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Jena 6 painful reminder

By Margaret Damghani
Opinions Editor

When I first heard about the ‘Jena 6,’ I couldn’t help but wonder, dumbfounded, “Is this really happening?”
Race relations had been strained in Jena since nooses were hung from a tree on the high school campus about a year ago.
Three students were found to have done it and were suspended for three days.
Three months later, a white student was taunting a group of black students about the nooses. The six black students lost their cool.
The white student was knocked unconscious and got a black eye. He went home from the hospital the same day.
The students were charged originally with second-degree attempted murder.
Mychal Bell was convicted of the murder charge and sentenced to 22 years in prison. The case was appealed and overturned because Bell was tried as an adult.
According to the L.A. Times, a few days before the Jena 6 fight, a group of white students beat up a black student.
One of those students was charged with simple battery – not attempted murder.
This is a key point. It most clearly paints the picture that, regardless of any other facts in the case, the racial disparity in how the youths were treated is hard to question.
Some argue that the Jena 6 have to be punished and were wrong for beating up the white student. Fine, so suspend them. It was a schoolyard fight.
People have repeated the DA’s words that the nooses were a prank and the racial tensions and fighting that ensued were uncalled for.
Hanging nooses is never a prank.
It is a symbol of racial hatred and a time period that we should never want to return to. A message to remind us of just how horrible racism is.
And now, as these students stand trial in a town where they are already seen as second-class citizens, the DA is continuing to send the black community a message.
Finding that student guilty of attempted murder was the DA’s and jury’s way of telling the black community that the white folks can and will retaliate when the black folks get frustrated at the difference in the ways the justice system treats their children.
Think about this stuff seriously.
Events like these can make us pessimistic about the state of race relations and the justice system.
We might think that racism has always been around and that things don’t change.
But the Jena 6 has actually reminded me of how untrue that is. Things have changed. Fifty years ago the actions of this town’s police and DA would have been practically sanctioned by the government.
I wasn’t in Jena. I’ve never met the people involved. I have to base my opinion on news reports and websites.
No matter how you slice it, these black kids were charged more severely than white kids who were guilty of similar offenses.
This is an example of how prejudiced people in power use our justice system to do injustice.
But it is one of many growing pains that our country will go through as an older generation and way of thinking dies.
Our generation must have an appreciation of what our country has grown from and believe that it is heading in the right direction, not the wrong one, which is hard in times like these.
The biggest weapons against prejudice that we have are our own actions, thoughts and hearts.
We need to remember that even the most harmless seeming stereotype is harmful at its root.
Prejudice divides people by characteristics that they have no control over and thus should never be judged by.
Remember that in your daily life you make an impact on the history of our country. You make an impact on the upliftment or the pain of your fellow humans.
It doesn’t matter what race you are or what race the prejudice is directed against. It hurts everything and everyone.
Prejudice prevents our country from being as strong as it can and should be.







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Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2007
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