Tuesday, July 31, 2007
On July 30, an all-white jury in Jena, Louisiana found black high school student Mychal Bell, guilty of aggravated second degree assault and conspiracy, related to injuries to a white student. The assault was the culmination of events following black student desire to sit under a heretofore ‘whites-only’ shade-tree at their school.
Upon review of the facts, as we know them (and this is not easy) it appears that the entire town, from school leaders, to the students, to the district attorney and including law enforcement, have lost their collective ethnic minds – or probably never had them. Unfortunately, the Jena Six boys are destined to pay the most significant price for the town’s resulting cognitive and behavioral meltdown, which began with three hangman’s nooses.
To cut to the chase, once the townsfolk hostilities entered the arena where people were grabbing their guns and getting knocked unconscious, someone should have realized that charges would eventually follow, and be serious. It may very well be racism that had this game of ‘musical chairs’ stop on the lives of the black boys, but no one should have been surprised – certainly not the black parents or the boys themselves. Why sacrifice your kid to remind us that the world is not fair?
Now America may, once again, be ‘surprised’ and embarrassed that racism is still alive and well. Some of us may indeed double our efforts, locked arm-in-arm with our favorite Reverend, to bury racism next to the N-word. But the truth remains. Ignorance is all that is required for people to square-off. And there is a lot of ignorance in this country about how we arrived at our present calamity.
To add salt to the wound, it seems that young Bell’s court-appointed attorney put up no real defense of the lad – certainly grounds for appeal. I guess the NAACP was too busy planning the next symbolic funeral instead of trying to save these kid's real futures.
I can only hope for a measure of divine intervention in Jena that somehow recovers the opportunity these people could have, if only their brains worked properly. However, it seems that I am probably asking too much.
James C. Collier
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