Louisiana pastor Eddie Thompson feels that the media and activists have gotten the story wrong about the Jena Six. In this article, he attempts to correct some of the misconceptions and erroneous statements made about the case.
The actions of the three white students who hung the nooses demonstrate prejudice and bigotry. However, they were not just given “two days suspension” as reported by national news agencies. After first being expelled, then upon appeal, being allowed to re-enter the school system, they were sent to an alternative school, off-campus, for an extended period of time. They underwent investigations by Federal and Sate authorities. They were given psychological evaluations. Even when they were eventually allowed back on campus they were not allowed to be a part of the general population for weeks.
The story of the Jena Six reveals only a small part of the discrimination in the American justice system.
The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, released a state-by-state study of prison populations that identified where blacks endured the highest rates of incarceration. The top four states were South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Vermont; the top ten included Utah, Montana, and Colorado — not places renowned for their African-American subcultures. In the United States today, driving while black — or shoplifting while black, or taking illegal drugs, or hitting schoolmates — often carries the greatest risk of incarceration, in comparison to the risk faced by whites, in states where people of color are rare, including a few states that are liberal, prosperous, and not a little self-satisfied. Ex-slave states that are relatively poor and have large African-American populations, such as Louisiana, display less racial disparity.
The case of the Jena 6 is finally starting to get national attention. Buzzfeed has a nice collection of links to the coverage.
“In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a ‘whites only’ shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn’t sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn’t care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.” Read more about the Jena 6 at While Seated and BBC News.