by Jennifer Bowman
It seems that every time I try to explain to a weary northern Yankee how nice the south really is and how much better sweet tea is than unsweetened - something happens to make the south seem to encompass an ignorant bunch of selfish racists.
The situation in Jena, Louisiana literally left me in shock, and in tears. I've been known to get emotional over anything, but this one really got to me for some reason. Let's go over the facts of the case, for those who are unfamiliar.
Jena High School apparently had some sort of informal standards of segregation. When a few students went to sit under a so-called "white tree" in 2006, (though school officials claim it was used by all races) they found two nooses hanging from the tree the next day. In original stories, it was said that there were three nooses, but the Associated Press has discovered that it was, indeed, only two. Though, I would argue that the number doesn't make the horrors of lynching threats any less significant.
The boys responsible for the nooses received two weeks of in-school suspension. (However, again, original reports claim it was only three days.) Tensions rose in the community of Jena. In December of 2006, a black student was beaten up at a white party. The next day, the student who had been beaten up ran into one of the students who beat him. A confrontation broke out which prompted a white student to pull a gun on the black student, who wrestled the gun away from him and took it to the police. The white student was not charged with anything for pulling a gun, but the black student was charged with stealing a weapon.
That Monday, a white student named Justin Barker was attacked by a group of six black students after he began racially taunting them. Even though Barker was well enough to attend a school function the same day, the six students were charged with attempted SECOND DEGREE MURDER and conspiracy to commit murder. They were all immediately expelled from school. Well, look at that. Attempted murder for beating someone up? My sister and I should both be in jail right now, huh?
The white District Attorney, Reed Walters, published a statement in an open letter to the boys, saying, "When you are convicted, I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law."
Since then, because of protesting and media speculation on the case, all of the students' convictions have been overturned except one, Mychal Bell's, who had a prior criminal record.
I guess it's not so much that this is a glaring example of racism that still exists. It's the fact that I consistently have to defend my southern nature because of things like this. I do not have the mental capacity to attempt to understand why racism can still be such an issue or how it can possibly still exist in today's world. The south has an uncanny way of ignoring everything around it and being able to hold certain values despite the world "progressing" into a medley of impersonal behavior and political correctness. Sometimes these values are good, and sometimes they are painfully wrong in the eyes of God, common sense, and anything else that the south claims to hold dear.
I'm not really sure what to say now. Being a southerner, I realize that nothing I say is going to change the mind of a fellow southerner. It's just not the way it works around here. But I believe the negative media coverage is going to eventually spread into the deep south and embarrass the living daylights out of them. After all, everyone who lives here knows that we're certainly not all racists. I loathe being portrayed that way, especially since it holds no truth or merit whatsoever.
The only words I guess I might have for would-be or might-be racists are this: You will be judged as you have judged. Hatred is still a crime before the eyes of God.