Racism is alive and well in Louisiana

” At the end of last year, six black teenagers jumped a white teen from their high school in Jena, La. While the white student went to the hospital, he wasn’t severely hurt. He even attended a school function that same night. The six black teens, now known as the Jena Six, were charged with attempted murder.”

At the end of last year, six black teenagers jumped a white teen from their high school in Jena, La.

While the white student went to the hospital, he wasn’t severely hurt. He even attended a school function that same night.

The six black teens, now known as the Jena Six, were charged with attempted murder. Though they range in age from 15 to 17, five of them were tried as adults.

That’s not the beginning of the story, though.

The white tree

At the start of last school year, a black freshman asked the school vice principal if he could sit under the white tree, a tree where it was understood among students that black teens were not allowed to sit.

He was told to sit where he wanted – and he did.

The next day, there were three nooses, in school colors, hanging from the tree.

After figuring out who was responsible, the school suspended three white students for three days.

A few months later, someone tried to burn down the school.

A white man pulled a loaded shotgun on three black youth, who wrestled the gun from him and ran away.

A black student was beat up at a party, and his head was split open with an empty beer bottle. The white student responsible was faced with a simple battery charge.

Yet after the Jena Six beat up a white student, they were immediately kicked out of school and charged with attempted murder. In June 2007, an all-white jury convicted one of the six students of aggravated battery.

That student had already spent nine months in prison – his bail was posted so high his father could not get him out.

The cycle of racism

Thankfully, on Sept. 14, a state appeals court threw out the aggravated battery conviction.

But the events in Louisiana bring up troubling questions about racism in the United States.

It’s easy for us, sitting in Ohio, to say that all is well in the United States, that racism ended decades ago. But this is a rude awakening. If you thought racism was a thing of the past, it’s time to wake up.

Did time freeze in Jena, allowing this overt racism to exist for the last fifty years?

Jena is a 1960 town in a 2007 world. It’s like going 47 years in the past, the Rev. Raymond Brown, a New Orleans civil rights activist, said. The message being sent here is: ‘Don’t you touch any white people, because if you do, you will get locked up for life.’

We have to wonder why there was a white tree at the high school in the first place. Jena’s students are still racially divided, and that’s probably a result of the way they were raised.

Hopefully, the pattern doesn’t continue – people raised with racist ideals pass them down to their children who grow up to pass them down and so on and so forth.

Does it ever end?

Racism in the court system

Then, there is the fact that the black students were charged much more harshly and more severely than were the white students.

The superintendent overruled the principal’s decision to expel the three white students responsible for hanging the nooses. They were suspended for three days instead. The black students were kicked out of school for beating up a white student.

The white student who hit a black student with a beer bottle was charged with simple battery. The black students were charged with attempted murder.

The student they beat up suffered no life-threatening injuries.

By the way, none of the Six have previous criminal records. In fact, some of them are star athletes and have been entertaining scholarship offers from several universities.

The court system fails

If the judicial system can’t be free of racism, what hope do we have? All people are supposed to be equal under the law, and when people are discriminated against in society, the court should make it right.

When racial tensions fire up in a small Louisiana town and white men are pointing shotguns at black students in gas station parking lots, the court should be there to restore justice.

And it has failed miserably at that.

Now, after months of protests and media attention, the charges against the Six have been lowered.

Five of the six students, who were originally charged as adults, will be tried in juvenile court.

Hopefully, the court system will restore justice.

And hopefully, Jena, La. will move on out of the 1960s.