Monday, September 24, 2007

Acting White: Jena in Review

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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Robin said...

Well put, you've hit the nail on the head!

Kate said...

You've not only hit the nail on the head, you've pounded the sucker all the way in, too. Damned well done.


Eddie G. Griffin said...

Acting White, you probably never had to defend your dignity with your fist. A bloody nose is probably an assault to you. That's why we say, if you are too afraid to defend yourself, you are "acting white".

James C. Collier said...

EGG: With all due respect, I fought my way through school thinking my dignity, rightness and God was all I needed, until a Jesuit pulled me aside and told me my old man better have a good lawyer if I didn't figure out a better way, other than my fist, to fight my battles. Don't presume to know me.

Anonymous said...

A very wise man once said: "There is a time for war and a time for peace"..

And Col. Nathan Jessup said: "Walk softly and carry an armored tank division I always say..." lol

Seriously, I don't know how dangerous Mr. Bell is, and I hope he gets some direction from the concerned folks that are rallying around this cause. However, that is a secondary concern of mine.

The overarching problem is how this got to where it is now. ADULTS not doing the right thing.

1st off, If my children told me about some "White Tree" I'd tell them to let the jerks sit there all day by themselves, why would you want to sit next to a bunch of idiots?

2nd, if my children insisted because of "general principle" to sit there, the DAY Nooses appeared on that tree would be preceeding the EVENING I would have had extra firewood, and there would have been NO tree.

3rd, to the 400 or so Blacks down there, yes you CAN live where you want, but why want to live amongst a community that devalues you so blatantly? I believe we should (when we can) leave racist to the segregation and seperation they so desire. To hell with em.

4th, violence is not the 1st answer, and definately is not how you handle a situation when you know you are out numbered and out gunned. Fact is, Blacks down there know the deck is stacked (at least the parents should) which leads me back to point 3, LEAVE.

5th, kids fight, kids sometimes even jump other kids, some kids fight all the time and have charges like Mr. Bell, some people who do that end up becoming judges and doctors, some end up in jail, it is a bit premature to cast judgements on any of these children, especially since no one here (me included) has met any of them. We have very limeted information to determine these folks future lots in life, Mr. Bell could be a sociopath, and he could just be a mad / angry kid who needs guidance. Either way, 22 years IS excessive, and THAT is a problem that has to be addressed. Locking up a kid for assault and battery or mob action for extended periods of time (of which they generall get out in half, in this case the kid would be a MAN in his late 20's coming out of the system) in MOST cases yeilds you a better (or worse) criminal.

I digress, I could do this all day, there is just so much wrong in this whole circumstance...

Amadeo said...

The most profound thing here is the lack of intervention. That's what allowed this to go so far. Not to mention the second assault was naturally escalated because of th first. Looking at everything around this case, I wonder what constituted assault in the previous charges. For a town that size and Bell being a Juvenille his bail was set at a ridiculous amount. I could imagine charges being excessive in the past as well.

Another Conflict Theorist said...


I agree with you. We need to teach young black men to navigate the world without having to resort to violence. If the Jena 6 case has taught us nothing else, it is that the penalty for us is much more severe than for whites who resort to fisticuffs. The last thing we need is another blatantly bigoted DA to wipe out our futures with the stroke of a pen.

Eddie G. Griffin said...

Be admonished that I teach my children and my students to be non-violent. If possible, be at peace with all men- so says the bible. The conditional: "If possible". Sometimes peace is not possible. The question then becomes: Where do you draw the line before you strike?

If there is going to be trouble, let it come to you, not you go to it. This is what I teach and practice. It is a lesson from being self-disciplined in martial arts: Let your opponent make the first move. Let trouble come to you. In this way, you can see trouble from afar off, and by the time it reaches you, you will know what you are going to do. BUT HOW MANY BLACK MEN GET TO TEACH THEIR SONS SELF-DEFENSIVE LIVING. How can we expect them to react properly when they have never been taught? Sounds like someone is saying: Thou shall not use your instincts.

Anonymous said...

The minute nooses came out my kid would have been out of that school. If the parents don't protect their own children, who will?