In Jena, Racism is the Real Crime
The following is a letter I wrote to Judge J.P. Mauffray, the judge in the case of the Jena Six. I wrote the letter on behalf of Bay Area United Against War, a very small Bay Area antiwar group I am affiliated with here in San Francisco.
Judge J.P. Mauffray
P.O. Box 1890
Jena, Louisiana 71342
RE: The Jena Six
Dear Judge Mauffray,
I am appalled to learn of the conviction of 16-year-old Jena High School football star Mychal Bell and the arrest of five other young Black men who are awaiting their day in court for alleged attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder charges evolving from a school fight. These young men, Mychal Bell, 16; Robert Bailey, 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis, 17; and Jesse Beard, 15, who have come to be known as the “Jena 6”, have the support of thousands of people around the country who want to see them free and back in school.
Clearly, two different standards are in place in Jenaone standard for white students who go free even though they did, indeed, make a death threat against Black studentsthe hanging of nooses from a tree that only white students are allowed to sit underand another set of rules for those who defended themselves against these threats. The nooses were hung after Black students dared to sit in the shade of that “white only” tree!
If the court is sincerely interested in justice, it will drop the charges against all of these six students, reinstate them back into school and insist that the school teach the white students how wrong they were and still are for their racist attitudes and violent threats! It is the duty of the schools to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A hanging noose or burning cross is just like a punch in the face or worse. So says the Supreme Court! Further, it is an act of vigilantism and has no place in a “democracy”.
The criminal here is white racism, not a few young men involved in a fistfight!
I am a 62-year-old white woman who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Fistfights among teenagersas you certainly must know yourselfare a rite of passage. Please don’t tell me you have never gotten into one. Even I picked a few fights with a few girls outside of school for no good reason. (We soon, in fact, became fast friends.) Children are not just smaller sized adults. They are children and go through this. The fistfight is normal and expected behavior that adults can use to educate children about the negative effect of the use of violence to solve disputes. That is what adults are supposed to do.
Hanging nooses in a tree because you hate Black people is not normal at all! It is a deep sickness that our schools and courts are responsible for unless they educate and act against it. This means you must overturn the conviction of Mychal Bell and drop the cases against Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and Jesse Beard.
It also means you must take responsibility to educate white teachers, administrators, students and their families against racism and order them to refrain from their racist behavior from here on outand make sure it is carried out!
You are supposed to defend the students who want to share the shade of a leafy green tree not persecute themthat is the real crime that has been committed here!
Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War