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Justice also means equality

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I would like to respond to the comments Dan Toler made on the Jena Six on Monday (“Hate is hate, no matter what color,” Sept. 24).

While I can understand what Dan means, I feel he is ignoring some key facts. Here is a brief recap on the facts: Last fall, a new black student sat under the “white tree.” The next day three white boys hung three nooses from the tree. The kids were given a light three day in-school suspension.

The day after that, the black students had a peaceful silent protest at the tree. To put an end to the controversy, a school assembly was called and the local D.A. told the students, “With a stroke of this pen, I can make your life disappear.”

The issue died down until a wing of the school burned down November 30th, and each race blamed the other. Then a couple of days later a 22-year-old white man attacked a 17-year-old Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six. The white man was merely charged with battery, and was let off on probation.

The next day, a white high school student pulled a gun on black students at a convenience store, and three black students wrestled the gun away from the kid. No charges were filed against the white kid; instead, the black kids were charged with theft of a firearm, second degree robbery, and disturbing the peace.

Then on Dec. 4, the white student, Justin Barker, was laughing that Robert Bailey had been beaten up and was making inappropriate racial remarks.

An argument with some black students ensued. Barker was beaten up, treated at the hospital for minor injuries, and released that afternoon. Consequently, six black students were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The local D.A. decided to charge the kids as adults, and the first to go to trial, Mychal Bell, was convicted in June by an all-white jury and could face up to 22 years in prison.

The issue here is injustice. I agree with Dan Toler, the Jena Six should be punished for their actions. However, it is clear by Dan’s comment, “Since when do African-Americans get a pass on promoting good race relations?” that he has failed to realize that protesters are not demanding that the Jena Six be let of the hook; they are arguing that the charges were excessive and the Jena Six should be tried in a juvenile court.

It is quite clear that the legal system in Jena has given the whites involved in these events merely a slap on the wrist (or a free pass, to use Dan’s words), while filing excessive charges on the blacks.

People wore black last Thursday because they want fair and appropriate punishment for both the blacks and whites in Jena.

Mark McGuiresophomoreKeough HallSept. 24