|Tina Jones (left), Carwin Jones and his father, John Jenkins outside the La Salle Parish Courthouse|
(Bill Haber, AP)
Mad Professah has been hearing about the case of racial injustices going on in Jena, Louisiana for awhile now but was very pleased to hear an excellent summary of the story in a piece titled "Beating Charges Split La. Town Along Racial Lines"on the Monday July 30th edition of All Things Considered by Wade Goodwyn.
Six black students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. But District Attorney Reed Walters increased the charges to attempted second-degree murder. That provoked a storm of black outrage.This story deserves to get much wider exposure, although the blogosphere is starting to raise awareness of the ongoing injustice. Today Tuesday July 31st there is a rally planned with the presentation of 43,000 signatures on a petition to the local District Attorney calling for "equal justice." Equal justice? For black people in America? That's a nice idea but why start now?
"Jena has always been a racist town," says Bailey's mother, Caseptla Bailey. "We've understood that….It has been that way since I've lived here."
But school board member Billy Fowler disagrees.
As far as racial problems, our community is no different than any other community," Fowler says.
Fowler is one of the few leaders with the school administration or local law enforcement willing to talk to the media. The principal, the school superintendent and the district attorney all declined repeated calls for comment.
Fowler says he is appalled at reports by outside media outlets that he claims portray Jena as a racist community. But he and many other white leaders agree that the charges are unfair.
"I think it's safe to say some punishment has not been passed out fairly and evenly," Fowler says. "I think probably blacks may have gotten a little tougher discipline through the years.
"Our town is not a bunch of bigots. They're Christian, law-abiding citizens that wouldn't mistreat anybody."
But the black students and their families feel mistreated. The first to go to court was Mychal Bell, the team's star running and defensive back. Bell's court-appointed lawyer refused to mount any defense at all, instead resting his case immediately after two days of government presentation. An all-white jury found Bell guilty.
A talented athlete, Bell had a real shot at a Division I football scholarship. He now faces up to 22 years in prison. The other five black students await trial on attempted murder charges.