The truth is no longer important. Jena is officially the poster child for prejudice and bigotry in the south. America found a perfect, flawless lamb to be offered on its national altar of racism. Practically drooling with anticipation, reporters and professional race-crusaders poured into the small southern town of Jena, where the country accents are as thick as the pines that cover the rolling hills of central Louisiana. With such severe charges placed upon the six black students known as the “Jena Six,” the logical conclusion was “racism.” Any inconvenient facts that contradict that conclusion have been dismissed in an Orwellian attempt to shape this story into “Mississippi Burning” revisited. The “Jena Six” can thank their lucky stars that it was a white student and not a bulldog they are accused of beating then stomping on December 4, 2006. Otherwise, PETA and the national media may have pounced on them with the same vitriol afforded Michael Vick. Instead, Jena certainly has a color problem now: black and white and yellow—prejudice, bigotry, and slanted journalism.
My name is Eddie Thompson. I am the white pastor referenced by Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune in his article that forced the story of the “Jena Six” onto the national stage. On December 8, 2006, when I wrote my article concerning racism in Jena Louisiana— http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?AuthorID=17296&id=25922 —I believed that perhaps the biggest obstacle to our town’s prosperous future was the ignorance of prejudice and bigotry. I am now convinced that the biggest enemy to our future as a whole community has become the misinformation, lies, and prejudice of a national media that refuses to seek out the truth concerning the events of last fall. My evolution forces me to voice the concerns of the majority of our town who believe that any interview or statement given to the media will simply be twisted and mangled to support the forgone conclusion that we are nothing but country hicks, rednecks, who have no compassion on the minorities in our community. Most of the white community would not be content with me being such a mouthpiece for their perspective, but since they won’t speak, I’ll do my best to speak for them. The following are questions and statements I’ve heard privately from the white community:
1. District Attorney: Why charge those black students with attempted second-degree murder if you intended to adjudicate lesser charges against them all along?
2. Parents of Students: Why spread controversial misinformation to the media if the truth would serve your children? Are you teaching your children accountability?
3. White Community: Is Jena the one place in the world where prejudice and bigotry do not exist? Is Jena the Utopia where racism never raises its ugly head? Why continue to insist there are no problems here?
4. Media: Why don’t you use your considerable resources to check your facts concerning this case? Why not report what needs to be said?
5. America: Why display such outrage towards Jena until you’ve looked into the shadows of your own streets?
What Needs To Be Said:
àThere has never been an “all white tree” at Jena High School. Although whites traditionally sit under that tree, whites and blacks traditionally sit in other areas as well. Since integration, there has never been forced segregation on the campus.
àThere were two nooses, not three.
àThe actions of the three white students who hung the nooses demonstrate prejudice and bigotry. However, they were not just given “two days suspension” as reported by national news agencies. After first being expelled, then upon appeal, being allowed to re-enter the school system, they were sent to an alternative school, off-campus, for an extended period of time. They underwent investigations by Federal and Sate authorities. They were given psychological evaluations. Even when they were eventually allowed back on campus they were not allowed to be a part of the general population for weeks.
àNo black children demonstrated the days after the noose incident, as reported by CNN--with the possible exception of an uncorroborated report by one of the "Jena Six" who claims that black students gathered under the tree in a form of protest. This event was not witnessed by any school officials. Therefore, Reed Walters did not come to the school to break it up and send the black students back to class, stating that he could “end their life with a stroke of the pen.” In fact, to this day, there has been no demonstration by the black population of Jena, neither at school or anyplace else, except for the family of the Jena Six and protesters from other cities.
àThe speech given by Reed Walters that included the now infamous statement “I can end your life with the stroke of a pen” was not given to a group of black students. It was given during a speech to the entire student body in an assembly called by the school's principal to calm a community that was pulling their children out of school because there were two fights one day with racial overtones. Two girls, one white and one black fought. Another student was taken to the emergency room to receive stitches.
àJena does have racial problems. Jena does have bigotry and prejudice, just like every other town in America, perhaps even worse than some. If there were no racial problems, there would have been no nooses hung from a tree. There would not be one white student beaten and six black students charged with attempted second-degree murder. The local ministers would not have hurriedly called a meeting to deal with the issue. The cameras of the world would not have focused their lenses on Jena.
àThe national news media has not mentioned a single time that there was an FBI investigation into the hanging of the nooses and the conduct of Reed Walters that concluded there was no criminal activity or “hate crime” involved. The report is available to the media, along with court records and sworn testimony, none of which has been reported.
àThere was no “fight” on December 4, 2006 at Jena High School, as the national media continues to characterize the event in question. Six students attacked a single student who was immediately knocked unconscious. According to sworn testimony, they stomped him, as he lay “lifeless” upon the ground.
àJustin Barker, the white student attacked, was not the first white student targeted by these black students. Allegedly, others had been informed they were going to be beaten, but stayed away from school and out of sight until they felt safe.
àCNN reported that there were “obviously no witnesses to the fight.” In fact, over thirty eyewitnesses, students and teachers, were questioned immediately following the attack, all of who implicated one or more of the black students arrested in the case. In fact, some of the accused black students did not stop stomping Barker until they were pulled away from him by some of the teachers, according to testimony given in the trial of Mychal Bell.
àThe media continues to make the point that Justin Barker “attended a party” later that evening, insinuating that his injuries were not very severe. The Barkers, by no means a wealthy family, face medical bills already over $12,000 from the emergency room visit. Imagine what an overnight visit would have cost. Justin Barker was advised to remain hospitalized but decided he would not let the event keep him from participating in the once-in-a-lifetime, traditional Ring Ceremony at First Baptist Church in Jena, where class rings are presented to the upcoming senior class.
àThe fight on December 4 was unrelated to the noose incident, or any other incident that occurred earlier in Jena that week. The media keeps reporting otherwise. There are three different boys named “Justin” involved in three different events that the media have morphed into the “Justin” who was attacked on December 4:
A. A juvenile named Justin, whose name was not released to the media, was one of the boys who hung nooses from the trees in September.
B. Three months later, Justin Sloan, not a student at Jena High, fought with one of the black students, Robert Baily, at the fair barn when a couple of black students tried to enter a private party.
C. On December 4, six black students at Jena High School attacked Justin Barker, who is neither of the previously mentioned young men.
àIt has been reported that the school has two standards of justice since white students who attacked a black student were not treated as the black students who attacked a white student. No group of white students attacked a black student at Jena High School. Fights that have occurred have always been handled equally. This was not a fight. This process was taken out of the hands of school officials when the ambulance was called to bring Justin Barker to the hospital for the attack. Both the appearance of the ambulance and Barker’s visit to the emergency room requires an investigation by law enforcement.
àNational news organizations, which continue to call it a “fight,” suggest that there was no reason to involve the District Attorney’s office. If a young female student had been raped in a bathroom on campus, the school officials would do all the investigations required under their policy, but they would also report the crime to law enforcement. Criminals, adults or students, are not allowed to rape or assault students with impunity simply because it happened on a high school campus.
àThe “Jena Six” have repeatedly been held up as heroes by much of the race-based community and called “innocent students” by the national media. Some of these students have reputations in Jena for intimidating and sometimes beating other students. It is alledged that they have vandalized and destroyed both school property and community property. Reportedly, some of the Jena Six have been involved in crimes not only in LaSalle Parish but also in surrounding parishes. For the most part, coaches and other adults have prevented them from being held accountable for the reign of terror they have presided over in Jena. Despite intervention by adults wanting to give them chances due their athletic potential, some of the Jena Six have juvenile records. Yet some of the parents keep insisting that their children have never been in trouble before. These boys did not receive prejudicial treatment but received preferential treatment until things got out of hand.
àThe entire black community of Jena is not being heard in this controversy, just the parents, relatives, and close friends of the Jena Six. The black community of Jena has not been involved in the protests and demonstrations called by national race-based organizations. Some state and national race crusaders have chastised them for not “rising up” with the parents to force law enforcement to “free the Jena Six.” Many do agree that the charges seem wrong, but they also know the criminal history of the boys referred to as the “Jena Six.” It is their neighborhood these boys have terrorized. Not even all of the parents claim that these boys should be set free with no consequence for their actions. One of the parents was interviewed, saying that the boys should suffer the fair punishment for their actions. He suggested that simple battery would be an acceptable charge. With one exception, the local black pastors do not support the demonstrations. They have been openly criticized for their lack of cooperation with the national race crusaders. One of them counseled the “Jena Six” families to not stir controversy for controversy’s sake. The black pastor was openly condemned by a local radio personality sympathetic to the cause of the black parents. The rhetoric grew so intense that the black pastor was referred to as Reed Walter’s “house Negro” on the local radio talk show. The pastor is consistently accused on this show of working in cooperation with Reed Walters in a plot to undermine the “Jena Six.”
To Reed Walters: Charge these young men with the crimes of which they are guilty.
To The Parents: Hold your children accountable for their actions.
To The White Community: Stop claiming, “There is no racism here” or “We have no problems here.” Live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If twelve percent of our community is feeling estranged, we should listen to their grievances.
To The Black Community: If you believe these six black students are innocent, we can “free the Jena Six” today by having the black students, who thirty witnesses testify attacked Justin Barker, step forward and take responsibility for their actions.
To The National Media: Please, get it right. Report the facts. Let them take you to the truth. Stop making Jena, Louisiana, a national scapegoat for America’s sin of racism.
To America: Judge not unless you be judged. You will be judged by the same measure you judge this little town. Until you know the facts, reserve judgment. Do no believe everything you see on TV.
A Final Comment:
This is an evolving story. As more information is released and subsequent events occur, the statements made here may become obsolete. However, this is the perception of many in Jena concerning the topic as of September 10, when this was first posted.