Thursday, September 20, 2007
I just read this article in the Chicago Tribune. While much of it is about the changing face civil rights protests in light of the power of the Internet for organizing, which is fascinating, and which prompted success in some cases before the rallies even came to town, I was shocked by the story of the town that is the impetus for the article.

In a town where whites voted overwhelmingly for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when he ran for Louisiana governor in 1991, one local barber shop still refuses to cut black men's hair.
And the trouble in Jena (pronounced Jee-na) started a year ago with a resonant symbol from the Jim Crow past: After black students asked administrators at the local high school for permission to sit beneath a shade tree traditionally used only by whites, white students hung three nooses from the tree. The incident outraged black students and their parents, but was dismissed by the school superintendent as a youthful prank; he punished the white students with three-day suspensions.
A series of fights between whites and blacks ensued, both on and off the campus. Whites implicated in the fights were charged with misdemeanors or not at all, while the blacks were charged with felonies.
In November, someone burned down the central wing of the high school—an arson for which no one has been arrested.
And then in early December, Bell and five other black students at the high school were charged after a white student was jumped and beaten while he lay unconscious.
Although the white student was treated and released at a local hospital, Walters initially charged the six black youths with attempted murder—charges that he later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery after black bloggers and civil rights leaders from across the country raised complaints that the charges were excessive.

I don't know enough about the case as it stands now (though it is clear that there are major flaws in the way justice is dolled out there) but the racism, racial division and race-based violence (in both directions) is astounding. It's things like this that you like to believe don't exist anymore. And then you find out you're wrong. Read the whole story.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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