No, Jena's not a racist town

Whatever gave you that idea?

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, the mayor, Murphy McMillin, praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager, Justin Barker, urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Oh, that.

It's been clear from the beginning of this sad story that Jena has major race issues--the very fact that there was a "whites-only" tree was proof of that--so the claims by residents that Jena wasn't a racist town rang hollower than King George the Lesser's head on your average Tuesday. But the fact that David Duke, among others, has crawled out of the woodwork and hasn't been slapped down by the Jena town leadership just amplifies the empty echo of those claims.

Make no mistake--this is about race, and it always has been. Lots of people--white liberals in some cases--have claimed that the real way to bring about justice in this case would be to haul the white kids before the law and treat them the same way the Jena 6 have been, as if that's even possible. In other words, don't let the black kids go; just prosecute the white kids who were involved. Even if that could be done, it shouldn't be, and here's why.

This situation in Jena got as bad as it did because when white kids made a defiant, racist statement, the city backed them in it. Any escalation that results from that decision has to be laid at the feet of the original enablers--in short, the Jena 6 didn't beat that kid's ass. The people of Jena who didn't tell those white kids that racism is unacceptable beat his ass. That fight doesn't happen without the tacit acceptance of the original racist act, and if the white kids who started and later escalated the fight get to either walk or get charged with misdemeanors, then that's what should happen to the Jena 6. That's the fair thing to do--not try to incarcerate white teens who were acting out the biases and hatred of their community. The time for that is past. Jena had its chance, and didn't take it.

So free the Jena 6. Let them go. Nobody goes to jail for this one--it's not an unheard of concept, after all. People get away with shit all the time. And maybe next time some smart-ass teenager gets a notion to hang a noose from a whites-only tree, or do some other equally stupid thing, the city of Jena will stop it before it escalates.

But with this Mayor and D.A., I'm not holding my breath.

Original article via Atrios

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