Revolution#110, November 25, 2007
Jena Youth Speak Out on Racism…
Revolution correspondent Alice Woodward spoke with a group of youth who attended Jena High last year about the situation in the school. The following comments are from that interview:
On the “white tree” in the schoolyard:
We used to sit by the stairs and the white people used to sit under the tree. And sometimes we feel like we want to go under the tree, and they be actin’ all funny. Like teachers be acting funny towards us when we go under the tree, they act like we can’t go up under the tree, they act funny towards us, like towards us, making jokes and stuff under the tree and stuff, and we’d go up under the tree. And one day we told them, we’re gonna take over the tree we told them. We went under the tree and the white people start scattering, start moving around like they’re scared of us, we told them, “Why y’all gonna be scared of us, we ain’t gonna do y’all nothing? As long as you all don’t do us nothing we’re not going to do y’all nothing, we’re just trying to get under the shade too.”
We used to try to sit under that tree way before [the nooses were hung from the tree]. Before all this stuff ever happened. It’s the same results every time. We’d go under the tree, white people moved, there’d be a bunch of tension. Then they’d be acting like we came to start trouble. The teachers come ask why you trying to go up under there, why are you trying to start stuff, why are you messin? We say we’re not trying to start somethin, we’re just tryin to unite the school, ya know what I’m sayin. On the football team we’re united, in sports we’re united, why can’t we unite students. Why can’t we be all friends, instead of—this has to sit under the tree, this has to sit over there, this over there. It don’t make sense, that’s dumb.
On day-in, day-out inequality in school:
Everything you can see just like white people getting treated better. It’s like you drive to school, white people drive to school they can park their car anywhere. We park our car, like say we don’t have enough room, we park our car across the road off campus, we’ll get in trouble for that, they wouldn’t get in trouble. They might act like they’re going to say something to them, but they don’t say nothing to them. It’s just a tension at school, it’s a racist school. But you ain’t got no choice but to cope with it, because you ain’t got no other place to go but in school so you gotta stay there.
…We don’t get what we deserve down here, we just get treated lower than white people down here. We don’t get what we deserve, like if we get in trouble. Like say we’re saggin, we might get suspension. Say a white person might get caught with hemp in his mouth, and there ain’t no tobacco products allowed at school. He don’t get nothin but a detention or a slap on the wrist. And they still keep the tobacco in the back of their mouth as of today. They ain’t gonna do nothin about it.
They try to stop us from—all Black people wear like, tall tees they stop about right there [just above the knee]—they try to stop us one year, told us we couldn’t wear them, talking about, “No y’all can’t wear that.” They try to make us wear little bitty ol’ shirts and stuff, man I don’t wear that stuff. White people wear what they want, why can’t we wear what we want? That’s how I feel. Ya know they wear they boots and stuff, why can’t we wear what we want? That’s our fashion. We gonna wear what we want to wear. They’re just stupid at that school.
Every day we sag our pants, but we might get a Saturday morning for saggin. It’s against the rules, but tobacco is really against the rules, I’m talking about it’s supposed to be alternative school, but they get light stuff like detention. For saggin we might get Saturday morning, we might get alternative school, depending on how many times we’ve done it.
What’s “alternative school”?
Uh, it’s hell. [All laugh.] You have to go up there, it’s behind a fence, it’s a little building behind a fence you got to sit up in these dividers and you can’t talk, you have to look forward into these dividers and you have to sit there all day, it’s a school and you have to sit there, they bring you your food, and they bring you your work and you have to sit there all day. Can’t go to sleep in there, gotta sit there in that one spot all day, can’t do nothin, just sit there, you go to sleep you get an extra day.
About supporting the Jena 6—and punishment for that
Indeed, when you’re up there you can’t talk about it. They don’t want no students talking about it, like we had wore t-shirts saying Free the Jena 6, they made us take it off, some students got expelled from it because they refused to take it off. They told them they weren’t gonna have that up at their school and said take it off. Some students they got expelled, got alternative school, cause they wouldn’t take it off.
In sports we always get along, we got to because if you want to get somewhere you got to stay together. And that’s how it is, and we try to show that, that if we can do it in sports, why can’t we do it every day? Not just when we playing in sports, in the streets, after school and stuff, why can’t we talk to each other, after school and stuff? When we’re in school, some of them act funny, but some of them don’t. It’s not their fault though, it’s their grandparents’ fault. Most of the stuff that’s happening now, it’s white people’s grandparents saying they don’t want them doing this and that, and they do this or that and they end up getting hurt because of the choices they made.
Yeah, if we just all stick together and forget this other stuff. Forget what other people are talking about, never mind what other people are talking about, just keep focus, do what we normally do, as one. Don’t let what other people do stray you away from what you do every day, normally we hang together every day, then somebody say the wrong word then we be against each other, why should we do that? Forget that, forget that one word and let’s just still be friends. That’s how it happens most of the time.
The march of 10,000 people on September 20th to Free the Jena 6
Oh my god, I was freakin, I was freaked out man, I couldn’t believe it was happenin, I was like cryin it was so... I ain’t ever seen so many Black people in my life! I swear to god I mean man I never in my life seen so many Black people, I was so happy to feel that ya know what I’m saying. That for once we weren’t outnumbered, ya know what I’m saying, for once we were like more than them, ya know what I’m sayin, like yeah, I’m feelin like yeah, I feel secure. But then they left and I’m like, oh man, back to the struggle again.
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