Something is going on here in my home region, something created by the nature of race, gender, and class relations here. Everyone is whispering, but no one is talking.
Precious "Petey" Story, an 18-year old white woman, was murdered in August. The suspected murderers are young black men, one of whom Petey had previously dated.
Shortly thereafter, when the family of a local white girl decided that she was missing, they went to the home of her black ex-boyfriend and demanded entry. She was not there (was later found on her family's property), but that did not stop her parents from withdrawing her from the local, primarily black high school. They were careful to state that they were not racist, but did not believe in interracial dating.
Over the next couple of days, at least seven other white students withdrew (fewer than 30 were enrolled). When my offended best friend asked one of the white boys about it, he said that his sister confessed to being "afraid" to attend school with so many black boys now. "If one of them tries to date her and she refuses, she's scared of what he might do to her."
Really. He said that.
In a neighboring town, four black boys and one white girl checked out of school one day. They "went to one of the boys’ house, located close to the school, where sex occurred between one of the boys and the girl." They returned to after-school activities and during that time, the girl said she had been raped.
The 14-year-old girl was taken to a local hospital, treated for possible rape, and released to her parents.The girl's parents have removed her from the parish school district.
A 16-year-old male [was charged] with forcible rape... and placed... in an undisclosed juvenile detention center. He was later released.
...The school district conducted a thorough investigation of the incident and determined that sex occurred, but there was no evidence of a rape. No staff members were notified that a rape had occurred during the school day.
When Ouachita Christian (you know what "Christian" typically means in the name of a southern school right? k, thx) played the majority black Madison High School in football in September, some parents reported hearing gunshots. Some time later, OCS played the (majority black) high school where my best friend is cheerleading advisor. She sent her girls over to introduce themselves, but the OCS cheerleaders were not allowed to come to their side. The gist of the OCS cheerleading advisor's explanation? While it was safe for the black cheerleaders to face their crowd, they couldn't trust the black crowd not to shoot at their cheerleaders.
When I visited the local high school recently, the staff was abuzz with the news that a white male student had brought a noose to school at another nearby high school. School officials have not let a word of that out, so I cannot verify that beyond what I heard that day.
Then, keep in mind, I live about 100 miles from Jena and about 45 miles from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, home of these students who mocked the circumstances surrounding the Jena Six cases by blackfacing themselves with mud.
Oh, and the local solution for addressing the violence and problems here? Take the black kids to Angola and "scare them straight":
Gary Clark, a childhood friend and successful businessman, and I were having conversations recently and the topic of jail came up. ...we talked about the number of black men incarcerated and the things that scared us straight.That passage is so simultaneously loaded and clueless that I just can't break it all down right now.
“You remember when we were at Westside High* and prisoners were brought to the school and talked about prison life, ’’ said the retired Mobil Oil accountant and successful business owner. “...The things they said about prison life scared the (heck) out of me. I knew then, I was not going to do anything that would send me to jail.”
Tommy L. Carr... and members of the community have taken at risk juveniles -- mostly boys -- on prison visits. “And I have seen how these visits changed the lives of young people,” said Carr. A planned Oct. 23 trip to Angola – the Louisiana State Penitentiary - sponsored by District Attorney Bob Levy, will introduce both area boys and girls to prison life.
Angola... has a prison population of more than 5,000 of which 77 percent are black males.
Most prisoners are sentenced to natural life or exceedingly long sentences. It is estimated that 85 percent of the current population will die behind prison walls.
Carr wants to stop this madness. Both Levy and Carr should be commended for their intervention efforts to keep juveniles out of jail.
Even if it means scaring them straight.
Why am I troubled? I mean, for a long time white parents have been vocal about their desire to separate their kids from ours because our kids are violent, threatening, and dangerous, because a violent act committed by one black kid is reflective of the inherently criminal nature of all black kids. In a sense, this is nothing new. Part of me thinks maybe I've just been away for a while and am supersensitive to all the tensions simmering here.
But the other part of me thinks things can't continue to go on this way. This is a lot, in a small area, in a short time frame. I think people here have to begin to talk. Because I am hesitant and, yes, afraid, I decided to begin here.
*Westside High was the "black" school in the latter days of segregated schools in Union Parish.