Sep 21, 2007

A Symptom of the Disease

Jena, population roughly 3000, isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s historically accurate for the Deep South to exhibit this type of racism; after all, they have been doing it for over 200 years. 12% of the population, or 310 individuals are African American in Jena. Jena is also the site of the infamous Juvenile Correctional Center for Youth that was forced to close its doors in 2000, only two years after opening, due to widespread brutality and racism including the choking of juveniles by guards after the youth met with a lawyer. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the private prison amid complaints that guards paid inmates to fight each other and laughed when teens tried to commit suicide.

What bothers me is the state and federal court systems above the local level will be reviewing all these cases if the Jena D.A. doesn’t get his head out of his ass and reduce the charges and move on. George Bush has stacked the living bejesus out of the federal courts. But the southern ‘gentleman’ that occupies the D.A. office in Jena, Reed Walters, is nothing if not stubborn. He told the black students--I can change your life with the stroke of my pen.

The whole lot of ‘em are uppidity white men. A patriarchy don’t you know? Should we be shocked that an entire city, regardless of size, still practices racism?

No, but we should be outraged. We need to look them straight in the eye and tell them they are horrible people..the court system has to do that as well. We can not change the hearts and minds of those stalwart practitioners of racism..but we can stand in their streets and call them what they are; racist bastards. After all was said and done, a white resident of Jena was quoted as saying to the press;

"We don't have many problems with our blacks."

That this story was publicized in Europe before our own traditional media addressed it is another rub. The European press jumped on this issue 9 months before the U.S. media did.

Yesterday, America gave the white residents of Jena something to think about. Thousands of American’s of all colors descended upon Jena to tell them to their faces what a bunch of racists they are, and that it’s no longer acceptable to judge people by the color of their skin. It’s also not acceptable to load the prisons with individuals of color. That sadly, is another symptom of the disease my dear reader. From a article on the Jena 6:

"There are several issues in this case," says Bob Noel, one of five attorneys who signed on as Bell's new counsel after the trial. "One of the biggest is disproportionate treatment. People may think of a similarly situated kid, maybe middle-class, maybe white, and they think, Oh, let's give him another chance. When he's poor and black, it's not necessarily the case. Another is funding for indigent defense: If there's no money to adequately pay lawyers, to have support staff for them and resources they can use, they're always at a major disadvantage. And the other is the issue of race in America." “Throughout the summer, as the media glare intensified and a muscular team of attorneys assembled on the side of the defendants, Judge J.P. Mauffray and Walters dug in their heels. James Rucker, who sat in on some of Bell's motion hearings during the appeal, was shocked to see the LaSalle Parish brand of justice at work. "You'd watch this judge grill the defense attorney. It felt like he was trying to trick him," Rucker says. "And then he would set up the DA, so that all he had to do was say yes to a question. It was like they were a team."

The sunlight of truth must stay bright in Jena and all other places in our country where brown and black people are trampled on because of the color of their skin. We must force the judicial appeals system to do the job the local DA refused to do, that of fairness and the rule of law imposed equally. Because if we don’t, lead counsel Louis Scott’s word’s might horribly ring true as he recalls the Little Rock 9:

"Immediately after the facts were explained, I can remember thinking, Wow, this is a 1957 case that jumped into 2007," he says. "This is my second reaction, that the tree symbolized America. And the question was, Can all Americans share the shade of the system that we operate under? But the next thing that happened was the most frightening thing of all: They cut the tree down. I was hoping that didn't symbolize the attitude of America, that before we allow some Americans to share the same rights, the same privileges and the same responsibilities, we'll just get rid of the whole thing. It seemed to me that that was the message to be conveyed." If Americans allowed this to occur, Scott believes, "that would be the first step toward unraveling the civil rights gains of the last fifty years."

District Attorney Reed Walters is a bigot and Judge J.P. Mauffray is one as well..or at the very least he enables Walters to practice his bigotry in a court of law. We need to address the disparity of blacks and browns in prisons here in the U.S. To use numbers from a DoJ report in 2003;

About 10.4% of the entire African-American male population in the United States aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated, by far the largest racial or ethnic group—by comparison, 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in that same age group were incarcerated. According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute in 2002, the number of black men in prison has grown to five times the rate it was twenty years ago. Today, more African-American men are in jail than in college. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college. In 1980, there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college.

We must keep up the pressure for justice in these cases by keeping these issues at the forefront. We can’t afford not to. The disease of racism must be wiped out if we are to succeed as a nation.

Crossposted at Bring it On!, The PeaceTrain and Sirens Chronicles

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