Monday, September 24, 2007
Much has been said about the events of Jena, LA in the last few weeks. Some are heralding it as a victory, while others are mourning it as a loss. Not surprising is how race is the dividing line between viewpoints of the proceedings. This distance, and it is great, is the road we must still travel.
On one hand, I was heartened that young Mr. Bell was jettisoned from adult court and charges, where his future looked very uninviting. The prospects that the prosecutor in the case will revise the charges against the other defendants, as well, is indeed a victory, however small, of the people and the judicial system over those who are suppose to impartially administer it.
On the other hand, it saddens me to know that the white boys involved received a free pass for their despicable and illegal behaviors, and now we march to insure that the blacks are also NOT held accountable. Since when has it become progress that justice is served when neither side has to face the music for their actions? However they are tried, these boys need to stand before some form of a justice system prepared to re-instate responsibility in all of them, white and black, fairly and equally.
The fact that the best we can do is let dangerous black boys go free to inevitably meet up with dangerous, and already-free, white boys is ludicrous. Mychal Bell, once a promising football star, is up for his third assault charge in two years. A six-on-one fight where the lone combatant was knocked unconscious is not a schoolyard fight, it is an assault. For those who think the severity of their actions was overstated, any coroner can attest that the unconscious state of a victim is the most common symptom preceding actual death.
As far as hangman’s nooses go, they fit in that category of displays like swastikas, confederate flags, and other symbols of violence or hate – they are not worth surrendering our first amendment rights, so we must live with them and their discomfort. Also, there is no demeaning name, in any language, which justifies the lethal force that knocks someone out. I fear for Mr. Bell and his next combatant, as it is only a matter of time before his current trajectory lands him in a prison cell.
Dr. King was right fifty or so years ago when he said to ignore the haters and march on. I believe he would say the same today. But we forget that King was hawkish on the behaviors precipitating change. Mr Bell and his classmates stand at the front of that change line with anti-King clenched fists, and the future looks fairly bleak.
James C. Collier
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