‘Jena is America’

Gary Younge has an excellent column in the current issue of The Nation about the case of the Jena 6. After describing the series of abhorrent racial incidents leading up to charging six black teenagers for attempted second-degree murder, he concludes:

These incidents have turned Jena into a national symbol of racial injustice. As such it is both a potent emblem and a convenient whipping boy. Potent because it shines a spotlight on how race and class conspire to deny black people equality before the law. According to the Justice Department, blacks are almost three times as likely as whites to have their cars searched when they are pulled over and more than twice as likely to be arrested. They are more than five times as likely as whites to be sent to jail and are sentenced to 20 percent longer jail time. This would not be a problem for the likes of Kobe Bryant, but in Jena’s “quarters” high-powered legal teams are hard to come by.

Convenient because it allows the rest of the nation to dismiss the incidents as the work of Southern redneck backwoodsmen without addressing the systemic national failures it showcases. According to the Sentencing Project, the ten states with the highest discrepancy between black and white incarceration rates include Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York and none from the South. What took place in Jena is not aberrant; it’s consistent. The details are a local disgrace. The broader themes are a national scandal. Jim Crow Jr. travels well–unencumbered by historical baggage.

Read it all here.


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