Friday, June 29, 2007

Black high school students in Louisiana threatened with lynching

From the Big Con courtesy of Eschaton:

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....

The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena's black population didn't take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could "end their life with a stroke of the pen."

More here.

Some years ago when I first saw American History X, I remember thinking "cool movie, but that kind of racism exists now only in isolated pockets; what we need is a movie about institutional racism, which is clearly the much bigger problem." I stand beside that first reaction, but I'm starting to wonder if those isolated pockets are starting to expand. In the wake of Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic tirade, Michael Richards' angry hurling of the N-word in performance, and idiot Imus' shameless use of racist imagery, incidents like this one in Jena neatly fit themselves into an overall cultural context that is, at best, depressing. I'm getting the sense these days that many white Americans are sick of dealing with the still existing and near limitless problems caused by the hundreds of years that the US supported slavery and Jim Crow, and want to bury their heads in the sand, pretending that everything is just dandy.

This much is true: American racism never went away, and it appears to be getting worse.