Monday, September 24, 2007

Yes...We Understand Exactly Where We Are.

America. Where Else.


That is the sound of the huge, festering boil that is the “Jena Six” case erupting this past week, spilling past its confines in sections of the blogosphere, Black websites. message boards and radio, and into the first five minutes of national newscasts, and the front pages of newspapers across the country

The line from The Buffalo Springfield's “For What It's Worth” came to mind when I unfolded my copy of the NY Times after picking it up off the stoop Friday. The large color picture above the fold said it all.


“A thousand people in the street.”

Actually, it was closer to TEN thousand in the streets, as protesters from all over the country descended on the small town of Jena, Louisiana to stand alongside the city's Black residents in letting the world know about the ugly racial injustice—piled atop the old lynching picnic attitudes of too many of the majority White population.

I wrote about it here, some seventeen days ago, in the post titled. “Do You Understand Where You Are? It was one of the highest feedback-ed, and most heavily linked posts we've put up here. Why that was the case I'll never truly know. What I do know is that it resonated heavily for me, and I wrote of how I found out at a southern family reunion in the nineties, that there are still places—even a small southern town where one's mother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born, and where those oldest antecedents lived as slaves— where the duskier among Americans are still not welcome to trod the dirt past sundown.

I did not enjoy sharing that story. It's a scab—over a wound—rubbed raw in my family. It was a slap in the face to many of us backward, naive northern relatives, who haughtily walk around with the gauzy shroud of “up south” racism draped over us, thinking we are somehow far removed from our southern relatives, who still contend with the sodden, wool blanket of Jim Crow's tenacious remnants.

I wrote what I wrote on this case because the events in Jena needed to get to a broader audience. I wrote what I wrote because people need to know what that kind of story means to the psyche of a large percentage of the 30-odd million African Americans who call the U.S. “home”.

I wrote what I wrote, because that boil needed to pop. That infection, that corruption, that sickening evil needed to be ruptured so that we, as a nation could get a little farther along that long, long road of healing.

I wasn't alone in giving it a squeeze. The combined pressure of many focusing on this story is what burst things wide open late last week. But, as is the case with something like that, an eruption goes where an eruption goes. All over the place, hitting all manner of things in the room.

One place it landed was one of the places it started for me. Wally Whateley initially hat-tipped me to this story at Pandagon that covered the case and its twists and turns. When the story broke wide this week, the estimable Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Pandagon took on some of the more uncomfortable, meta aspects of the Jena story—like its coverage, and peculiar lack of coverage in places within the progressive blogosphere. She rightfully called down the thunder about the odd tunnel vision of too many of the leading lights on our side in their not noting this case—even as it was breaking big in the MSM—in favor of their more tried and true subject hobby horses. It was a telling, and uncomfortable conversation she helped spark—but it needed to be addressed, and I thank her for it. We should all thank her for it. She called attention to the way too many of us become wedded to our sometimes narrow niches of interest, and forget about things roiling the world beyond us. As a Black person, that myopic ignorance of what we experience—as opposed to what people think we experience, (As said in a previous post, I'd watch the grub served to me by Black folks from now on, Bill-O) reminded me of something I heard James Baldwin say in a cigarette smoke-filled interview from the seventies.

“You don't know me (me = Black Americans). You have no desire to know me, or anything about me. But I know me. And I have no choice but to know you. You force me to know you...every day, in your desire to make me fit in—which-(laughs) you don't really want me to do. Isn't that right?

Even when progressive White America wants us to fit in, which they in many ways do, there is that myopia—that blind spot—on issues that affect Black folks in the dead-center of our hearts. I'd like to think that Pam's bringing that to the forefront will sensitize folks on our side of things a bit. I truly, truly hope it does.

The week's Jena eruption spewed debris other places as well.

Pam also noted the following at Pandagon and her own site—calling attention to the wingnuttosphere's disingenuous, and even later to the dance (as the deejay was packing up the crates) coverage of the story. They offered up several Tiny Tim-on-crutches lame excuses for their near-total blackout of concern.

From Insta-Liar:
Far be it from me to speak for the progressive blogosphere, but -- as I was discussing with a colleague whose work on the "school-to-jail pipeline" has had him following the case closely -- one big problem is that the facts have trickled out, and it was hard to get a clear narrative that made sense of what was going on. The signal-to-noise ratio wasn't that good.


Almost always it involves whether there's a clear story online that someone can link to, and people who can get the story out to bloggers with an explanation of why it's important. My Jena 6 email all seemed to be in media res, which is why I consulted Radley Balko. The email conveyed that people were upset, but that's not enough -- in the blogosphere, people are always upset!

And then...our dear, sweet O'Reilly fill-in, Auntie Ruckus (Michelle Malkin):

I’ve had a few irate liberal readers asking why I haven’t written about the Jena Six. For one thing, the MSM is covering it wall to wall. I like to cover stories that aren't getting coverage. The Jena Six case is everywhere. CNN has special reports up the wazoo. MTV is all over it.


Finally, I’m not going to join the knee-jerk race-hustlers in celebrating the “civil right” to beat white people unconscious to rectify institutional racism. Is this the legacy Martin Luther King, Jr., would have sanctioned?

Who...says the right is humor-challenged?

In the rope-belted, over-tenured, legacy-employed perfesser's case, his general m.o. when caught out there in willful sloughing off of a story is to plead ignorance of the facts—how “confusing everything is”, and how difficult it is to suss out the facts that would help him in his naked wingnut online posturing opinion making.

Iraq, (about 6,500 miles away) is a place he seems to have no trouble pontificating on opinion-wise, every Michael Yon-is-my-hero ding-dong day. Albany, NY is about 800 miles away from his cyber-shack too, but that didn't seem to stop him from commenting several times on NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's decidely local travails. Jena, Louisiana is about 230 measly miles from his beloved Knoxville. And the story has been roiling in the news for months...but this passive-aggressive keyboard clown somehow found it impossible to get the information necessary to take a stand? A story that directly plucks the strings of the too-long played banjo of the Jim Crow racism of his born, bred and buttered south? Wasn't this the same guy sitting around playing “Scoop” Reynolds—Cub Reporter during his breathless supporting of the Swift Boaters with his “investigative” posts digging into the details of John Kerry's whereabouts near the Cambodian border 35 years and 10,000 miles ago and away? If this fucker were in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, he'd be an aide to William Windom's evil Prosecutor Gilmer, against Peck's Atticus Finch—defending the atrocious verdict with a wan “Well...what can you do?”—before sneaking off to the midnight victory “picnic” by flaming cross-light.

But it's “Auntie Ruckus” Malkin who as usual takes the cake, melts down the oven, and blows the whole bakery to kingdom come with her seething hatred of all things “melanated”—including her twisted self.

“I like to cover stories that aren't getting coverage.”, she says with I'm sure, the usual popping eyes and creepy facial tics.

Really? I've seen her dumb ass all over the “Yikeziz! Ahmadinejad iz cumming to putz a burkah on meeeee!” winger blogswarm over the last couple of days. A story that has been all over CNN and MSNBC and FOX and the NY Times and Daily News, and I'm sure leaping from some anonymous griot's mouth in Hottentot click language. Not getting coverage? I'd call her a lying sack of shit—I swear I would, except sacks of shit have been proven to have way too much integrity to lie.

But what moves her into the realm of Simpsons “Cat Lady” lunacy is her opening her keening yap to dare chide those supporting the Jena Six for not living up to the standards of Martin Luther King (!?) 'Cause you know, Dr. King was totally down with her sick, ethnic internment ideas and utter hatred of all people darker than Edgar-Goddamn-Winter. I don't normally go the route of wishing physical harm on someone (publicly), but were the fates to be so kind, I wouldn't shed a tear if a heavenly bolt from somewhere near Dr. King's cloud in the hereafter, lanced from the skies and struck her dead in her spastically shaking ass, for cravenly invoking his name as a cudgel to beat down people struggling for justice in America. Then of course, she compounds the evil with the “Oh, the poor White kid who was so savagely attacked that the law rightfully charged the nasty, vicious Black kids who did it with attempted murder”, canard. I can only pray that Dr. King is an ambidextrous angel—with good aim, and a whole sack of thunderbolts, ready for the righteous tossing.

The White kid got whomped with a shoe. And was at a fucking party three hours after leaving the hospital. And the sniveling she-clown Malkin conveniently ignores everything that led up to the incident—the pooh-poohing of threats to Black life and limb, a shotgun incident where the White perp who had his gun wrestled away by Black would-be victims went uncharged and the threatened Blacks were accused of theft—OF THE FUCKING GUN, and the gross overcharging after it. Instead, she opts to go with the natterings of professional Negro contrarian Jason Whitlock, who has made a lucrative new career out of saying just the things racist dingbats like Malkin and O'Reilly need said as cover for their bullshit.

Let me say something here about this particular disingenuous tack. Cemeteries all over the south are filled with the corpses of ritualistically tortured and murdered young Black men who would give anything to have merely taken a brogan upside the head. And been able to go party three hours afterward.

14-year old Emmitt Till was not able bounce to the latest Louis Jordan number at a party after he was assaulted by a group of racists.

You see, they kidnapped him. They beat him, tortured him, killed him deader than dead and desecrated his body with such extreme a prejudice (shot, eye gouged out, beaten and then tossed into a river with a 75 lb. cotton gin fan tied to his neck) that it shocked the world when it became public in 1955. And if you are a Black person born between 1900 and 1970 or so, you remember, as sure as you remember your name—where you were and who you were with when you saw that infamous picture of Till's shattered "body" in the open casket (WARNING—NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH) his mother insisted he be seen in by all who could. Jet Magazine ran that sea-changing photo in its September 15th, 1955 issue.

My mother saw it that week, a girl of thirteen in the deep south. It affected her greatly.

It drove two of my uncles to leave the south as soon as they were able, at the age of 17, just a few years later.

It deeply affected a young man from Louisville, Kentucky by the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay. You now know him as Muhammad Ali.

And it affected every Black person I know near my own mid-forties age, because Jet Magazine would annually run that photo on the anniversary of Till's death for many years afterward. I saw it in 1975. My mother saw me looking at it quizzically. I just couldn't wrap my brain around the idea that the "thing" depicted there was ever a person. I was twelve.

“Can I see that?”, my mother asked.

“Ummmm. Okay.” I handed the magazine to her.

She looked at it and her eyes went cold. A muscle in her neck tensed. And then she relaxed.

"Do you know who that is?", she asked.

“It said, 'Emmitt Till'.

“Did you read what happened to him?”

“Not yet. I was...just lookin' at the picture.”

“Well...what do you think about that picture.”

“It...I dunno. It doesn't look like a person.”

“It doesn't, does it.”


“I always thought he looked like a scarecrow there.”, she mused.

“You're right. It does look like a scarecrow.”

“He”, she said forcefully. “Not “it“. “He” “That was a boy. Two years older than you. And a buncha White men killed him. And messed his body up like that. He was a beautiful boy just like you. They killed him because he was Black, son. And they smashed his body up because he was Black. Look at him.”

She held the picture up for me to look at again.

“They turned a pretty Black boy into an ugly scarecrow. To scare us, son. Look at him. You can be disgusted. Be disgusted. But do NOT BE SCARED.”.

I would love to say that picture did not ever scare me. But as I became older, and wiser to some of the more awful ways of this world, and would catch that picture at an odd, unprepared moment,, it would chill me to the bone, turning my stomach, and make me realize again, the depth of man's inhumanity to man—right here in the United States of America.

Context. It gives me context for things. To this very day.

And allows for me to put the intentionally-misplaced-by-her-own-sick-pathological-hatred-of-herself-fake-ass-outrage of Malkin on this case—and so many others in the proper context. The context of raging, racist hypocrisy, to be precise.

Then I wonder...if Dr. King has access to a thunderbolt-firing Gatling Gun up there.

For the nasty, malignant polyps in the gut of America's racial discourse, like Malkin and her ilk. For the pre-fabricated way they lost their vestigial brain stems (minds doesn't quite describe what they have to work with) over the Jena story elements convenient to their racist worldview. When I think of their “outrage”, I think of a 14-year old kid who didn't get to go to a hospital, and then a party a few hours later. And then...I wet my finger, dab at a stray grain of salt, and taste its tingle against my tongue.

Of course, with the massive throng showing up in Jena in solidarity Thursday, it was also bound to attract the more action-oriented of the “Yahoo” school of thought where Reynolds and Malkin co-headmaster. In Alexandria, LA, the staging area for the start of the protest march, a couple of teenagers from out of town—16 and 18 years old respectively—thought it would be funny alá Alan Funt, to roll in and antagonize the anti-racism protesters by cruising around in their red pickup (Hey, isn't Reynolds' boy Fred Thompson known for poseur-ing like an idiot tooling around in one of those?) with a couple of home-made nooses draped off the tailgate—just for fun. The 16-year-old also thought the authorities should know that he and some of his relatives are KKK members, and that he had a “KKK” tattoo on his chest. today!

I suppose it would be remiss of me not to also mention the Neo-Nazis who took a page out of the Malkin handbook and posted the personal information of the families of the Jena Six—while also inciting violence against them with barely veiled threats:

As the hate site says: “In Case Anyone Wants To Deliver Justice.” The editor of the website with a swastika at the top says on an audio at the site “I’d like to go down there and put a bullet in each one of those little black kids …” When asked if he might have brought any harm to the Jena 6 by posting that, he told CNN “I don’t know that doing justice can be considered doing harm.”


William A. White is trying to stir up violence by posting addresses and phone numbers of the Jena 6 family on his web site, proclaiming: "Lynch the Jena 6." He operates out of Roanoke, Virginia:

He also listed some of the defendants' telephone numbers, urging his readers to "Get in touch, and let them know justice is coming."

The review came as protesters gathered Thursday in Jena, the site of racial unrest since last summer. After a black student asked the school for permission to sit under a tree where white students traditionally gathered, three nooses were found hanging from the tree. Months later, the Jena Six were charged with beating a white student.

On his Web site, White complained of "agitators" who were demanding acquittals.

A posting Thursday afternoon that contained contact information for the six youths was headlined: "Addresses of Jena 6 N-----s; In case anyone wants to deliver justice."

In a second item, White was quoted as saying: "If these n------s are released or acquitted, we will find out where they live and make sure that white activists and white citizens in Louisiana know order to find someone willing to deliver justice."

“Someone willing to deliver justice.”

I all depends on what the definition of “justice” is, and who metes it out.

Which is quite honestly what the crux of the whole Jena case is about, huh?

Oh, wait! The tree! It started with that tree on the school grounds whose shade zone was deemed a “Whites Only” area. Yeah! The tree! We nearly forgot about it. can forget about it. Because rather than let the tree stand as an example of the potential flowering of race relations in the “New South”—America, really...

The school superintendent had the damn thing cut down.

That...just says it all.