Another perspective which will not be appreciated for it’s value, for it does not conform with the “Negrology” of the “Gurus of Groupthink”. At the risk of being labeled a “House Negro” like Whitlock, I will ask that we as a community: Stop, Listen, Free Your Mind and Think! There may be a “kernel” of truth here which can be utilized…. planted to bear good fruit.
Lessons from Jena, La. By JASON WHITLOCK
Now we love Mychal Bell, the star of the 2006 Jena (La.) High School football team, the teenage boy who has sat in jail since December for his role in a six-on-one beatdown of a fellow student.
Thursday, thousands of us, proud African-Americans, expressed our devotion to and desire to see justice for the “Jena Six,” the half-dozen black students who knocked unconscious, kicked and stomped a white classmate. Jesse Jackson compared Thursday’s rallies in Jena to the protests and marches that used to take place in cities like Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. Al Sharpton claimed Thursday’s peaceful demonstrations were to highlight racial inequities in the criminal justice system. Jesse and Al, as they’re prone to do, served a kernel of truth stacked on a mountain of lies.
There are undeniable racial and economic inequities in our criminal justice system, and from afar the “Jena Six” rallies certainly looked and felt like the righteous protests of the 1960s. But the reality is Thursday’s protests are just another sign that we remain deeply locked in denial about the path we need to travel today for true American liberation, equality and power in the new millennium. The fact that we waited to love Mychal Bell until after he’d thrown away a Division I football scholarship and nine months of his life is just as heinous as the grossly excessive attempted-murder charges that originally landed him in jail. Reed Walters, the Jena district attorney, is being accused of racism because he didn’t show Bell compassion when the teenager was brought before the court for the third time on assault charges in a two-year span. Where was our compassion long before Bell got into this kind of trouble?
That’s the question that needed to be asked in Jena and across the country on Thursday. But it wasn’t asked because everyone has been lied to about what really transpired in the small southern town. There was no “schoolyard fight” as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree. Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack. A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the “Jena Six” case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker’s assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the “Jena Six” in reaction to Walters’ extreme charges of attempted murder.
Much has been written about Bell’s trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell’s public defender was black. It’s almost never mentioned that Bell’s absentee father returned from Dallas and re-entered his son’s life only after Bell faced attempted-murder charges. At a bond hearing in August, Bell’s father and a parade of local ministers promised a judge that they would supervise Bell if he was released from prison. Where were the promises and supervision before any of this?
It’s rarely mentioned that Bell was already on probation for assault when he was accused of participating in Barker’s attack. And it’s never mentioned that white people in the “racist” town of Jena provided Bell support and protected his football career long before Jesse, Al, Bell’s father and all the others took a sincere interest in Mychal Bell. You won’t hear about any of that because it doesn’t fit the picture we want to paint of Jena, this case, America and ourselves.
We don’t practice preventive medicine. Mychal Bell needed us long before he was cuffed and jailed. Here is another undeniable, statistical fact: The best way for a black (or white) father to ensure that his son doesn’t fall victim to a racist prosecutor is by participating in his son’s life on a daily basis. That fact needed to be shared Thursday in Jena. The constant preaching of that message would short-circuit more potential “Jena Six” cases than attributing random acts of six-on-one violence to three-month-old nooses. And I am in no way excusing the nooses. The responsible kids should’ve been expelled.
A few years after I’d graduated, a similar incident happened at my high school involving our best football player, a future NFL tight end. He was expelled. The Jena school board foolishly overruled its principal and suspended the kids for three days. But the kids responsible for Barker’s beating deserve to be punished. The prosecutor needed to be challenged on his excessive charges. And we as black folks need to question ourselves about why too many of us can only get energized to help our young people once they’re in harm’s way.
I’ve been the spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City for six years. Getting black men to volunteer to mentor for just two hours a week to the more than 100 black boys on a waiting list is a yearly crisis. It’s a nationwide crisis for the organization. In Kansas City, we’re lucky if we get 20 black Big Brothers a year.
You don’t want to see any more “Jena Six” cases? Love Mychal Bell before he violently breaks the law.