I know racism. I am a black woman, so right there I get what it means to be at the bottom: economically, politically and socially. I know what it is like to be told that all of my accomplishments are due to affirmative action, or see the utter shock in people’s faces when I conjugate my verbs properly, and to hear non-black men call me “exotic.” But I don’t know nor do I ever want to experience this type of Jim Crow-esque, Mississippi Burning bullshit that the Jena “Six” have to endure.
Now, I have always been raised in the North where white folks and others don’t usually come out of their mouth as much—they will however stare, or don’t hire you, or grab their purse tighter when you walk by, or move away—so for many of us, we cannot truly envision what a racially hostile (to say the least) place the South is. Like many, the only real connections to the South that I have are the scary stories I was told growing up; My favorite tale is the one where the Klan burns down my family’s grocery store (Don’t get me wrong; the NYPD is a constant reminder that racism is alive and kickin’ up here.)
Emotionally exhausted from being terrified to walk home because you might get lynched, afraid that your boss might brutally rape you and no one would care, tired of being spit on, told you ain’t shit, confronting fiery crosses on your front lawn; families including mine, decided enough was enough and fled to the North in hopes for a better life. I didn’t say hopped on a train, had a Bloody Mary, stopped in Nashville for a quick bite to eat, I said fled. And it wasn’t just a handful of families; it was a million black people from the years 1915 to 1950 , who gave “Dixie” the finger and bounced. Now, it is debatable if they found the sanctuary and freedom they were looking for when they got there, but it sure as hell beat living with those vicious hillbillies and their Confederate flags.
Let me be clear, in the south, public lynchings, where nooses were used, were common events. It resembled a carnival—vendors grilling hot dogs, bands playing music, and parents and children cheering as they broke a black man’s neck. What was his crime? He looked at a white woman and sneezed or didn’t move out of her way fast enough. And this was all perfectly legal.
So fast-forward to last summer. Imagine, being those young teens HAVING TO ASK IF THEY CAN SIT UNDER THE FUCKING “WHITE TREE.” Having those nooses just hanging from those branches, invoking a terrifying history of murder, fear, and intimidation, what would you have done? What would you do if being called “Nigger” and “Coon” to your face in public happened frequently and was socially acceptable? Rolled you eyes and went home and blogged about it? I don’t think so. I am not sure if the “Six” beat up that white fellow, but I will say that boy is lucky it was only a shoe that was used to beat his ass, because I would not have ran him over with his father’s tractor.
I hope to not offend Southerners, but I am tired of some of you’all pretending that racism below the Mason/Dixon line is as bad as the racism that occurs above it. It’s not. Why were those three white students only suspended for a short period of time? How is this attempted murder or aggravated battery? How was there not one black person was on that jury? How are some citizens of Jena, Louisiana still denying that race has anything to do with this? I could have sworn it was 2007, not 1937. I guess the only difference is that in 1937, those boys would have received medals, not suspensions.
I do not condone violence, I just joke about it. But if we don’t set a standard, if we don’t put our feet down as parents, as a school district, as a government, people will snap and take the law into their own hands. Why do marginalized folk have to be the better people and walk away after being shat on? I guess because that is the only way to stay out of jail.
The future of these teens are in the hands of a bigoted legal system. So I ask, why are we not mad enough? Why is the media not all over this? Why are we still more concerned with Usher marrying “Maneka” in Atlanta last weekend? Or with Lindsay letting guys run trains on her in the bathroom at her rehab facility? Or if the damn boy from High School Musical 2 is a homosexual? (He is though)
I’ll admit that I have not been in tune as I should be, which would explain why I am posting this late as hell.
Although this situation is drenched in racism, I do urge people to see that this issue is beyond black and white, this is about all of us—brown, yellow, gay, trans, Democrat, Republican, you name it—this is about humanity. Get involved: Sign this petition, write a letter, do something, but just don’t stay quiet about it anymore.