One thing I like about DocuDharma is that it is not just about party politics, about the Democrats, the 2008 elections, the usual drumbeat we all know too well.
This site is also about issues and ideas and values, and one of those values very dear to my heart is social justice.
I was over at Kai’s site, zuky – which by the way, is on our blogroll here, and who Nezua over at the Unapologetic Mexican (also on our blogroll) characterizes as the people of color (POC) blogosphere’s “Digby.” In other words, her posts rank up there as a gold standard of POC blogging, and if you check out her site, you’ll see why.
The post I have linked above speaks about the phenomenal effort the POC blogosphere and grassroots communities made to put the story of the Jena 6 in the national spotlight — an extremely difficult task that the liberal blogs were late in covering, due to the above emphasis on party politics rather than issues and values and social justice — and helped create the amazing civil rights march in Jena that took place yesterday.
Kai writes about what should be done now, after the march, and there is indeed a great deal to be done. We know now that mychal bell lost his case to be released from prison. And we also know this story will not escape the usual racist spin.
I urge everyone to read the entire post as well as the links — it tells an amazing story of organization and commitment, one we all would do well to emulate and join. Some of her reflections:
Now that most semi-conscious people out there have heard the basic outlines of the story, I see it as the job of (real) progressives to assert an anti-racist narrative frame in popular discourse. All too often stripped of historical and social context, the story can get fragmented and reduced to a random series of isolated incidents to be pondered like some cheesy Law And Order script, hyper-focused on legal technicalities and the minutiae of violence. But properly contextualized, the story neatly illustrates the fundamental realities of institutional racism in action: the white control of decision-making offices at all levels – school board, law enforcement, district attorney, judge and jury – and the draconian penalties which befall young persons of color who resist the racist social order, as hauntingly symbolized by the wide leafy oak tree in the center of the schoolyard whose cool southern shade was jealously reserved for white skin only.
In my view, the most striking element of the extensive CNN coverage I watched yesterday was the profundity of white denial of racism. Almost without exception, white Jena residents who were asked whether there was “racial tension” in their town suddenly looked as though a major chunk of their brain short-circuited and went dark, their eyes went flat, and they mass-hypnotically mouthed hollow statements such as “No we’re not that kind of people, we play football together.” And that’s because one of the effects of racism is precisely a sort of mass hypnosis which insidiously blinds people to the flagrant system of power and oppression under which they live by making the racist power structure seem as natural and invisible as the air we breathe.
Sadly, I had a personal experience at work today which illustrates quite well the “mass hypnosis” Kai writes about. My comment to her post:
I think you are absolutely right that this is not the end of the story.
I took a call today for a lawyer (I’m a legal secretary), it was a fellow from Louisiana. I blog a lot about NOLA, so I asked him where he was from. He said Alexandria, and then made a comment about how that was near Jena. He made some sort of joke about how they all were making a lot of money because of all the folks going to Jena to protest.
Got a sinking feeling in my stomach, but tried to stay professional. I said I hoped things worked out for all, that justice was served. He made some comment that he didn’t like the “stereotyping” going on. The sinking feeling in my stomach grew worse — I responded, “well, I think a lot of folks in this country are getting sick of being stereotyped.” His voice became a bit colder and we quickly ended the conversation.
Equal protection under the law. That is exactly what this is about. Law makes no sense at all unless it is applied equally. In the case of the Jena 6, it is crystal clear that was not the case.
Thanks for the great work you have done — have signed the petition and will blog about this myself as well, to get more signatures.
Folks in the liberal blogosphere talk every now and then about “diversity,” as though it was sort of an optional value to Progressives. I disagree — I think it is essential and it is not about party politics or the mechanics of same. Sure, I will support local candidates I think are progressive, from Gilda Reed in Louisiana to Barry Welch in Indiana. But there is more to being Progressive than supporting candidates. There is something called solidarity, and we don’t read enough about that.
Read what you can do below!
There is a great petition that has been set up calling for an investigation by the Civil Rights Department of the DOJ (yeah, they could use some REAL work for a change!), as follows:
To: Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice
We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice review events surrounding the prosecution of six Black students in Jena, Louisiana, to determine whether the civil rights of Jena residents have been violated.
In a May 20, 2007 Chicago Tribune article titled “Racial Demons Rear Heads,” Howard Witt reported that the six students faced prosecution for charges including second degree attempted murder — and possible prison sentences of up to 100 years — for allegedly participating in an unarmed school brawl that resulted in no serious injuries. The alleged brawl followed months of racial tension after hangman’s nooses were hung from a tree at the students’ school.
From the same Chicago Tribune article:
“There’s been obvious racial discrimination in this case,” said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who described Jena as a “racial powder keg” primed to ignite. “It appears the black students were singled out and targeted in this case for some unusually harsh treatment.”
The prosecution of these young men represents a gross miscarriage of justice, punishing Black students for opposing segregation of their schools while ignoring the threatening and provocative acts of those engaging in segregation.
We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice launch a full investigation into events in Jena, Louisiana, beginning with the noose incident of August 31, 2006, and culminating in the alleged fight of December 4, 2006 to determine whether the civil rights of Jena residents have been violated.
I ask everyone who reads this to go over and sign the petition. It’s the right thing to do.
You know, the last time I really heard the phrase “equal protection under the law” — oh I will NEVER forget that day — was in the “Bush v. Gore” case in front of the Supreme Court — lawbreaker in chief George W. Bush decrying that his rights were being harmed by the horrible sin of votes being counted in Florida. Yeah, he was complaining he was a victim of unfairness. It was an obscenity that the Supreme Court affirmed Mister Bush’s case. And of course now he is merrily breaking every law he can stomp under his little booted foot.
Equal protection under the law is a cornerstone to social justice in America. What good are laws that only apply to some but not others?
Please sign the petition. And please keep an eye on what’s happening with this case — the underlying issues will not be going away, and Progressives everywhere should join in solidarity to see that both truth and justice is not lost in America.