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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Disparity in justice system rears

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its ugly head again


It’s been in the Recorder as well as other media outlets throughout the country, but the shock value of the incident surrounding the Jena Six hasn’t seemed to diminish; and rightfully so.

It all started around this time last year when Black Jena High School students decided to sit under a shady tree that some of their white counterparts typically dominated. Reports indicate that the white students felt the tree was solely for their use and became angry. The following morning there were three nooses hanging from the branches of the tree. The strategically placed ropes were eerie reminders of lynching that our ancestors endured years ago when racism and segregation ran rampant in the South.

Apparently, decades later, we’re still at that place in society.

As a result of their actions, the white boys who hung the nooses were given three days of in-school suspension, when education leaders deemed their actions as “nothing more than adolescent pranks.”

That distasteful behavior led to increased tension and aggravation between Blacks and whites in the rural Louisiana area and resulted in a plethora of fights.

One such incident involved Robert Bailey, a Black student who wrestled a gun away from a white student during an altercation. Bailey was charged with theft of a firearm and disturbing the peace, while the white student escaped prosecution.

The following Monday another white student, Justin Barker boasted about how Bailey was beaten up. At which time, Barker was allegedly beaten up by Black students Curwin Jones, Mychal Bell, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis and Bailey as well as an unnamed juvenile.

Each of the six students were charged with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit a crime, which carries sentences up to 80 years in prison.

On Tuesday charges against Jones and Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. The same reduction was previously applied to Bell who was tried and found guilty. He could be sentenced to 22 ½ years at his hearing on Sept. 20.

Bailey, Purvis and the unidentified juvenile are currently awaiting trial and still face attempted murder charges.

There’s obvious discrimination in this case and in a town of 3,000 with only 300 residents being Black; it comes as no surprise. As a matter of fact, the District Attorney Reed Walters was quoted as saying to the Black students, “I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With a stroke of my pen, I can make your lives disappear.”

The case of the Jena Six has captured national attention. It’s a travesty that at this point in America’s history such blatant discrimination still exists. While the Black students were wrong for assaulting Barker, their actions don’t merit attempted murder charges. Barker was treated at a local emergency room and then released. His health was so satisfactory that he attended a school event that same evening.

Instances such as the Jena Six case make one wonder how impartiality can be guaranteed. You have an area that is predominantly white, the mindset of its residents is backward thinking, and “leaders” of the community openly threaten citizens.

While many leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton are advocating for the Jena Six, more needs to be done. This case is strikingly similar to that of Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia man currently incarcerated and serving 10 years for having consensual oral sex when he was 17 with a then 15-year-old white female.

America seems to be making a “lesson” out of our Black men…but what are we, as African-Americans really learning from it?

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