Good news for one of the Jena 6

Mychal Bell, the 16 year old convicted of attempted second degree murder in one of the most disgraceful prosecutions in recent history has had his conviction thrown out by the state's Third Circuit Curt of Appeals. That's the good news. The bad news is that he can still be recharged and retried, and I'm afraid that the news media will disappear with this story and nothing will change. Don't forget, there are still four others in jail as adults--this case wasn't thrown out on the merits. It was thrown out because Bell was 16 at the time of the fight, and Louisiana recognized him as a juvenile. The four who were 17 at the time of the fight don't have that argument, and neither the Louisiana courts nor the racist DA who filed the charges in the first place are going to be in any hurry to overturn their prior decisions.

The saddest thing out of all of this, though, is that even if this travesty of justice is overturned, not much is likely to change in Jena, or in the thousands of other towns across the country where openly racist whites destroy the lives of their African-American neighbors without even a second thought. And I don't have a freaking clue where to even begin in changing that. I've lived in the south all my life, seen the crudest of racism (though not been a victim of it) as well as the suit and tie/David Duke/NAAWP version, and it's all ugly.

It's easy to perpetuate the stereotype of the southern racist as a redneck, living in a beat-up trailer with a rebel flag as a curtain, and a "The South Will Rise Again" bumper sticker on his 4WD pickup. It's easy because we who hate racism while not being victims of it consider ourselves enlightened, and think of racism as grounded in ignorance. The problem, so far as I can tell, is that education isn't always a cure for ignorance, not when it comes to this sort of thing, at least. The Jena DA is an educated man, but he's apparently still an ignorant racist.

So if education isn't the answer on its own, what is? Federal interference? Armed insurrection? Damned if I know. So far I haven't heard much to make me feel any better about this situation, and I fear that I'll be hearing another story like the Jena 6 in ten years.

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