Jena and the preferred narrative

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 piñata 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…

“Me 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 there’s that white mother f***er that was running his mouth. Then I turned around and I seen somebody hit him but I don’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 couldn’t tell who else was hitting him. All I knew was that all of us …… 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.”

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 célèbre 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.

Posted in Disparities, Journalism, Web Publishing
7 comments on “Jena and the preferred narrative
  1. Shelley says:

    Your punishment is about the best I’ve seen proposed by anyone involved in all of this.

    I think the thing that disturbed me the most was the town librarian saying that she didn’t know there was any negative connotations associated with hanging nooses in the deep south. Like Laura Curtis said, either this really did demonstrate racism, or deep stupidity.

    The town is not getting it’s act together. I don’t think this will be the last incident.

  2. Shelley says:

    PS, the House Judiciary committee is holding hearings on Jena 6 and they will be televised. The 16 I think it is, but you can check the Judiciary committee’s schedule.

  3. Yes, well, if the races cannot link arm-in-arm in peace and harmony, leg-to-leg in jumpers and sanitation duty is a start of some kind

    oh, why start, i’m so far behind in my Diallo Darfur blogging as it is.

    (p.s. can you nix the italics?)

  4. Good suggestion on the italics, Charles. I’ve added it to the list.

  5. Scruggs says:

    Frank, I’ve got some stray thoughts on this. First is that a six person beatdown that leaves the victim able to attend an evening social function is not a beatdown. It is a humiliating punishment, organized as such, with punches and kicks pulled in order to maximize the humiliation. There’s no aspect of life-threatening fear to it. It’s a ritual and in some cases entirely appropriate, especiallly for passive aggressives who like to hang nooses and count on the state to enforce their fatuous dominance games. Under the circumstances, what recourse actually existed for the kids? I might scold them on their technique. No vests and no community service. They’ve got sixty years of enforced humility ahead of them and the heart condition that comes with that.

    The vest and the garbage detail is perfect for the DA, however. He needs a generous, heaping portion of ridicule and needs to learn how to give back to the Iron Nanny State that nurtured him. In his vest, with his sack and stick, he has a chance at becoming a role model for the passive aggressive noose children. In fact, they could join him and swap tales of aggrieved victimhood before the social structure resumes its guarantee of a life lived in undeserved privilege.

  6. Evorgleb says:

    Great post! and i agree 100% The things that lead to the Jena 6 incident happen all the time in every school across the US. It’s just this time the wrong person grabbed hold of the situation and we somehow got an attempted murder case.

  7. Skee Stylus says:

    As the author of the aforementioned Highbrid Nation post I appreciate the recognition and trackback. Why was my commentary sandwiched between Diddy and Madonna? It’s another simple irony of life. I have strong feelings about what happened in Jena but my feelings are of importance to only a select few and in the grand scheme of things. Puffy and The Material Girl are still more appealing to my audience and public at large.

    I like your prescribed sentencing and in fact is leagues more appropriate than what prosecution has come up with. Unfortunately ^^Shelley^^ I believe your assessment that “The town is not getting it’s act together.” is a bit short sided. This isn’t about Jena, LA. There is a Jena in all 50 states and in every town in America. Prejudice and bias can happen anywhere. Racism is always a smoldering fire waiting to blaze. I hope we’re all learning.

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