Jim Crow ‘Justice’, Contemporary Racism(s) and ‘Discovering’ a Travesty

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

UPDATE 09.14: A state appellate court has thrown out the battery conviction of one of the Jena 6, 16 year old Mychal Bell. Bell had been charged as an adult and could have faced up to 15 years in prison. The DA still has the option to refile juvenile charges. More to come.

UPDATE 09.15: More from Garlin II and AP

So (white) people have finally ‘discovered’ the Jena Six. Congrats, have a (chocolate) cookie, etc. I guess now that Amy Goodman is on the case, we can hopefully expect the A-listers to finally put some serious bandwidth into the matter (to be fair, at least Amy was covering this back in, er, July, as were BoingBoing and Kottke).

Better late than never, I suppose.

But I don’t want to turn this subject into round 69 (my lucky number) of ‘where are the bloggers of colour’? (answer: right fucking here, like we’ve always been.)

Like The Angry Black Woman, I have held back on writing about this subject now, because articulating my thoughts beyond blind rage has been something of a trial (bitter pun intended). Part of me feels loathe to finally do so [at Comments From Left Field], not because of my fellow bloggers; rather, I am wary of the sort of push-back that may result from posting at a site where unapologetic racists (or those in heavy denial) almost certainly lurk in the background. But fuck it – sometimes you gotta bust the barn doors wide open and let the Palominos run wild, goddamn the fucking unavoidable consequences and potential assault by virtual Night Riders.

Fuck all y’all and the horses, etc.

I’m not going to go through the specifics; many others (eg, Carmen D. of All About Race, along with others listed in the links above and many, many more) have busted their butts doing the heavy lifting already. They are the ones who deserve the attention.

What I find most revealing in this incident is the ongoing post-slavery hangover the US (and, to a different extent, Canada) is still recovering from. We tend to (willfully) forget that segregation ended little more than 40 years ago, in some areas less than that. Other relatively recent events such as Jasper and Katrina have forced us to open our eyes, violently ripped open thinly healed scars (not to mention nor minimize the sting from relative paper cuts perpetuated by the likes of Michael Richards and Don Imus).

We’. By that I mean ‘white people’.

‘We’ (as in ‘people of colour’) don’t share the luxury, the privilege, the soft bigotry of colour blindness; as Paul Kivel notes, “[u]ltimately, this disclaimer prevents us from taking responsibility for challenging racism because we believe that people who see color are the problem.”

To me, there is little at the moment that better illustrates the lie of colour blindness and the divisiveness still wrought by racial animosity than the ordeal the Jena Six and their families have gone through. The continued cycle of hatred, mistrust, and violence that has brought us to this point in history began generations ago; the fact that the circle remains unbroken to this day should serve as a stark warning to all of us, regardless of colour, creed, or political allegiance. Sure, things are better than they were in the days following slavery: Jim Crow, segregation, protest marches and water cannons; but contemporary racisms (plural) belie the notion that the here and now has achieved some mythical ideal.

If we–we–are truly ‘all in this together’, than we need to stop trying to pretend that racism is an antiquated problem, that incremental, sideways change equals a panacea. Acknowledging there is still a problem–and, consequently, initiating a dialogue–is only the first step, but it’s a vital one if momentum is to build. Because otherwise there will be more Jenas, more scars, and more paper cuts; we will keep feigning surprise at having to repeatedly attempt to untie the Gordian knot of race.

September 20th, the day Mychal Bell is scheduled to be sentenced, over 2000 members and supporters of Color of Change will be headed to Jena, LA to protest in solidarity with Mychal. If I could join them in more than spirit, I would. Until then, I will lend moral (and financial) support by purchasing a t-shirt.

I suggest y’all do the same, or, if possible, make the journey in person (if the spirit–the forward momentum of first steps–moves you).

Related: via Kevin @ Slant Truth, more ways to get involved:

Friends of Justice

Jena Six Petition from Color of Change

Jena Six Petition

Recommend this post to Progressive Bloggers

4 thoughts on “Jim Crow ‘Justice’, Contemporary Racism(s) and ‘Discovering’ a Travesty

  1. I read “USA Today” just about every day and I’ve never heard of this incident until now.

    And here I’ve sort of had the impression that racism was in its last throes….


  2. Hey MattBastard, thanks for the acknowledgement. One of the scariest aspects of this entire saga is that if not for bloggers of color and international media, this story would have been ignored in America. Those young men would have had no hope of justice. Initially, the NAACP ignored requests to help and black churches refused to offer space for the parents of these boys to meet and organize. Shameful.
    Thanks for spreading the word!


  3. Carmen: Was my pleasure – thank you for putting so much time and effort into this.

    I might be able to get more publicity @ Comments From Left Field, maybe some sidebar space there for buttons linking directly to the t-shirt sales page. I’ll talk to Mike, the admin.

    If you have any premade buttons let me know, or if not I can make a few up. I’ll also email you, just to make sure you get this message.


  4. Timmy: Yeah, exactly – as Carmen said, even the civil rights establishment has been behind the curve on this .

    (Love the bitter one liner – you’re right, it’s Cheney logic at its finest.)


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