Jena, LA, is a cracker town, 85% white, up in the piney woods of central LA, around Alexandria, and near Barksdale AFB. There's one tree on the high school's campus, and siince 'time immemorial, the tree shaded white kids, but not black kids. Last fall, a group of black kids petitioned the school administration for permission to share the shade. The school admin apparently said they didn't care who sat where, and went home for the weekend. On Monday, whenthe school opened again, and the black kids went to avail themselves of the shade, they found the tree adorned with nooses (in the school colors, which I thought was a nice touch). The school investigated and identified the culprits, giving them brief suspensions.
This didn't set well with the black kids, and throughout the fall, tensions festered, leading eventually to a confrontation when one of the noose-hangers happened to stray away from his posse after a school dance. Then the brave boy got his ass jumped & kicked by a handful of black students, still chaffing from the explicit threat the nooses represented. Instead of taking his lumps for being a racist asshole, the kid called the cops and the cops arrested the black kids on felony assault and attempted murder charges.
From an Amy Goodman column, in July, '07:
You can read the latest details here.
Jena, a community of 4,000, is about 85 percent white. While the black community gathered at a church to respond, others didn't see the significance. Soohen interviewed Jena town librarian Barbara Murphy, who reflected: "The nooses? I don't even know why they were there, what they were supposed to mean. There's pranks all the time, of one type or another, going on. And it just didn't seem to be racist to me." Tensions rose.
Robert Bailey, a black student, was beaten up at a white party. Then, a few nights later, Robert and two others were threatened by a white man with a sawed-off shotgun, at a convenience store. They wrestled the gun away and fled. Robert's mother, Caseptla Bailey, said: "I know they were in fear of their lives. They were afraid that this man was going to shoot them, you know, especially in the back, running away from the scene."
The next day, Dec. 4, 2006, a fight broke out at the school. A white student was injured, taken to the hospital and released. Robert Bailey and five other black students were charged ... with second-degree attempted murder. They each faced 100 years in prison. The black community was reeling.
I recall the first time I attended an SEC football game: LSU v. UFL. It was the lesson which taught me that racism wasn't EVER gonna go away...
It was Emmett Smith's first game in Baton Rouge, and he had monster night: 200 yds, a coupla scores. UFL won, convincingly. As the parking out emptied after the game, the UFL crowd couldn't resist taunting their vanquished foes. But it was how they did it that was notable: "You coon-ass losers! Our niggers can beat your niggers ANYTIME!!!!" Mainly it was students...
As a retired professor who has taught at two, big-time, flagship state universities (LSU & Oklahoma), I noticed that the greatest preponderance of my students were (White) well-heeled 'legacies,' the children of alumnae: BMW-driving brats of parents who had the connections and resources to send their benighted off-spring anywhere the kids had the grades and brains to attend; it was telling that they ended up at state schools which HAD to take 'em.
No, brother, racism isn't dead. It ain't even bleeding.
(I was inspired to limn these lines by a piece I read here. H/t, Sinfonian.)