “But you don’t want to be blown up by a bomb”, Mos Def replied, “I don’t think I’m gonna get blown up by a bomb. Listen, I’m black and I’m in America. I live under constant pressure. I don’t believe in all that boogeyman shit.” This is a not so subtle reminders that while white people fear Osama bin Laden over in his cave in Pakistan, black people have to deal day-to-day brutality of racism right next door here in America. This is the cavalry coming to rescue the prostrated truth on that rugged hill and pulling clarity’s ass off that cliff in the process.
Now everything that Dr. West said wasn’t as transparent as thick black mud. He may have been emboldened by the example set by Mos Def and/or he may have been feeling somewhat a tad mortified from Mr. Maher making an amusing reference to his truth being prostrate analogy made previously in the show, but Dr. West made his own insightful contribution to the conversation.
Said Mr. West, “9/11 is the first time many Americans of various colors felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. But to be black in America for four hundred years is to be unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. So what happens is that you have a different perspective often times because if you are used to dealing with the strain and the pressure and the violence coming at [someone]. ‘Cause lets fact it. The civil rights movement was a fight against American terrorism…If you have multiple sources of force, coercion, and terror coming at you, which many black Americans do, the prison industrial complex, racist criminal justice system, the Jena Six is one grand example, disgraceful school systems, to what degree do you begin to think my paranoia is actually justified? Because if they can sustain this level of psychic and physical terror against me, and they’re obsessed with a terror that’s against them, then maybe they might not be believable or credible.”
These statements, and a lot more just like them, indicate that both Dr. West and Mos Def were fully abreast of the issue regarding the Jena Six, terrorism against America from the average black person’s perspective, and America’s history of brutality to its African population. I heard more about black issues in America from these two gentlemen than I’ve heard listening to any other black person on the television or radio or cable. Dr. Cornel West wants to be politically correct but actually let his hair down for a moment. Mos Def will shoot from the hip and gives you the impression that he doesn’t give a damn about what anybody thinks about it. It was wonderful to see two black people speak their minds and their hearts without trying to appease anybody else. More black people should do more to be in the cavalry for the naked truth.
Barack Obama has finally made a public statement about the happenings in Jena, Louisiana. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Obama said the following…
“When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.”
“There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some students for fighting, but not others. It’s a problem when a public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a prosecutor decides to try teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”
“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena Six or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair. We must ensure that both victims and defendants can receive equal justice under the law, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances.”
Now all of that may sound politically correct and that may be all that is appropriate in the mind’s eye of most people. But to appear appropriate or to be politically correct in response to what is nothing less than a blatant case of the institutionalized racism of America manifesting itself in Louisiana is not right. And instead of Mr. Obama showing decisive and strong leadership he makes a rather vague statement about the need for healing, togetherness, and fairness in our community. The problem isn’t really what’s in the statement, but rather what is not in the statement. With just a few editorial adjustments the statement could have been a powerful message against racism.
“When nooses are being hung in high schools by white children in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions that stem from white privilege and white people’s sense of entitlement. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.”
“There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some black students for fighting, but not the white students. It’s a problem when a black public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a white prosecutor decides to try black teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”
“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena Six or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for everybody in America to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair to the black community. We must ensure that both black victims and black defendants can receive equal justice to white people under the law, regardless of…circumstances.”
With just the addition of a few adjectives and other minor changes we have a statement that is much more accurate of the situation at hand. We have the black community being attacked by the white community. Black kids were initially threatened by racist white kids. When no one came to their aid and they took steps to defend themselves the black kids were attacked by the racist enforcers of law and justice. The reason this case has finally made national as well as global news is because of the obvious racial disparity. Some people will see it and say something vague like we need to heal both sides. But how would these people feel if it was their daughter or son being subjected to such disparity?
The truth is that there are a lot of racist white people in Jena, in Louisiana, and in America. Mr. Obama can put a spin on the situation, work to appear absolutely neutral, and try to allay white people’s fear that he might actually do something on behalf of the black community. But the presidency shouldn’t be so important that he is unwilling to call a white racist a white racist.
By any measure important to the wellbeing of the African American community the organized protest in Jena, Louisiana has been an unequivocal success. Tens of thousands of people, most of them obviously black, descended upon the tiny Louisiana town of less then three thousand to express support for the black young men who many judge to be unfairly targeted by law enforcement in Jena. Without exception the protest was peaceful and without any negativity. As far as I can tell there wasn’t so much as a jay walking violation by the time the event was done. The protestors were respectful of the locals, their laws, and their property. People expecting the worse were pleasantly surprised. People hoping for something negative in the form of some disruption of the peace were disappointed. But it didn’t keep them from trying.
There were so many visitors to Jena not everyone could stay in the tiny town. Some visitors used the tiny neighboring town of Alexandria, Louisiana as their staging point. As about two hundred of these visitors from Nashville, Tennessee waited for their bus to return to their homes, a pickup truck was spotted driving up and down the street with a pair of nooses hanging off its bed in the back. The nooses were made from brightly colored yellow rope and contrasted sharply against the truck’s burgundy red paint making the nooses visible for miles. The driver wanted to get the attention of the remaining protesters. The driver wanted to convey a message that nothing has changed and that the racist philosophy that the protestors were demonstrating against isn’t about to go away soon. The nooses were a symbol of defiance and antagonism from white racist.
City officials were contacted about the pickup truck. The sheriff was called and responded. The truck was pulled over. There were two occupants and one of them was a minor. There was an unloaded .22 caliber rifle in the back of the truck. There sheriff found brass knuckles. Unable to summon the courage to display their racist nature on their own, both the driver and the passenger intensified their courage, and dampened what remained of their common sense, with alcohol. Both are facing charges of attempting to insight a riot, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct. The driver faces an additional charge of driving while intoxicated. And the major is facing an additional charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mayor Jacques Roy made a statement that federal authorities may be contacted to investigate the possibility of a hate crime.
Without a doubt the driver and his passenger will claim that they didn’t mean anything and that it was all just a prank. Kind of like the three nooses that started the whole affair that put Jena, Louisiana at the center of people’s attention around the world. But it wasn’t funny then and it is just as unfunny now. To the members of the African American community nooses are a raw symbol of racial hatred and disparity. After everything that has happened in the last year a person continuing to use such offensive icons would have to be either completely brainless or completely insensitive or a complete sociopath. The whole point of the rally was to help bring attention to the potentially destructive power of such a community divisive act.
Many black people aren’t quick to forget that our African ancestors died at the hands of white people using nooses. A white man with a noose conjures up all kinds of hurtful and latent, hateful emotions for many people in the black community. It is not a joke or an innocent prank. A white person who faces black people with a noose is throwing down the gauntlet. Some people would like to dismiss such acts as not worth the black community’s collective attention. No one dies such a raw ugly death these days. But tell that to the family of James Byrd, Jr. whose body was dragged through the backwoods of Jasper County, Texas. That incident probably started as a prank as well.
However, somebody is beginning to listen. The sheriff and Mayor of Alexandria have learned the all too important lesson. They may have dismissed the truck with nooses hanging off of it as little more than a prank last year. This year their reaction is altogether different. It is offensive and it is instigative. In order to keep the peace, offensive acts must be kept in check even if the sheriff may not necessarily find them personally offensive. And today, because black people organized and made their collective feelings known to the white community, more white people understand that nooses hanging from a tree are not at all just an innocent prank but a provocation.
The protest in Jena was successful. There was no violence and there was nothing but a peaceful message that the black community is very concerned with what we feel is a lack of equal justice in Jena, in Louisiana, and in America. Racism is alive and well in America. Today more people should understand that fact more clearly than ever before. That makes the protest widely successful.
Today is the day people across America descend on Jena, Louisiana to protest the unfair treatment of the black community by the white establishment. A lot of people think this is about six black young men who were unfairly charged for the attempted murder of a white student during a school fight. But the situation is much more complicated than that.
The incident started a year ago in September of 2006 when black students made a push against white privilege and white entitlement. A tree whose shade was historically reserved for white students had black students sitting under its boughs. The next day nooses were hanging from the tree. Certain white people in key positions of authority dismissed the incident as little more than a school prank. Kicking history to the curb the white establishment chose to forget the disparity associated with such racially insensitive behavior.
The district attorney is brought into the school to try and calm the situation. The students are brought into the school auditorium. Like most racially divisive situations white students are sitting on one side of the auditorium and black students are sitting on the other. Nothing nefarious, it’s just the way things naturally develop when there is a racial disconnect. The district attorney turns to the black students and threatens to make their lives disappear with the stroke of his pen if they don’t learn to behave.
A white man pulls a shotgun on a group of black men. The black men manage to wrestle the gun away from the white man. But when the law enforcers come to investigate they arrest the black men for theft of a firearm. The white man who pulled the gun out is never charged.
Encouraged by such dismissals and lopsided justice it doesn’t take much to imagine the white students feeling empowered and given free rein to terrorize black students. Discouraged by the dismissal black students can easily feel that the establishment is downright hostile to the black community. The black students probably felt detached from the people whose job is to provide for their protection and education.
The racial tensions escalate and lead to a black student being assaulted by white students at a party. A glass bottle is cracked over his head and he is admitted to the hospital for a week long stay. A few days later a white student is assaulted by six black students and goes to the hospital for two whole hours. He is released and goes to a party that same night. But then things really get bad. The black students who gave the white young man little more than a black eye are charged with attempted man slaughter. Although they are all juveniles at the time of the altercation they are being charged as adults. The district attorney made good on his threat in the auditorium.
The charges have been downgraded from attempted murder to assault but the punishment can still mean years in jail for these young black men. Left to his own devices the district attorney would be more than happy to send these black men to prison for the rest of their lives for having the audacity to defend themselves.
Only fairly recently has this entire, bizarre, Jim Crow tainted, incident has gained the attention of the collective public. The Governor of Louisiana and the other politicians in the area have been contacted and asked to do something to put some integrity back into the Louisiana injustice system. But politician’s hands are tied and politicians suggest that we wait and let the system work.
Well, the system is working exactly as it should.
When the people have a concern and the people begin to feel that the government representatives are no longer operating with the will of the people then the people have the right to assemble and protest. The people are assembling in Jena, Louisiana today. The people no longer have faith in the system to allow it to continue to threaten these young black men’s lives while their white counterparts who have instigated and escalated this racially charged incident walk freely through the streets of Jena without any fear from the enforcers of the law. Certain people from the white community, including but not limited to the white students, the district attorney and the superintendent of the school district, have run roughshod over the black community of Jena. While we are told to let the system grind its agonizingly slow wheels to their final result, the fate of six young black men is hanging precipitously on the edge of the balance. And with the way the system has been working lately it’s no longer a sure bet that the result will be what can be considered some derivative of true justice.
Therefore, the black community of America is now exercising its right as defined in the constitution. We have the right to assemble. It’s part of the system. It is the next phase once the rest of the system judged to be ineffective. Hopefully, Jena has prepared itself to receive tens of thousands of protesters. There is little doubt that the vast majority will no doubt be black. So many people are now concerned that so many people descending into the area may lead to so many instances of crime and violence. It is rather comical that after all the crime committed by members of the white community of Jena on the black community, now there is a concern that black people are coming and crime is sure to follow.
The story of the six young black men in Jena, Louisiana has finally reached CNN, the most trusted name in news. I was watching the Cable News Network for the latest in government propaganda, corporate news releases, and the latest on entertainers living like gangsters when Tony Harris gave a little heads up and background information on what was being featured later in the evening. I cannot stress the word “little” enough. If this is the most trusted name in news then we are in some serious trouble.
Tony Harris turned to his anchor associate and started to explain the amazing and breaking story behind the racism in Jena, Louisiana that started nearly a year ago. The black anchorman started the synopsis on the up and up. Some black kids at the local school went to sit under a tree previously reserved for white kids. The next day three nooses were hanging from the tree. The officials in Jena dismiss the event as little more than a childish prank. Boys will be boys after all. A month later the school suffers a fire that people in the area believe to be related to the build up of racial tensions in the small town. Black kids attacked a lone white kid seriously injuring the boy. And now the six young men are facing serious charges of attempted murder.
Mr. Harris was probably intentionally trying to leave out important facts related to the story to give the CNN watching public the impression that the black community is being overly sensitive to this latest (if you can call something that happened a year ago the latest) slight (according to some black people who stand ready to minimize the insensitivity of their dominating handlers) from the white community. Lord knows, based on crime statistics pulled out of the ass of totally impartial pundits and social conservatives, black people look for any opportunity to justify cracking somebody’s head wide open. So it only stands to reason that by eliminating just a few key details the media conglomerate can pique people’s interest to see what triggered black people’s collective, neurotic temper now.
But a lie of omission is still a lie. In fact, a lie of omission by an agency claiming to be an accurate and impartial reporter of happenings is far worse than just a standard mistruth. People are quick to accept what the representatives of CNN “report” without thinking twice about its validity. By giving only half the story in order to sell the idea that there may be a murky uncertainty as to what actually happened the news network has actually initiated another front in the perpetuation of racial propaganda in order to sell their upcoming story to the trusting public.
Mr. Harris may have been somewhat embarrassed about his participation in this racial propaganda. Normally Mr. Harris is confident in his news delivery looking straight into the camera and spewing facts without stuttering as if he was the commander in chief trying to downplay the fact that nearly four thousand American troops have lost their lives in the war on terror. But Mr. Harris turned his entire body to his co-anchor and kept his eyes downward on the floor. Mr. Harris stuttered as he searched for the right words to say as if struggling just to get through the moment. Mr. Harris’ strong and pleasant generic personality was replaced by a personality that was trying to hide. For a minute at least it looked like Mr. Harris regretted his line of work, but only for a minute.
CNN was careful to leave out details such as the prosecutor for Jena, Louisiana threatened the children in the black community that their lives would disappear with the stroke of his pen if they didn’t behave. The fact that a black young man was hit over the head with a glass bottle and spent time in hospital for attending a party in a white neighborhood long before the young white man was attacked. The young white man that was so viciously attacked by the six young black men and sustained such serious and obviously life threatening injuries was released after spending just two hours in hospital for a black eye and was attending a school function that same night. Chances are the first ninety minutes of his hospital visit was spent in the emergency waiting room. Black students were threatened with a shot gun from a white student and when they managed to wrestle the gun from the white student. The black students were charged with the theft of a firearm while the white student was not charged with anything.
Had CNN bothered to keep everything on the level without eliminating any of the pertinent facts I’m sure there would have been no difference in the number viewers tuning in to get CNN’s factual take on what was going on. But the reporting of actual facts, even after nearly a year after the whole situation started takes second place to ratings and the continuation of racial propaganda based on black community stereotypes. For a far more accurate report of the Jena Six, please click here.
A fifteen year old boy has been arrested for the murder of police officer Norvelle Brown in a black neighborhood in the corner of St. Louis. According to news reports the boy shot Officer Brown last Wednesday night because he wanted to know what it felt like to kill a cop. Officer Brown just so happened to be available. The fifteen year old got the gun from his neighbor, eighteen year old Xavier McCully. The two lived adjacent to the property where Officer Brown was shot. It is sad to see that our black children have become our nightmares.
Officer Brown’s body was laid to rest today. I surfed the internet trying to get more information on this police officer and try to see how other people thought and felt about this event. There are a lot of people who are angry. A lot of people see this situation as more evidence that this problem with our children is strictly a black community phenomenon.
The simple fact is the problems of the black community are caused by the black community. I really do understand this now. As long as we stand by and let the white community have complete and unfettered access to our children and impressionable young people we have no one else to blame. We’ve allowed an educational system developed by white people to teach our children their history. No one in Japan would let the United States teach their children about World War II. No one in Cuba would allow the United States to teach their children about the Bay of Pigs Invasion. No one in Russia would let the United States teach the American version of the cold war in their schools. But African Americans don’t have much of a choice but to send their children to the white dominated school system. White people have their hands on our children’s cradle and are ruling our world. Black people allow the white dominates to teach our children our history from white people’s perspective. It’s kind of like the fox being put in charge of educating the chicken’s eggs. It is little wonder so many black people grow up believing white people have no culpability in the black community’s predicament. When we make the decision to educate our children to the way things really went down in history we will make huge strides in regaining control of our future.
We also allow corporate America unfettered access to our population. Black children and impressionable black people who are trying to develop a healthy sense of self worth and a healthy sense of ego are being bombarded by corporate advertisements. These advertisements are designed to convince the public that our worth is so heavily dependent on what other people think about us. Commercials convince us to convince others that we enjoy a materially successful and financially content lifestyle. If we are hip we will adorn ourselves in the latest fashion statements and status symbols. And if none of that works we can always drown our sorrows by indulging in whatever product the corporations advertises as ideal for satisfying our need for immediate gratification. When we make the choice to cut off the constant messages of consumption and materialism our children will have a better chance of developing more of their spirituality.
The black community stands by as our children are attacked and are left to defend for themselves. We see our children battling the system in cases like the Jena Six where white children terrorized black children but the blacks are the only ones facing criminal charges. The black community has to play catch up in order to save fourteen year old Shaquanda Cotton from the Texas Juvenile System that was so intent to have the girl incarcerated for seven years for shoving a hall monitor. Black people stand dumbfounded as we watch seventeen year old Genarlow Wilson be convicted for aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a consenting fifteen year old girl. We are left scratching our collective heads as administrators at a Florida boot camp kills fourteen year old Martin Lee Anderson on his first day of attendance and then try to cover up the crime by contributing his death to a latent sickle cell trait. A community that does not protect its youth from predators will not protect its future.
Black people sit back and allow the music industry to push that musical form of crack called gangsta rap down our children’s ear canal. And while the music industry makes their millions and billions of dollars pushing their character altering influence, a certain portion of the black community is quick to accept the blame and absolve the music industry of any participation in the distribution of this crap. In fact, we point fingers at each other and at our children for becoming addicted it. We are constantly asking our children why do you listen to that crap. Funny all those people who think young blacks are responsible for gangsta rap never ask why do you record that crap or how much money do you earn from that crap. I guess it’s just one of those crazy unexplainable coincidences that the record industry gets rich while our children get seduced. Surely the music industry can’t be responsible.
I remember watching a television show about a black boy who was about ten years old. The boy was being stalked by a pedophile. The pedophile seduced the boy with friendship and gave him alcohol. The situation quickly escalated. The pedophile got the boy naked and was taking pictures of him when the boy’s father and police burst into room. The pedophile was arrested and the father went to his son. The boy tried to explain what happened by was too overcome with emotions and the affects of alcohol to make a comprehensive sentence. The man grabbed his son, held him, and gently told the boy it was not his fault. I guess nobody saw that show. If how we respond to musical crack is any indication people in the black community are more likely to point their finger at the boy and say it’s all his fault with all the wrath and fury of Moses casting the unfaithful to hell.
Our children grow up with celebrity role models that are constantly moving to distance themselves from the black community. Black celebrities are constantly trying to minimize their blackness and maximize their otherness. Black celebrities spend a great deal of time endorsing white standards of beauty by buying all kinds of plastic surgeries to keen their nose, reduce the size of their lips, contour their chins, straighten their blond hair and/or bleach their skin. Black celebrities will focus their attention on dating or marrying anything but someone from their own race. Who wants to be a celebrity and be identified with the black community these days? Our black celebrities abandon us to be with white people and we still chase them ready to worship their shadow.
Our black middleclass leave the black lower class and our brothers and sisters in poverty to fend for their self interest in the traditional black neighborhoods. Black people who can will make their own escape to whiter pastures and more ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Black people’s pursuit of life somewhere, anywhere but in the black community depresses the values of homes and property in the urban black neighborhoods and helps increase the value of property elsewhere.
Ironically, the only people who appear to make any attempt to embrace the image of being black are those obviously black celebrities who wrap themselves so thick in gangsta rap culture. And then no one can understand why our impressionable black youths would want to emulate the only people who are wildly financially successful and aren’t ashamed of being perceived as black. It really is no wonder why our children would want to emulate the gangsta rap culture and do their best to embrace gangsta rap values. Our children see so many black adults trying to play by the rules. So many of us are trying to get an education and trying to get jobs only to be told we’re too black or white people aren’t comfortable with such non-white ethnicity in the work environment. So many of our children see us struggle to make ends meet only to see things fall apart at the first round of layoffs from the workplace. Do we really have to wonder why our children would rather hustle on the street instead of trying to live like our example?
Honestly, for all his weaknesses and insecurities a gangsta rapper projects an image of independence and strength to a young mind trying to develop an opinion of themselves and ideas for their future. A gangsta rapper projects the image that he wouldn’t go down like a Shaquanda Cotton, a Genarlow Wilson, or the other children we’ve allowed to fall through the various cracks of the American injustice system. The gangsta rap culture offers our children more hope for material success than the black community can ever offer. Gangsta rappers don’t sit around and point fingers trying to find out why things are the way they are or wait for a consensus from others to do what needs to be done. These ghetto life caricatures seduce our impressionable black children with much more than the collective will of the black community could ever muster.
The promise of the American dream and equal opportunity is so pervasive that many of us have bought into it, internalized it, even though we see the reality of the black community crumbling all around us. The problems of the traditional black community are the direct result of black people not working hard enough to protect the black community’s interests. We have no one to blame but ourselves. I now see the light.