Friday, July 20, 2007


That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!

I've been listening to The Who's rock opera "Tommy" the past couple days. I had always heard a few of the better known songs but had never listened to the whole album all the way through. And if you've never heard The Who's "Pinball Wizard", turn on a classic rock radio station and don't move until you've heard it. Or check out Elton John singing it for the rock opera. I like Pete (Townsend) singing it a little better but Elton does a damn fine job.

We're planning a trip down to ATL to visit Ikea and get some affordable Swedish crap.

I fertilized the plants and watered them well yesterday. They were getting a little ragged so hopefully they'll come back a bit. My zucchini is not happy.

I'm white. Most of my friends are white. I'm married to someone "yellow". So my best friend isn't white. All my friends aren't white. I was a minority growing up in the DR. I know what a great advantage it is to be a white male in this day and age. I would love to believe that racism is dead but that just isn't true. I don't see it here in South Carolina everyday but it pops up every once in a while. I'm not really sure we can ever get rid of racism but I'm trying my best. No racial slurs, giving people the benefit of the doubt, trying to look past stereotypes (although some are spot on) are just a few things I've been trying for a few years now.

Then you read something in the news like this and it feels like the Civil Rights Movement never happened. Like I still live in Alabama during the 40s and 50s. And it's stories like these that make it so hard for me to identify myself as a "Southerner".

I first read about it thanks to Adrianne who runs the Black Women in Europe blog. It's a story of 6 black youths who are being royally screwed by the system. First I'll give you a brief synopsis and then I'll give you some links so you can go read for yourself. I wish I was making this up.

In the Deep South, in Jena, Lousiana, which is near the LA/Mississippi border, there was a tree in front of the high school.

Most of the students at the school are white and it was an unwritten rule that only white kids could sit under this shade tree and eat lunch. A black student named Kenneth Purvis thought this wasn't right so he asked school administrators about it. They said sit wherever you like. So presumably him and some friends did. Some other individuals didn't take kindly to them sitting under their white shade tree, so one morning before school they strung up 3 nooses, in school colors no less, from the shade tree. The principal wanted to expel the kids who did this but the superintendent labeled this act as a "harmless prank" and gave the kids who put them up 3 days of in-school suspension, hoping this would be the end.

Um, if I want to make a joke, I tend to stay away from imagery full of history and emotional feelings. I wouldn't make light of the Holocaust, nor would I make fun of 300 years of slavery. Nooses are never funny. Unless they're around a cute rabbit. But here in the Deep South, nooses were commonly used by hate mongers, like the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), to kill people they didn't like and didn't want in their town, mostly blacks but also immigrants. Thankfully we don't have too many lynchings anymore but it's still taught in our schools and our parents and grandparents lived through those times and remember them vividly. I'm actually going to go ahead and equate hanging nooses from a tree to scare some black kids to forcing Jews onto a train and telling them we're going to a concentration camp. Neither are what I would consider a "harmless prank".

School administrators hope this clears everything up. Nope. Not by a long shot. The Black community in Jena is outraged that this is being swept under the table. Fights start to break out at schools and around the area. Whites beating up blacks, pulling loaded shotguns on 3 black teenagers in a convenience store, so the school brought in the DA, District Attorney Blane Williams, to help ease the tension. He only made it worse. At the school assembly out of "tradition", white students it on one side of the auditorium and black students sit on the other side. In case anyone is wondering, that is the definition of segregation which was outlawed by the federal government over 40 years ago.

So DA Blane Williams gets up in front of the school but focuses his attention on the black side of the auditorium. The DA reportedly threatened the protesting black students and told them to stop making a fuss over this "innocent prank". He then went on to say "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I can take away your lives with the stroke of my pen." Nice Blane. Way to defuse tension. Did you learn that from David Duke? How to deal with those uppity n-words? So stoking the fire instead of putting it out, the violence escalated.
On the night of Thursday November 30, 2006, a still-unsolved fire burned down the main academic building of Jena High School.

On Friday night, December 1, a black student who showed up at a white party was beaten by whites. On Saturday, December 2, a young white man pulled out a shotgun in a confrontation with young black men at the Gotta Go convenience store outside Jena before the men wrestled it away from him. The black men who took the shotgun away were later arrested; no charges were filed against the white man.

On Monday, December 4, at Jena High, a white student - who allegedly had been making racial taunts, including calling African-American students "niggers" while supporting the students who hung the nooses and who beat up the black student at the off-campus party - was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. The white victim was taken to the hospital treated and released. He attended a social function that evening.

Six black Jena students were arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. All six were expelled from school.

I know. I still wish I was making this up. It gets better.
Most shocking of all, when the pool of potential jurors was summoned, fifty people appeared - every single one white.

The LaSalle Parish clerk defended the all white group to the Alexandria Louisiana Town Talk newspaper saying that the jury pool was selected by computer. "The venire [panel of prospective jurors] is color-blind. The idea is for the list to truly reflect the racial makeup of the community, but the system does not take race into factor." Officials said they had summoned 150 people, but these were the only people who showed up.

The all-white jury which was finally chosen included two people friendly with the district attorney, a relative of one of the witnesses and several others who were friends of prosecution witnesses.

Bell's parents, Melissa Bell and Marcus Jones, were not even allowed to attend the trial despite their objections, because they were listed as potential witnesses. The white victim, though a witness, was allowed to stay in the courtroom. The parents, who had been widely quoted in the media as critics of the process, were also told they could no longer speak to the media as long as the trial was in session. Marcus Jones had told the media, "It's all about those nooses" and declared the charges racially motivated.

Other supporters who planned a demonstration in support of Bell were ordered by the court not to do go near the courthouse or anywhere the judge would see them.

LaSalle Parish is only 12% black, so there probably should have been at least one non-white on the jury right? And then on top of that the public defender appointed to the first kid on trial, Mychal Bell, was a complete hack. Here's a quote from him: "I don't believe race is an issue in this trial. I think I have a fair and impartial jury"

Um, where did you get your law degree from again?

Mychal is due to be sentenced a week from next Tuesday on July 31st. If he gets the maximum sentence he will be in jail until he's almost 40. Hopefully this story can get enough attention to get them some fair and balanced justice instead of whatever you call what they're getting now.

All quotes taken from Bill Quigley's article from
Adrianne and Black Women in Europe's post
Abbey Brown's article from the Lousiana Gannett News
Alan Bean and the Friends of Justice blog
Daily Kos Story from June 28 and from July 3.

I don't know what action to take, so the least I can do is pass on the information and maybe one of you will be able to do something. Although Alan said that the "usual suspects" had been contacted which I think is at least the ACLU and Jesse Jackson. Maybe Al Sharpton too.

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