Friday, September 28, 2007


Reed Walters would have us believe that the strangely uneven application of (in)justice in Jena is coincidental, a result of the fact that his hands are tied by the limitations of Louisiana law:
In the final analysis, though, I am bound to enforce the laws of Louisiana as they exist today, not as they might in someone’s vision of a perfect world.
But, from the Southern Poverty Law Center comes a reminder that Walters is not just strictly following the word and rule of law as he claims:
Walters ignores the tremendous latitude prosecutors have to raise, lower, or dismiss charges as they see fit, under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion. The injustice in Jena is not that any criminal charges were brought in the assault on Justin Barker. Rather, the injustice is that black perpetrators in Jena receive a completely different brand of prosecutorial discretion than white perpetrators.
The SPLC's article goes on to address and refute many of the points that Walters brought up in his op-ed, arguing that Walters's exercise of prosecutorial discretion is colored by, well, color.

dnA makes a similar argument noting that Walters
repeatedly used his prosecutorial discretion only to seek jail time for the Jena Six, not after the nooses, but after the series of violent incidents that occurred in the town between students at the school for months after.
Though it has been duly noted since the op-ed appeared that Walters made a number of omissions in his quest to paint a portrait of "the reluctant white lawman trying to keep the piece in a town full of savage Negroes," dnA does an excellent job of illuminating and analyzing those omissions.

The point of this post is not sound like a stilted book review (I must be sleepier than I realize). Kevin got me to thinking ( I sound so country when I say that, but there it is :-) when he made this comment:
The official narrative has become "six black kids beat up a white kid. One of the black kids is in jail, and black people are angry." That's it. That's what people are basing their opinions on.
Why is it so hard for people to see beyond that narrative? Of course, there are many answers, most of which narrow down to the deceptively simple cause of racism.

But I am struck by how Reed Walters is feeding that narrative and wondering about the other ways in which it is sustained.

H/T Francis L. Holland


Unknown said...

Let's make sure we don't ignore the media's culpability in spreading this meme that the story is about six black kids beating up one white kid. That's how it was reported at first--no mention of the nooses, and when they did start, it was passing mention. And no mention of the intervening fights, of the DA's egregious statement to the kids at the school, of his abuse of power in charging a black kid who disarmed a white kid with robbery--none of that hit the traditional media with any sort of force, and still hasn't. The story is, to this day "six on one, and oh yeah, nooses... Jesse, Rev. Al, blah blah blah."

And why is that? Because the traditional media likes 1) simple stories and 2) doesn't like stories about race, because they'd like to believe that we beat that 40 years ago, and we wouldn't have race problems if Rev. Al and Jesse would just know their role and congratulate white folks for being as understanding as we are.

And if I sound a little angry and ashamed of my fellow white folks, well, I am.

Kimberly said...

This is as clear a case of how the media can sway the story as I've ever heard. I've noted several times where the local fox station in discussing the case describe it as the one where "six black students attacked a white student." ATTACKED. As if they simply sought the student out because he was white and deciding to beat a poor, unsuspecting soul. That couldnt' be further from the truth. I believe this is the reason there has been so much apathy towards the case by the mainstream.

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