Monday, September 24, 2007

The Jena Six: This Tangled Web We've Weaved

I'm not much for reblogging, but the mainstream media has done a crap job of putting forth the full facts about the current goings-on in Jena, Louisiana, and this gentlewoman of the left has done a conscientious job of trying to suss it all out for us.

Look, this is the sort of Jim Crow town where the white barbershop discourages black customers because the white regulars don't want their hair cut using the same tools. True story, according to Newsweek.

There are no good guys here: the Jena Six kicked the pus out of some white boy with their Adidas (not jackboots). But they were charged with attempted murder even though said Caucasian attended a school function that very night.

And I'm not an advocate of "hate crimes" legislation, but leading up to this, the new black kid in Jena sat himself one day under the tree where the white kids usually hung out. The next day, three nooses dangled from the tree.

Now, it's largely unknown by American Caucasoids, but as a result of the thousands of lynchings in the Bad Old Days, especially in the bad Old South, the symbolism of the noose drives black folk more nuts than even a burning cross. Let us not forget Clarence Thomas's dissent in the Virginia cross-burning case of Virginia v. Black, where the majority allowed it under "freedom of speech." Thomas saw it differently, that the symbol was “intended to cause fear and terrorize a population.”

The kids who hung the nooses received a slap on the wrist---high spirits, a prank---and it was this that led to the escalation of racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana.

Now maybe some stupid kids somewhere could spraypaint a swastika on a synagogue as a relatively brainless and harmless prank because they don't fully understand what that means, but it defies the imagination that kids in a town where they don't cut black people's hair in a white barbershop are equally ignorant of the meaning of the noose. It just doesn't figure.

Now, the GOP has been MIA on this one, and I think they (we) are missing our own Sister Souljah moment in this. The facts are complicated, but something surely stinks in Jena that cannot just be explained away. The GOP---the Party of Lincoln---is now popularly known, and not unfairly, as the party of racism, because it took the Dixiecrats in, the 1960s Democrats who fought tooth and nail against integration and civil rights.

Now mebbe if the GOP stood up against the stink in Jena, some of its noose-hanging voters might stay home in 2008. Perhaps it might cost the next election. But this is a Wilberforce moment, and a missed opportunity to stand up for the principle of human dignity, from which all the rest of our principles flow.

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Editor's Note: TVD will be on leave for the next few weeks, recording the album he's been threatening to inflict on the world for quite some time now. In the meantime, his co-contributors will continue to pick up his considerable slack.

13 comments:

Evanston2 said...

The GOP does not need a "Sister Souljah moment," particularly this one.

When we ask Hillary to denounce MoveOn.org and its Petraeus/Betray Us ad, this is due to the fact that MoveOn is a major backer of the national Democratic party.

None of the cast of unsavory characters in the Jena controversy have a significant relationship to the national GOP. To trot down to Louisiana and denounce the situation would be to draw yourself into it. Keep clear, do not prematurely denounce anyone (a la Nifong and the Duke 88) until the judicial process is completed.

Above all, do not believe for a second that you will ever get any positive press whatsoever from the professional bigots or MSM.

David S. Bloch said...

This really seems like a local issue. Is attempted muder an overcharge? Yes, probably. But there's no real doubt that the "Jena Six" did indeed inflict a beating.

I've always thought the "West Memphis Three" got a horribly raw deal, but from my very limited reading on the subject I don't see that the "Jena Six" are in the same category.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's not necessary to comment on the particulars of the criminal cases for Republicans to show that they have a clue. Which they obviously don't, and that's too bad, because their obliviousness to the persistence of racism in the US leaves the field open for the Sharptons and Jacksons.

Evanston2 said...

TVD, if "It's not necessary to comment on the particulars of the criminal cases" then exactly what should Republicans say? Please give an example.

I believe that there is no way you can out-demagogue "the Sharptons and Jacksons" on this. When they're willing to say that Obama is "acting white" in regard to Jena, how nice do you think they'll be to white Republicans? Further, for a national Republican to get involved would only serve to lend attention to the Sharptons and Jacksons. You wouldn't get a single additional vote, just provide more fodder for the racist professionals.

So what would I recommend? At best you have a local Louisiana guy like Jindal deal with it because he will need to, anyway, as governor.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr E: Some Republican should simply acknowledge he knows what a provocation the nooses were. Decry racial intimidation. Quote Thomas in Virginia v. Black. Acknowledge statistics that show black folk getting the worst of charges and sentencing. Promise to learn the truth. Actually look for the truth.

Call for calm. Acknowledge America's racist past. Acknowledge America's racial progress. Act like you have a clue instead of the usual "no excuse for kicking the white boy" stuff. Everybody already knows that.

It's actually a creative moment, and the GOP has had damn few of them in the race area since Reconstruction, and zero since inducting the Dixiecrats.

(And don't think black people haven't noticed.)

John H. Watson said...

Couldn't agree with TVD more. Federalism is a legal/constitutional principle, not a political one. The perception about the Republican party and race is in part unfair and unearned (and maintained by the media etc.), and in part completely fair and deserved.

What makes this so jarring is how the Democrats good reputation is rarely challenged. It's rarely challenged b/c, well, Republicans rarely challenge it, and here would be a good chance to do so, albeit in a tactful way that respects the judicial process.

To refrain out of fear that it will make Sharpton and Jackson look good is a false fear. The more those fellows open their mouths these days, the less credible among they become.

Evanston2 said...

TVD, great outline for the GOP! Still, it's easier said than done. Because the professional racists will demand that the GOP say and do more. Heated situations like Jena tend to turn into a bidding war where the bigger promises win out. For example, Sharpton called today for a Congressional investigation. What does the GOP do? Normally one lets the judicial process (including appeals) work and trust in the adversarial process to provide justice. Demanding an investigation at this stage is a tacit (or perhaps explicit?) admission that our justice system is not just. Gee, how much more growth in the racism industry can we spur by going down that path? How much more publicity will Congressional hearings provide to this incident heading into 2008? The smart play is to keep it local because you're NOT going to get the black vote anyways. That is the reality.

John, your statement that "To refrain out of fear that it will make Sharpton and Jackson look good is a false fear" is a really, really nice assertion. It has little basis in reality. Sharpton and Jackson routinely mess up but their comments/actions are (dare I say?) whitewashed by the MSM. These 2 gents are the MSM's Anointed Ones. Despite their comments ("Hymietown" anyone?) or conduct ("Reverend" Jackson paying for his mistress from non-profit funds) they are still A-list guests on talkshows, etc. and always will be. Honestly, we're better off with them because they are tired old faces that bore a lot of people, even their backers. Kick them out (due to loss of credibility) and we get fresh, telegenic demagoguery instead.

My take: let Jindal use TVD's talking points but national GOP should avoid this. Play to your strengths at a place and time of your own choosing. Or put another way, the aphorism "Never wrestle a pig in mud. You both get dirty -- but the pig enjoys it") applies.

mjwatson said...

My assertion is not backed up by rock-solid social science data, though I think there is some reality there to be seen.

American blacks are less and less likely to see Sharpton and Jackson as representing them. I don't have a survey at hand for that; my evidence is somewhat anecdotal, that the blacks I speak with are rather embarrassed by Jackson and Sharpton. I've also noticed a number of black sports columnists reject them as well (Jemele Hill of ESPN.com and Jason Whitlock of Kansas City). The nice thing is this is an answerable question; there are polls out there to be found (just not found by me at this very moment). I suspect Jackson would still garner some support, but not nearly what he had in the late 80s. And I'd be that TD Jakes, Eugene Rivers, and Colin Powell would also do well. But I could be wrong.

That Sharpton and Jackson in particular need the MSM to prop them up bolsters my point that they do not have much credibility, unless you equate "credibility" with whoever the MSM decides is useful. I don't see why Republicans need to let the MSM go unchallenged in who it designates as credible. We might as well think Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell truly represent evangelicals.

That was more my point, and I suspect is does have some basis in reality, though I'm glad to know that even as a mere assertion it's not just nice but "really, really nice."

John H. Watson said...

Sorry, that was me.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Tom's post prompted some thoughts of my own, not quite so pragmatic as some of you fellows, which I have posted at Gathering Goat Eggs. If whoever is in charge of this joint in Tom's absence thinks they should be reposted here, I'm game.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Should have also mentioned: Jeralyn Merritt drives me crazy when she does onscreen commentary on Fox News, but I must really commend her both for this carefully researched and argued post, and for the entire tone of her blog. It is rare to find a media figure so meticulously cataloguing what is known and by what means, and highlighting what is not known or in dispute.

James F. Elliott said...

Bravo, Tom. Good post.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I thought your Goat's Egg post was great, Kathy, and instructive for those who think that what black folk still call "The Struggle" ended with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

We as a nation may have come out of our moral coma, but the effects linger.

[TVD still out---just stopped in from an unattended computer.]

[And you're ruining my cred, James. Thx.]