Apartheid as American as Apple Pie: The Case of Jena

On Thursday September 20, the march in Jena ended peacefully and most thought, successfully. African Americans attending the march applaud the success and celebrate the fact of proving some of the white residents in the town and around the world that this was in fact a very peaceful event. Leading up to this event, car dealers removed their cars from the lots; businesses taped and closed their businesses, all in the belief that trouble was inevitable. According to a local minister attending the marches:

“This showed them; we were here for a purpose. That purpose was to tell whites that we are tired; it shows blacks that we can and should stand up for what’s right. This march in Jena is to say that it is time to stop treating us unjustly in the system.”

Most of the commentary coming from those who attended the march in Jena describes the beauty and tragedy of the march in the same breath. Another African American minister describes this event this way:

“It was the most beautiful thing to see all those people together supporting equal justice. You had to be here to feel the atmosphere and unity. There are no words to describe the feeling. The pictures and the news reports could never do it justice. At the same time, it is very sad that this event was very necessary. People want to say that we [blacks] need to get over things; that racism and hatred is in the past. This ain’t about the past. This is about the past, present, and the future. Obviously, this is still and always has been an issue.”

A Jena resident and participant talks candidly about the recent events leading to the march by saying that the call to equal justice was long overdue:

“I have been here all my life and what is happening here with racism has been happening all my life. This was nothing new, but I am glad that this is getting attention. Not just for the Jena 6, but for everybody. This place is filled with racism; it is filled with David Dukes; they just don’t wear the white sheets in public. The point is, racism is still here, I guess we are supposed to be quiet about it.”

So, what is the outcome? African Americans still feel that the march and the visits from broadcast media outlets are necessary and beneficial, but this is not the only thing that is happening; racial threats are also becoming a commonality. The first African American minister quote above comments again:

“My church has been getting some serious threats from supremacist groups. We have been getting them all day, every day. I have been personally getting them. These people are saying that they will kill all of us that are deeply involved with the Jena 6. The morning after, they called my organization office and asked for me personally to tell me that they were there with us in the march and they would kill me and kill us all. I am not concerned about this. They can’t hurt me.”

These threats are once again a sign that the old legal segregation and its extreme and violence oriented behavior is still part of the lives of many African Americans in the South. Social science research shows this clearly, yet the mass media mostly ignore the findings of researchers. The coverup of this reality is again one of the great tragedies of the United States. No country can be a democracy where many of its citizens must fear for their lives just for exercising their civil rights and civil liberties.

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