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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Jena 6 revisited: passions cool, injustices multiply

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
Several people in the last thread and via (thoughtful) email pointed me in the direction of more information regarding the Jena 6, which have served to substantially cool my earlier anger about the issue. The most relevant item is this opinion piece by sports columnist Jason Whitlock (whom as everyone noted, irrelevantly, is also African-American). What is notable is that Whitlock takes a very Cosby-esque turn of analysis:

The fact that we waited to love Mychal Bell until after he’d thrown away a Division I football scholarship and nine months of his life is just as heinous as the grossly excessive attempted-murder charges that originally landed him in jail.

Reed Walters, the Jena district attorney, is being accused of racism because he didn’t show Bell compassion when the teenager was brought before the court for the third time on assault charges in a two-year span.

Where was our compassion long before Bell got into this kind of trouble?
Here is another undeniable, statistical fact: The best way for a black (or white) father to ensure that his son doesn’t fall victim to a racist prosecutor is by participating in his son’s life on a daily basis.

That fact needed to be shared Thursday in Jena. The constant preaching of that message would short-circuit more potential "Jena Six" cases than attributing random acts of six-on-one violence to three-month-old nooses.

And I am in no way excusing the nooses. The responsible kids should’ve been expelled. A few years after I’d graduated, a similar incident happened at my high school involving our best football player, a future NFL tight end. He was expelled.

The Jena school board foolishly overruled its principal and suspended the kids for three days.

But the kids responsible for Barker’s beating deserve to be punished. The prosecutor needed to be challenged on his excessive charges. And we as black folks need to question ourselves about why too many of us can only get energized to help our young people once they’re in harm’s way.

That's a subtle, but critical point that I think gets lost in the larger drama of racial tension.

As for the original context and accusation of racism, it's worth noting that Whitlock concurs that while the six assailants should be punished, the charges against Bell were grossly excessive. But the bottom line remains: The best way for a black (or white) father to ensure that his son doesn’t fall victim to a racist prosecutor is by participating in his son’s life on a daily basis.



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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.