Jena is gaining national notoriety as an example of the new ‘stealth’ racism, showing how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America’s Deep South, even in the year that a black man, Barak Obama, is a serious candidate for the White House. It began in Jena’s high school last August when Kenneth Purvis asked the headteacher if black students could break with a long-held tradition and join the whites who sit under the tree in the school courtyard during breaks. The boy was told that he and his friends could sit where they liked. The following morning white students had hung three nooses there. ‘Bad taste, silly, but just a prank,’ was the response of most of Jena’s whites.
Yes. Silly. Like lynching for looking at a white woman silly. That’s a real fucking laugh.
Billy Doughty, the local barber, has never cut black men’s hair. ‘They just don’t come here,’ he mumbled. ‘Anyway, their hair is different and difficult to cut.’
OMG the black hair is so wild and savage and unmanageable! How can one barber contend?
On 30 November, someone tried to burn Jena High to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. That same weekend race fights between teenagers broke out downtown, and on 4 December racial tension boiled over once more in the school. A white student, Justin Barker, was attacked, allegedly by six black students. The expected charges of assault and battery were not laid, and the six were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. They now face a lifetime in jail.
Conspiracy to commit murder. What about the white students that hung the nooses?
The three white perpetrators of what was seen as a race hate crime were given ‘in-school’ suspensions (sent to another school for a few days before returning).