Revolution #98, August 19, 2007
U.S. Department of Justice: Nothing “Irregular” or Wrong with Jim Crow “Justice”
Jena is a small town where racism and segregation is the status quo—enforced in official and unofficial ways as well. A young Black man told Revolution newspaper, “Well you walk a sharp line and you cross the line and you face the consequences.”
But the forceful imposition of white supremacy is not simply or even fundamentally a case of “good ole boys” going wild. The case of the Jena 6 is happening at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the land, has overturned Brown vs. Board of Education— officially fortifying segregation and savage inequalities in the schools. And from the school officials to the police to the courts— authorities and government officials have been and are a part of the completely unjust and racist treatment of the Jena 6.
For anyone who doubts this, officials from the highest levels of the U.S. government recently descended on Jena to make this crystal clear.
On July 26, more than 165 people packed into the Good Pine Middle School auditorium. The crowd was almost all Black. The event was billed as a “community forum” to discuss issues arising out of the Jena 6 case. But this was definitely a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.
The four-hour forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice featured Lewis Chapman, assistant special agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office; U.S. Attorney Donald Washington from the Justice Department; and Carmelita Freeman, regional director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service.
The struggle to free the Jena 6 is about justice and stopping and reversing a terrible outrage that is now going on. So what kind of “justice” was Washington (who is Black) talking about when he told the crowd that he empathized “very publicly with all the families involved in this dispute…white, black, purple and green.” What does it mean when someone from the U.S. Justice Department says he supports all sides in this conflict? The lynching nooses, as well as the Black students who sat under a “whites-only” tree? You can’t support all sides. The question is—which side are you on?
What Washington said means support for the status quo of racism and segregation and all the rights this gives to racist whites. What Washington said means supporting the racist white students who hung nooses and attacked Black students. What Washington said means NOT taking a stand against the injustice of what is being done to the Jena 6.
During the Q&A period at the end, someone in the audience asked whether the hanging of the nooses on the tree was a “hate crime.” Chapman, from the FBI, responded, first of all, by revealing that the FBI had agents in Jena a week or so after the incident. Then Washington claimed that there were all the elements of a “hate crime”—except for the threat of use of force. In fact, force was used— by the government — to back up those nooses. The arrest of the Jena 6, who are facing decades in jail, is all about enforcing those nooses with the force of the state.
The U.S. Department of Justice serves as an enforcer for a system that has enslaved, worked to death on plantations, lynched, enforced Jim Crow against, segregated against, and turned fire hoses and KKKers (often organized by the FBI) on Black people and those who joined in the struggle for equality. This is part of the same “justice” system that sent a DA to the school assembly to threaten Black students who protested the nooses. Washington and the FBI are no friends of the people.
History tells us, no question about it— when white people hang nooses on trees, this is nothing but a murderous, racist threat against Black people. And Washington and Chapman, as representatives of the FBI and U.S. Justice Department, have only underscored how this kind of lynch mob “justice” is bolstered and supported by the government institutions of this system.
The most revealing moment in the so-called “community forum” was when Washington (discussing the high school’s handling of the noose incident and the fight for which the Jena 6 are on trial) said: “We have examined all of their actions and I'm not saying I agree with what they've done but I can say that we could find no violation in the way they handled each event. All of their procedures were ‘regular’ and not ‘irregular.’” (quoted in The Jena Times )
“All their procedures were regular and not irregular.”
Well, this was the one statement in the meeting by Washington we have to agree with.
No punishment for white students who hang lynch nooses on a schoolyard tree: REGULAR. Threatening Black students who protest this racist threat: REGULAR. Giving a slap on the hand to white students who attack Black students: REGULAR. Black students facing decades of prison time for fighting with white students: REGULAR.
On this, Washington is right: This is the “regular” workings of a white supremacist system.
And we would add another “regular.” Officials from the highest offices of the system, holding a “community meeting,” wolves in sheep’s clothing— to try and cool things out and at the same time justify and bolster the enforcement of segregation and white supremacy: REGULAR.
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