Thursday, September 20, 2007

the jena 6

Jena 6 Protesters Rally at Lousiana Town

I have to read the newspaper daily for one of my classes. The point really is to get us into the habit of knowing what's going on in our city, state, country, and the world and to be able to have intelligent conversations about current events with other people. There was a big fat article in the newspaper the other day about how college graduates don't know anything about fairly recent national events which irritated me because instead of implying we should do something about it, the article said that we're all in good company. I don't want to be in ignorant/naive company.


This story really got my attention today and I was glad we spent a good amount of time talking about it in class. About a year ago, six black high schoolers made sure they had school permission to choose to hang out under a particular tree. The school officials said they could hang out wherever they wanted to. Before that, a group of white high school boys had been hanging out there before and after class. The day after the black students congregrated under the tree, they came back to school to see three nooses hanging from the branches. I'm not sure on the timeline, but a few months later the six black students were arraigned for battery because one of the white students had been beaten. The student who was beaten went to a school function later that night and to another party the next night, so although it was serious, it wasn't life threatening enough to keep him from his social life. Yes, I'm biased here.

Today, 50,000 people descended on the town of Jena (population 3,000) to march in protest of the final student still being in jail. The other five had been released on bail. Some of the charges have been dropped or lowered in their severity for all six students.

I grew up in Nothern California and then moved to Southern California for college. I didn't grow up in this kind of environment. I remember being horrified when I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he died doing. I thought it was ridiculous that such a movement was needed. The Bay Area is a pretty diverse population and my parents were really good about raising my sister and I with open minds and an appreciativeness for diversity.

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showed me how little has been actually done as far as civil rights go. Racism, discrimination, and the like are alive and well. I'm glad that 50,000 people descended on a small town to protest this fact and to help some real people. The black boys weren't in the right and should probably be punished, but to be tried as adults after some white boys hung nooses where they had been hanging out the day before seems ridiculous.

My teacher asked us today what we think we'll have to face from Iraq in about fifteen or twenty years. The reason racism is so alive and well after all the progress we've made in the law books is because although it's illegal to act on the hatred, parents still pass their mindsets on to their children. So what will the little children in Iraq grow up thinking about Americans? Will their parents share the vision that has been touted in the media about it being Operation Freedom or will they remember all of the bombs and social structures being destroyed? Will they think it was better when Saddam Hussein was in power or when the Americans swooped in and things changed so radically?

It's a lot to think about. And it makes me want to take about ten more classes that have something, anything to do with political science and history.

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