Several years ago, the town of Jena was a sleepy little town where Blacks and Whites peacefully co-existed, even if race relations weren’t the very best. Then, as if an evil sign of some kind was dropped on the town, race relations went all the way down, and Jena became a town that is now somewhat reminiscent of those old Mississippi towns that existed in the Jim Crow era of the 1950s and 1960s.
Now small-town Jena, where Blacks make up about 20 percent of the population, has gained national and federal attention for the way it has handled a student situation. Six Jena students, all Blacks, have been arrested and charged, with huge bails for felonies which include aggravated battery, attempted second-degree murder, and conspiracy to commit second- degree murder. All because of a school fight.
The Jena 6, as the young Blacks are called, and their parents and Black supporters are claiming the worst kind of racism. Even though some White students have been involved in the altercations, not a single White student has been charged or arrested.
Some White students did, however, get suspended for three days for hanging three hangman’s nooses under a tree where Blacks had sat the previous day. That’s three days of suspension for what clearly amounts to a federal hate crime.
Meanwhile, the nation has taken notice of the goings-on in Jena. The national Black press has made the incidents at Jena front page news. The Black community has been mobilizing for the last few months.
The Nation of Islam has shown more than a passing interest and the state NAACP has intervened. Further, the Black people of Jena are planning a major protest on the steps of the Jena courthouse on the day when one of the Jena 6 is sentenced for his involvement in the case.
Jena has set the matter of freedom, justice and equality way back. It is unfortunate in this day and time that such a travesty of justice is allowed to prevail.
It puts a real ugly face on the state of Louisiana, and it adds to the hopelessness of African-American people in this small town who are just trying to get along. Shame on Jena.