A Chicago newspaper reporter thinks the racial turmoil in Jena, Louisiana brought on by the arrests of six black teenagers shows the south still has a ways to go in eliminating racial discrimination. Houston Public Radio’s Jim Bell reports.
The Jena story is about black students beating up a white student, reportedly in retaliation for nooses found hanging from a tree at the high school. The black students are all facing criminal charges, but no white students have been disciplined for leaving the nooses. The case drew national attention and thousands of demonstrators came to Jena from all over the country to demand fair treatment for the black students.
Chicago Tribune Southwest Bureau Chief Howard Witt says despite real progress in race relations across the south, stories like the Jena Six show real equality hasn’t been achieved in some areas.
“The point is who controls the larger power structures, particularly in the criminal justice system, and it’s almost always whites, and the situation is that it’s easy for people to say ‘we don’t have a problem here’. The white people say that, but you talk to a lot of the black people and they have a completely different perspective.”
The six black students are now awaiting trial as juveniles. Witt says it’s possible things can work out for the best if the black community believes the black students are treated fairly.
“Justice still needs to be done. The black kids did ultimately attack a white kid. It’s always been a question of proportionality, and what are the appropriate charges in a case like that, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.