Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Justice in Jena Is Not Colorblind: The Civil Rights Talk Resurfaces

The recent protests in Jena, Louisiana, have sparked a revivalism of civil rights talk. A photo of the protests is right below. The protests were a reaction to the unequal treatment the justice system placed upon six African-American high-school students after they battered a fellow Caucasian student. The incident resulted in the six African-American students or the “Jena 6” being tried as adults with the charge of attempted murder for a crime that resembled battery rather than attempted murder. The continuing disparity between African-Americans and Caucasians, at least in the eyes of the law, is what today’s entry will describe. I entered the blogosphere to find two blogs that commented on the Jena-6, and the racial inequalities that still persist in American society today. Today’s entry will consist of commentary I left for both blogs’ entries. The first blog post I commented on is from the blog Political Radar, a blog that focuses on a variety of political phenomenon. The author of the blog post, “Clinton Praises Jena 6 Reversal” is ABC News reporter Eloise Harper. In Harper’s blog post, she imparts bits and pieces of what presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has in store for mitigating racial injustice and inequality. The second blog post I commented on is from the blog “The Situationist”, a blog created by Harvard Law professor Jon Hanson, Michael McCann, an assistant professor of Law. The blog is also also written and maintained by a list of contributors from the law and psychology fields. I commented on the blog post titled “Jena 6-Part II”, which provides significant studies of crime and punishment, and gathers pertinent articles concerning racial inequalities within the judicial system.

“Clinton Praises Jena Reversal”
Your post is provocative and engaging, especially since the race issue within the United States will be a hot topic in the up and coming presidential debates. Undoubtedly, immigration and the partiality of the criminal justice system are all problems that any future president will have to face. Naturally, Hillary Clinton would be applauding the reversal of one of the Jena-6’s harsh sentences, especially at an NAACP fundraising event. If she had reacted otherwise, her black supporters would probably look towards another presidential hopeful. Clinton’s efforts to gain votes, especially within the African-American community, seem to be appealing to the sensitive issues that impact them, specifically Katrina and the Jena-6, but how much of her presidential promises can she keep? The deep-rooted issue of racism and bias will not just dissolve itself if you give a lot of money and benefits to the hurricane Katrina victims. As for the Jena-6 incident, I agree with Clinton that social awareness needs to be funneled into the school system. You mention one of Clinton’s civil rights plans, the “voluntary integration” of local school districts to prevent instances like Jena-6, but this plan is only a stepping stone. Clinton’s plan seems rather undeveloped, providing schools with a choice on whether or not to integrate when the issue of racism threatens one core American value, equality.

“Jena 6-Part II”
I found your post to be an intriguing and effective compilation of works and pieces supporting your idea that Jena-6 was a mere sample of the racial inequality within the American criminal justice system. However, I feel there is need for clarification in your statement, “the ‘attitudes’ that we do not perceive in ourselves are often more powerful in shaping our conduct…”. This statement appears to somewhat discredit cognitive thought as a cause for behavior, when in fact the conscious plays a significant, if not equal role in determining behavior. I understand that in your argument, unacknowledged biases can translate into unfair treatment and a partial judicial system, but the events leading up to the Jena protests were blatant examples of hate crimes and intimidation. The F.B.I. investigated the noose incident on the “white tree” but nothing resulted from their investigation. Has there been any research preformed indicating the failure of not just the judiciary, but the F.B.I. and other various governmental institutions from protecting the rights of minorities? True, the problem of racism can manifest itself in unrealized biases and on the surface, as the nooses show, but the judicial system, and other governmental institutions should bear some of the blame for their inaction in this case. I suppose, though, that my last statement compliments your argument, that institutionalized racism stems from each individual’s biases.

1 comment:

YJC said...

Jena 6 is a serious issue, especially in today’s modern society. I found your comments well written and insightful. You raise an interesting issue towards Clinton on your first post as to whether she would be able to uphold her promises to African American community, as well as the rest of America, in regulating the justice system and equality across the board. It’s easy to say what you need to get votes, but when it comes to issues so gravely entrenched in American society, it would be foolish to make empty promises. I was similarly intrigued by your question in the second post questioning government institutions’ abilities to properly represent and protect minority groups. With society progressing so quickly today, it is shocking that there are still areas that lag far behind and even more so that little is done about it. It shouldn’t take extreme events like Jena 6 to remind America that more action is required to exterminate racial injustice.

Overall, your post was interesting and informative. One thing I would change is perhaps to add links to the comments themselves. I realize you can’t do that when posting comments on other blogs, but if they decided to visit your blog, links would strengthen your points and arguments even further. Otherwise, well done!

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