Saturday, September 22, 2007

Daily Rant: The Jena Six

I was checking out the top 20 “Most Viewed News Stories” on Yahoo! this a.m., as I do several times a day. There were at least two stories on Britney Spears, one on Salma Hayek, one on Marcia Clark (of O.J. Simpson debacle fame), one on George Clooney. Clint Eastwood. Jessica Alba and Dane Cook. There was something about a rare hummingbird in Wisconsin, and a Dear Abby column.

Hard news made a weak showing, with an item about the Delaware State shooting, and something about Iran’s threat to the West. But what happened to the story that everyone was talking about last week – the “Jena Six”? How quickly we forget.

For me, this was the most important story of the week. It seems on this Saturday morning, however, more folks reading news online are interested in Britney’s latest flub, or Salma’s ability to procreate.

What about the young man languishing in jail (after a judge denied his release on Friday)? Oh, but I forgot. The demonstration is over; CNN has gone home. We’ve moved on.

This is an issue, however, that bears dwelling on. I know, I hear the groans – race issues are a sore point in this country, everyone’s weary, worn out. Tough. Because as much as things change, well, you know how it goes. Things stay the same.

No way do I condone violence, and justice must be served for the young man who received a terrible beating. But you want to know who’s not being held accountable?

The school. Because how in the world are nooses hanging from a tree a “prank”?

We refuse, as a society, a bureaucracy, a leaders, to make the hard decisions that we need to make. Like holding some dumb kids who took a “prank” into highly-charged racist territory accountable in the first place. What they did is not okay. It’s not a “joke.” Suspending them is great, but not bothering to address the racially-motivated aspect of the situation was a mistake. And it’s no wonder that the situation escalated into physical violence – that’s often the unfortunate result of pent-up frustration, the chip on the shoulder that’s helped along by authority figures who don’t do the right thing to begin with.

Most of all, it’s painful to see our children fighting these battles we should have long ago managed to put to rest. And until we choose to recognize the undercurrents that lead us repeatedly down this painful path, we’ll continue to read these stories in the news. Or, if the "Most Viewed" story list on Yahoo! is any indication, not even that.
photo by Everett Taasevigen, from



Kelly O said...

TOTALLY! The day of the march, I turned on the news first thing in the morning and all I saw was the O.J. Simpson story. Which, I suppose, is also interesting as a comment on the status of race relations in the country, but more in a "let me know how that turns out" kind of way. I know it's hard to sustain outrage and I love celebrity gossip as much as the next girl, but come on! Where's our country's righteous anger for the Jena 6? We have plenty of it for Britney's parenting skills and so-and-so's lack of underwear. But this? ACTUALLY MATTER.

Okay, sorry to get so apoplectic here.....

Christine said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this incident. I spent the last nine days cut off from TV and the internet, so I didn't hear about this event until last night, when I was out with some of my teacher buddies.

I was stunned when they told me the kids didn't even know what the nooses signified. They were sticking their heads through them,goofing around. So did some adults place the ropes on the trees? You have to ask.

And what about the principal's decision to chop down the tree? One of my friends wondered why he didn't decide to plant twelve more trees instead. One shade tree!

The whole event astounds me, and I totally agree with what you say about how the media moves on, and we sweep the tough social issues under the carpet.