At Highbrid Nation, sandwiched between a post about Madonna and a post about Diddy (P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Puff nee Sean) Combs is a serious note about the submergence of the Jena Six from the media consciousness. Not that the Madonna and Diddy posts aren’t serious, but they reflect a different facet of what’s on our minds.
It’s been more than two weeks since I wrote about Jena, Louisiana and the disparity in the administration of justice that seems to exist there. While I don’t want to reduce those kids to data points, in a certain way that’s just what they are. At the end of each year we line up all the people who behaved like horse’s asses and inventory just what their behavior cost them. That data is tabulated and publsihed by the Department of Justice and we all get a whack at the piÃ±ata and hope some truth falls out.
If you’re white, under eighteen and behaved like a horse’s ass this year, you probably received discipline at school, discipline from your parent or guardian, and if your behavior was particularly egregious you probably had a conversation with local law enforcement, maybe got charged as a juvenile, maybe even did some time at juvey and met some kids who will influence you for the rest of your life one way or another.
In Jena, Louisiana if you’re black and behaved like a horse’s ass in the hallway that day when young Mister Charlie got his white ass kicked, then you ended up as a statistic that helps to prove the point that between white and black people in America, there is a disparity in the administration of justice. People of color are charged with more severe crimes than white people given similar circumstances. People of color are more often found guilty, receive harsher sentences, and carry a heavier burden upon release in terms of their ability to find jobs and succeed economically. But what you didn’t get was a swift administration of fair and impartial discipline that a kid deserves. Rather, you got a headline role in a media event.
Highbrid Nation quotes Laura Curtis who claimed yesterday that the documents she and Joe Carter posted diluted “the preferred narrative.” I agree. I think for most people the choice was binary, either to see the black kids as some kind of gangstas or as innocent victims in a racist community. Shelley Powers was quick to point out that this was not the choice we should be making. Shelley said,
I’m not fond of Al Sharpton who is leading much of the protest, and not condoning what the kids did: no matter how angry, six against one is wrong (if there were six, that hasn’t necessarily been proved). But this isn’t a case where these black kids decided to jump this white kid for nothing. Even the town’s most fervent supports acknowledge the white kid taunted the black kids. This was a hall fight triggered by anger that got out of control, and should have been prosecuted this way.
A week or so later when Laura and Joe released the public records, it seemed likely that the incident was your basic schoolyard hassle, five on two, quickly broken up, the participants and observers dispersed. Laura excerpts this from the public record…
â€œMe and JH and Justin and KR were walking out of the gym. Me and JH were in front of them. It was a lot of black people standing in front of the gym and me and JH walked out by them. When I heard one of them black boys say that thereâ€™s that white mother f***er that was running his mouth. Then I turned around and I seen somebody hit him but I donâ€™t know who hit him. Then he fell in between the concrete barrier by the gym door. And I seen Carwin Jones and Robert Bailey hitting him and kicking him. It was so many black boys standing around him I really couldnâ€™t tell who else was hitting him. All I knew was that all of us â€¦â€¦ before they hurt him worse. I know I got Carwin Jones and Robert off because I knocked them two off and I landed on them two. And when them two ran off, another black boy name RB stepped across him and stepped on his face and he smarted off something. And I pushed him away and then some boy grabbed me and then all the coaches were there. And we went to the office.â€
A bunch of kids had been behaving liking horse’s asses. There was push, pull, slap, shove, kick,and tussle in the hall that day. And the DA came up with adult felony charges in some misbegotten attempt to administer law and restore order.
The black kids were turned into a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre for civil rights activists, and the white kids were made to look like junior crackers because the DA went off the deep end. What should have happened is that they all, white and black kids alike, should have been picking up litter beside the road for six months, wearing those embarrassing day-glo orange vests and working side by side as they put their hassles behind them.
That’s my “preferred narrative.” It hasn’t changed. I’d still like to see an assessment of the DA’s behavior in this case.