Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena isn't Selma

The news is full of the sad result of misbehavior among white and black punks in Jena, Lousiana. Mychal Bell, a black high school kid, faces prison for being one of a group of six who beat up a white classmate in a town torn by racial tensions. Accusers protest that other fights following a schoolyard turf dispute didn't result in arrests and prosecutions because white punks beat up black punks instead. Bell's conviction for aggravated second-degree battery was thrown out because he was wrongly tried as an adult. That, and a poor job by his public defender, raise legitimate concern that justice will not be served.

That being said, this isn't Selma. This isn't Little Rock. This is punk rock, white punks and black punks doing what they do best. A whole collection of idiots of all ages and all shades of grey deserve a major beat-down.

The ACLU and the NAACP, veterans of honest fights and recognizing a Bad Idea when they see it, haven't become involved in any substantive way and probably won't. Both are marginally involved through passive participation, filing information requests, presenting petitions, and organizing marches and prayer vigils.

Civil rights footnotes and media whores Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, desperate for face time, jumped in with both feet. Both are milking the incident for another shot at relevance. Jena was Jesse's chance to link arms with marchers and link his name with Barack Obama's in the press by accusing him of not being “black enough” for ignoring the march. Sharpton didn't miss the chance to invoke the patron saint of civil rights:

This is the beginning of the 21st century civil rights movement... Martin Luther King Jr. faced Jim Crow. We've come to Jena to face James Crow Jr., Esq."

Don't be taken in by the rhetoric. Don't mistake morons for icons. Leaders are shaped by their cause. Jena is about punks misbehaving, not a nationwide struggle against Jim Crow laws. The “Jena Six” are no more the Little Rock Nine than Tawana Brawley is Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth.