Friday, January 25, 2008

What Really Happened In Jena, LA

Well, it certainly is not what the mainstream media told you, as Charlotte Allen discusses in the Weekly Standard. It all started with a noose-hanging by three white, probably historically illiterate students, progressed to a six on one beating and then a national civil rights cause bolstered by prominent civil rights "leaders" like Jesse Jackson and others. What it turned out to be was something far different.
In early December the case of the "Jena Six"--the six African-American high school students in Louisiana accused of viciously beating a white classmate in 2006--collapsed dramatically with a felony guilty plea by one of the defendants. As something that was going to trigger "America's next great civil rights movement" (to quote National Public Radio) and grassroots protests against the "new Jim Crow" and the systematic discrimination against blacks in the criminal justice system, this was quite a letdown. The Jena Six were supposed to be the new Scottsboro Boys, the nine black youths railroaded to death sentences by all-white juries in 1930s Alabama on charges of raping two white women.


No one who subsequently investigated the noose incident--and that included sheriff's deputies for LaSalle Parish and the U.S. attorney for Central Louisiana, -Donald Washington, who is black himself and led a behind-the-scenes FBI probe of the Jena nooses within days of their discovery--found any connection between the nooses and the attack on Barker in December. Nonetheless, the nooses--and the supposedly unduly lenient punishment meted out to the boys who hung them--became the causal linchpin of the twin demands of the Jena Six cause: that the noose-hangers be criminally prosecuted for hate crimes and that all criminal charges be dismissed against the six defendants in the attack on Barker. Catrina Wallace, sister of a Jena Six member, summed up the reasoning at a rally in front of the Jena courthouse on July 31: "For them to say it was a prank left those kids to do only one thing: defend themselves." This interpretation gained wide currency among Jena Six sympathizers. One of them, rocker John Cougar Mellencamp, released a recording in early October with the chorus, "Jena, take your nooses down." The video accompanying the song includes footage of 1960s civil rights marches, police beatings from that era, and sheet-draped Ku Klux Klanners.

So it was that the attack on Barker--which, viewed from any other angle, was simply a brutal and potentially lethal six-against-one pile-on at a high school--became a civil rights cause célèbre. The Jena Six affair generated more than seven momonths' worth of national news headlines and scolding op-eds; became a pet cause of the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the rapper Mos Def, the Congressional Black Caucus, and dozens of black bloggers, commentators, and talk-show hosts (one notable exception was the black contrarian sportswriter Jason Whitlock); provoked a September 20 march through Jena by some 20,000 people (setting a record for a post-1960s civil rights demonstration); and inspired a BBC documentary titled Race Hate in Louisiana; and catapulted Jena into the dubious standing of "the most racist town" in America. Jackson called the charges against the Jena Six a "miscarriage of justice," while Sharpton labeled Bell "a fine young man" and vowed to keep returning to Jena until "the charges are dropped on these young men and until Mychal walks out of that jail." A strange logical inversion had occurred in which Barker became the aggressor in the December 4 incident and his six alleged assailants the victims.
That the media didn't investigate a story is not surprising and since it matched with a "racist" meme that is all but guaranteed to get headlines and ratings, it was carried on with nary a thought to the flimsy circumstances behind the "reasons" for the beating or the pea-brained idiocy behind the nooses.

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