It seems we’ve come a long way, from abolition, to the civil rights movement, to the implementation of affirmative action.
Our own parents and grandparents fought, protested, boycotted and marched so that minorities, especially African Americans, could drink from the same water fountains, receive service from the same restaurants and earn an education in the same schools as the white majority. People have been beaten, lynched and brutally murdered in order for America to become the place we know now.
Today, a person of any race can go almost anywhere in the United States without experiencing blatant racism, but no matter how far we come as a society, something always reminds us that there are still people out there who have the mentality of a 19th century Confederate slave owner.
The initial charges of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy brought against six black students from Jena, La., who allegedly beat up a white student who verbally abused them with racial slurs, has been receiving a lot of press lately.
The students’ families, along with communities across the country, are outraged, as this seems to be an act of institutional racism.
This all began when a group of black students sat under the “whites only” tree at Jena High School. The next day, nooses hung from the tree, a gesture of racism that was reprimanded. The Los Angeles Times reported that the three white teens who were suspected of hanging the nooses were suspended from school, but weren’t prosecuted.
Following these events, black students claim to have gone through a week of intimidation by white students, including an incident where, as shown on www.wikipedia.com, “a white student brandished a gun at a convenience store after a verbal exchange. Black students allegedly wrestled away the gun and were then held in custody and charged with theft while no charges were made against the white student.”
And finally, when a white student called a group of black students the N-word, and six black students began to fight him, the black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder.
These six students were involved in a school fight, and they should suffer the consequences, but the punishment should fit the crime. And if one group of students is going to be punished for inappropriate actions, it’s only fair that any other student or group of students who involves themselves in such behavior should also be appropriately disciplined.
After much debate, www.NAACP.org reports, “On the morning of the trial of one of the students, the district attorney reduced the charges from attempted second-degree murder to second-degree aggravated battery and conspiracy. Aggravated battery in Louisiana law demands the attack be with a dangerous weapon. The prosecutor was allowed to argue to the jury that the tennis shoes worn by (the student) could be considered a dangerous weapon.”
Though the charges were eventually lessened, this chain of events should’ve never occurred in the first place, from the original charge of attempted second-degree murder to the hanging of the nooses on the tree.
The thought of moving backwards and erasing everything that our ancestors fought for is frightening. Ironically, the calming thing is the outrage this has caused across the nation. People are joining together to protest the unfair treatment of the six teenagers.
Perhaps we have come so far as a country that Americans won’t stand for regression, that even in times like these, when it seems that Jim Crow is creeping back into the government, citizens can still come together and take a stand for what they believe.
Even though the events that led to today’s demonstrations of unrelenting support are tragic, comfort can be found in the uniting of people across the country to demand justice.
On Thursday, people drove, flew, rode buses and did whatever it took to get to Jena, La. and participated in the march to free the Jena 6.
Protesters in Southern California gathered in Leimert Park, and students from Crenshaw and Locke high schools also demonstrated against the injustices perpetrated against the Jena 6.
What we’re experiencing today is somewhat reminiscent of the numerous sit-ins, walkouts and protests of the civil rights movement. Many people who participated in the movement, who are now our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, have expressed a fear for today’s youth, fearing that they don’t understand the struggles that were undergone to bring America where it is.
These recent activities prove that this generation has learned from the examples and stories of their elders. They will fight for justice, and they don’t intend to let their rights be taken away.
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