Once again, social injustice in America is taking second place to sensational journalism in the U.S., while overseas media seem to have a sharper p.o.v. on our own problems. With the exception of a few socially conscious filmmakers, Democracy Now, and CNN which has actually aired the opinions of a diverse group of citizens, most of the media has lost sight of the real issue of the case – a fair and balanced application of the laws of the land. Based on the facts presented, as well as the circumstances, it is quite obvious that the prosecution failed to make a valid case, and the legal system in Jena, LA and La Salle Parish is indicative of an abuse of power. And while I loathe to agree with a prosecutor who may indeed be a reactionary racist, I have to agree with Reed Walters’ own words:
“This case has been portrayed by the news media as being about race. The fact that it takes place in a small Southern town lends itself to that portrayal. But this case is not and never has been about race. It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions. That is what it’s about.”
While I respect the privacy of individual citizens in the community of Jena, Louisiana, who feel ridiculed by the press and protesters, I thought it was interesting that a majority of citizens – black and white – actually agree with the protesters regarding civil rights and the erroneous prosecution of these six young men, aged 15-17. According to some off the record comments and witnesses, the prosecutor may hold a skewered view of justice based on his personal beliefs or prejudices. The child that was beaten up wasn’t the only child beaten up that year, and based on his on the record statement, I’m surprised he hasn’t also attempted to prosecute the children who beat up the other child. Some would say it is because this other child happened to be born under the census category “black”. But according to Walters, his prosecution of the 6 young people was “about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions. “. Hmmm… So both victims of beatings deserve to have justice? But what the citizens of Jena, LA and what the world is witnessing is a tale of two cases – one tried and one untried – by a prosecutor who believes that 6 people under the age of 18, should be prosecuted as adults, and serve a minimum of 15 years for assaulting another person under the age of 18, while another group of people (of an undetermined number) under the age of 18 who assaulted another person should walk free. Is this because justice really isn’t colorblind? What is the color of the justice?
I seriously considered turning this blog page “black and green”, in solidarity with the protest happening in Jena, LA, and in my own backyard of Austin, TX. Mainly because I want to alert some of my friends and acquaintances that the whole story hasn’t really been told about the small town, and there are many public officials in towns like Jena that still don’t seem to grasp the concept that all citizens of this country are living under the same law. Jena D.A. Reed Walters and the judge presiding over the case appear to not have understood this concept in law school, and the all-white jury may have their own lessons to learn about the end of Jim Crow justice. However, the decision of the Parish court was reversed, and the Jena 6 will most likely be tried in juvenile court. I hope the other young person beaten, who is among the Jena 6, will get to see justice too.
Instead of being cynical about democratic law in practice, I will include the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to show my support for the protesters from the NAACP and other organizations across this country who envision a great democratic nation for all people:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This was written by Dr. King in a letter from a Birmingham jail.