I’m usually skeptical about efforts at mass protest, but I can tell you this: One minor success, at least, of Thursday’s mobilization around the Jena 6 is that I’ve now, personally, gone through the following cycle:
- Thursday: confused about all these signs and buttons in my neighborhood about the “Jena 6.”
- Friday: reading some stories about the case and pondering the matter.
- Saturday: trying to decide what I should say in my blog post on the matter.
So there you have it, consciousness raised. Unfortunately, I do think there’s a lot of truth to what McMegan says here, namely that the best resolution of this situation would be to go back in time and have the school board and the district attorney not handle the early days of the situation much more responsibly. Obviously, though, that’s not an option.
What you have now is a situation where you have some black kids getting unduly harsh punishments, and some white kids who’ve already gotten unduly lenient ones. The problem, again, is that you can’t retrospectively tighten up the white kids’ punishments, so you’ll wind up with disproportionate outcomes unless you end up with an outcome on the Jena 6 case that’s probably too lenient on the narrow merits of that particular question. It seems to me, however, that this is what justice demands given the absence of a practical alternative. If you want to read more on this, obviously this blog isn’t the place to go since I’m way behind the curve myself, but Color of Change is full of information and action ideas.
Closer to my area of expertise, there’s been a lot of commentary in the political media this campaign season about the rise of Barack Obama and the possible decline of race-based grievance politics. I think there’s something to that, but as you see with the mobilization around the Jena 6, you’re going to keep having race-oriented grievance politics in the African-American community as long as all these grievances keep happening. There’s a reason that style of political leadership has long been compelling to black people, it’s appeal has waned somewhat as the objective level of grievance has waned, but the persistence of racial inequities in the justice system is very well known and yet white people (myself included) rarely actually say or do anything about it.