Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Today is the day.

The day they march on Jena.

Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the righteous hordes of justifiably pissed off Black folks from all points North, East, West and South.

But for what?

Early observations by the mainstream media sound simultaneously invigorating and frustrating.

A 21st Century Civil Rights Movement? Say word.

I s'pose Jena is as good a catalyst as any. Yet, I wonder how many folks are able to grasp what's really at the heart of the most recent and egregious example of "Southern Justice"?

It's not merely about the noose. Or even whether the kids should be tried as jueveniles or adults.

The trouble in Jena, LA stems from the gross disparities in how differently pigmented kids are charged and punished for similar crimes.

Yes, there was a tree. And, yes, there was a noose. There was also, as we now know, a group of Black kids who beat up a White kid and were consequently charged with attempted murder. That happened in December of last year. Well after the tables had been reversed on at least one occasion. Peep this excerpt from the Washington Post story linked to above:

"White partygoers attacked a black student in one clash but were not charged, according to police statements. The next day, the same black student and some friends spotted one of his attackers and, they said, chased him. The students told police that the white student pulled an unloaded shotgun but they wrested it away. The student who pulled the weapon was not charged. But police arrested the students who took it on theft charges."

If the Black attackers had been treated in the same fashion as the White attackers, there wouldn't be a post on this blog about the biggest little town in Louisiana. Hell, there wouldn't even be a Jena 6.

(I will not even address how asinine it is to charge one kid with theft of a firearm while the kid who drew the firearm goes uncharged.)

Yet, after reading through some of the coverage and hearing people talk about the cause, I worry that this point is being lost.

I hope that someone will refocus the conversation. That there will actually be a conversation instead of the shoutfests that traditionally ensue when sexy soundbytes are left alone to tell a story.

I hope that the kids in Jena get a fair shake. All the kids in Jena.

And I hope that the righteous hordes are celebrated more for their critical than for their mass.

Lord knows the prize is still waiting to be realized.

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