We’ve Got to Be Careful About Nooses

As I was watching the CNN’s Special Investigations Unit episode called “Judgement in Jena”, one of the women interviewed said she felt the Jena community should have pulled the white students who placed nooses from a “white only tree” and told them that nooses are of the past and “we’ve got to be careful about that.  People can’t do that anymore.”

As if it were acceptable any other time.  As if it’s just a matter of not publicly displaying nooses.  Keep them inside your minds and everything is okay.

Prior to SIU, I saw a round table news program on which a journalist from The Washington Post suggested that this was not the best case to reignite the civil rights movement.  She commented on the fact that Mychal Bell, one of the members of the Jena Six, has had a previous record.  She also said that the Jena Six kids were violent, which is contrary to the original civil rights movement.

And she is right that a fight occured.  And she is right that Mychal Bell had a previous record (his mother claims he was defending himself against an older, drunk man).  But what the journalist ignores is that this isn’t about whether or not a fight occured (last I checked, no one claimed a fight didn’t occur).  This is about the charges of second degree attempted murder.  This is about claiming one of the defendant’s shoe was a weapon (because a weapon must be involved to charge someone with second degree attempted murder). 

Meanwhile, in December, a white man pulls a shotgun on three black students.  The students wrestle the man to the ground and take the shotgun away from him.  His charge: nothing.  Their charge: assault and theft (of the shotgun).

That is what this is about.  Equal justice under the law.  Mychal Bell could have murdered someone but he would still deserve equal justice under the law.  The charges brought against him and his fellow students are not equal to the lack of charges brought against all of the white people who have been committing crimes toward blacks since the nooses were first hung from the tree. 

And the nooses were a hate crime.  Plain and simple.  Not something “to be careful about.”

Nevertheless, the woman from SIU better head to North Carolina.  Some kids aren’t being careful there, either:

Nooses Found At N.C. High School

UPDATED 9/23/07: 9:28 PM

Because people think we’re crazy when we say racism is still a real threat in America, you must read this story:

FBI probes supremacist Web site over Jena Six

UPDATED 9/26/07: 5:42 PM

Congress may soon be looking closely at the Jena Six case.  Read all about it:

Congress to hold hearings on ‘Jena 6’



With the Computer, With Picket Signs and With Bare Feet

[view all of my posts about the Burma Demonstrations by clicking here

Almost a month ago, I asked about the state of protesting in our country.  I had come up with a thesis that no one protested any more.  Reading through the news today, I found out I was dead wrong.

Louisiana Protest Echoes the Civil Rights Era

Yes, yesterday there was a major protest in Jena, Louisiana.  And this is definately what I would call a worthy case of social protest.  Similarly, there was a protest in support of the Jena Six at my Alma Mater, The University of Toledo, yesterday.  While I cannot confirm it, I assume similar local rallies were held throughout the nation. 

As I’ve learned more and more about this case, I keep asking myself: Why did they cut the tree down?  It seems like such a waste. 

Meanwhile, an electronic campaign of civil protesting has been going on in California.

Rumsfeld as Fellow Draws a Protest at Stanford

This electronic version of the protest, as noted by the news article, is likely to transform into a physical, tangible protest next week.  And this is good and necessary.  I still don’t know exactly what kind of power an electronic protest can have but it certainly lacks the kind of power a physical protest has in regards to gaining major media, and thus major public, attention. 

Still, isn’t something wrong when Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, of the Stanford Prison Experiment, is saying this guy is too nuts to teach there?

And our last look at modern protest takes us across the globe.

Monks in Myanmar Protest for Third Day

There are some fabulous images of the monks in the print edition of The New York Times and some can be found with some fancy searching through the newspaper’s website.  But the concept here is absolutly beautiful.  The ancient Buddhist monks, marching in their red robes, bright as the setting sun, all the while holding their begging bowls upside down.  It’s a Gary Snyder poem, if ever I heard one.  Perhaps I’ll have to write it.

I prefer the monks’ way.  I always have.  The subtlety of it is inspiring to me.  And though I know it never gets the quick results like other forms of protest and it isn’t sexy enough to make the front page, there is a real integrity to it.  And honesty.  A self assuredness that they are right and that they are doing right. 

I often wish I had that same self assuredness.

For a slide show of the Jena Six rally in Louisiana, click here.

Johnny Cash – Man in Black” posted by globespotter

UPDATED 9/21/07: 4:10 PM

Breaking News about the Jena Six:

No bail for ‘Jena Six’ teen

UPDATED 9/21/07: 9:24 PM

I just got a news article regarding the smaller protests being done in support of the Jena Six.  Read all about it:

Facebook Generation Rallies for the Jena Six

UPDATED 9/23/07: 9:23 PM

The protests by the Buddhist monks in Burma have continued, lasting now for five straight days.  Yesterday, the crowd, including over 10,000 people and including over 4,00o monks, made there way to Nobel laureate and peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi.  Read all about it:

Witnesses: Monks protest near Suu Kyi house

It might be because of the beautiful photography and the incredible image of peace that this story creates in my head, but I am riveted by what is happening in Burma.  I wish we were getting more news about it here in America.

For more on what is happening in Burma, see “What’s Going On in Burma“.


[view all of my posts about the Burma Demonstrations by clicking here]

The Jena Six: How Did I Not Hear About This?

Some will say racism is no longer a problem in America.  Some will say racism is a problem in America but it is getting better.  Some will say racism is still a terrible problem in America and there has been no progress made.  Events in Jena, Louisiana may shed light on the truth:

NPR: Case of ‘Jena Six’ Tears at Small Town’s Harmony

The created segregation, the nooses, and the initial sentences of these kids at least proves that racism still exists.  It seems to show us it is still a problem. 

However, there is hope for those of us who want to see a society that judges each other, as one of my heroes said, by their character rather than by the color of their skin.  Civil Rights leaders, Amnesty International and average Americans are rallying in support of the Jena Six.  And there is this:

JENA 6 UPDATE: Another charged reduced; groups across America mobilize for massive Sept. 20 rally.

Certainly, years ago the charges would not be reduced, this story would not make headlines, and, to put it bluntly, there would be no trial for these kids.  The nooses would have been their trial.  So, many would look at the developments of this case and tell me to sit down, shut up and be happy about the progress that has happened.

And yet I am not happy.  Progress is good.  But progress is not enough.  We’ve come a long way in America in regards to our stained racial past.  But we have not moved far enough. 

You want me to be happy about race relations in America.  I will be.  Once the nooses are taken out of the trees, out of our minds and out of our hearts.  Once the racial epithets are taken out of public life and are taken away from the kitchen table. 

I believe racism lives in the homes of Americans.  I believe racist Americans are, for the most part, smart enough to know that they cannot act on their racism in public anymore.  But I still believe race relations are a lot worse than most people want to admit.  Many will disagree with me and, I will admit, it is an argument I cannot win because the secretive nature of the racism I am suggesting makes it so there is no quantifiable evidence to support my beliefs. 

But, instances like the Jena Six show that even if we’ve come a long way, we still have a very long way to go.

UPDATED 9/21/07: 3:01 PM

For a timeline of the events related to the Jena Six case, click here.

Updates, The Smashing Pumpkins and More

Okay, so I have a few updates about previous posts that I need to make.  So here goes.

“Good News, Part Two”

As expected, Judge Hanson’s ruling didn’t last very long.  A stay on the ruling was issued less than 24 hours after Hanson made his decision.  In between the ruling and the stay, 27 same sex couples filed applications for marriage but only one made it to the courthouse.  Read all about it:

Iowa Gay Marriage Applications Halted

“Grand Rapids Literary Review Issue Two is Now Available”

I don’t know what is going on with the web site for The Grand Rapids Literary Review, except that the site is down.  I have emailed the editors in hopes of finding out.  If the site is down permanently and the journal no longer exists, then I don’t know what that means regarding the poems that were published there.  I still have the interview in my email, so at the least I will post that here.  The poems, if I am allowed, will likely have to be resubmitted elsewhere if the site is down.  I may be overreacting though and it may be resolved soon, in which case I will post another update.  My apologies to anyone who has been trying to find the poems and the interview.

“Bring Anthony Bourdain to Toledo”

The Toledo Blade has an article in today’s paper about a project in Columbus that is similar to the Live/ Work/ Create project that Toledo artists and Mayor Finkbeiner recently announced.  Check it out:

Short North in Columbus offers vision for Toledo

“Poetry Challenge”

There are a lot of great spontaneous poems in the comments section of Rane Arroyo’s “A Challenge And Be Eye Candy Too” posting.  If you haven’t read them yet, you are missing out.

“A Question for Young Americans”

The comments section of this posting has involved a discussion of the current U.S. economy that has mentioned many issues, including the housing market, interest rates, and the unemployment level.  The New York Times issued a report last Wednesday about the economy based on the results of the recent census.  Read the report, by Abby Goodnough:

Census Shows a Modest Rise in U.S. Income

“And So Ends Another Summer”

My classes are settled, the students are registered and I’ve compared the gender ratio of my students to the average reported in “And So Ends Another Summer.”  The national average says that 57 percent of students registered nationwide are female.  Approximately 62 percent of my students are female.  I’m above average!

“Election Fatigue”

Many of us might be fatigued, but Reuters apparently is not.  Today they announced:

Race for the White House kicks into high gear

Many debates, rallies and speeches to go.  And four more months before the first vote is cast.  Meanwhile, everyone is still asking if Fred Thompson is in the race or not.  It seems this week we will find out, according to The New York Times:

After Months of Flirting, Thompson Is Almost In

“Let’s do the Time Warp Again”

Read this interesting article, also from The New York Times (what can I say, I get free copies at school), regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling to ban using race to assign children to public schools.  Unfortunately, to read it you have to have TimesSelect (meaning you pay for the ability to read “older” articles) or you have to purchase the ability to read just this one article.  But here’s the link anyway:

A Successful Plan for Racial Balance Now Finds Its Future Uncertain

If you google the title and find the full text of the article for free, let me know so I can post it.

And because I’m upset no one can see my poems, here is something fun:

Smashing Pumpkins – Rocket” posted by jfu79

Finally, I’m adding three new editorials to the Supplemental Readings page (yes, from The New York Times) by Paul Krugman.  One is about Race and the G.O.P.  The other deals with the current administration’s failures, highlighting Hurricane Katrina.  The last has to do with the attacks on universal health care and that scary, scary word, “Socialism.”  The full text of these are archived on the blog Economist’s View .  And you can read them here:

Paul Krugman: Seeking Willie Horton

Paul Krugman: Katrina All The Time

Paul Krugman: A Socialist Plot


UPDATED 9/19/07: 7:59 PM

The New York Times has changed its policy regarding the TimesSelect articles.  They are now available for free on their website.  You may have to endure a short ad, but there is a “skip this ad” button for those of you who, like me, are impatient.

Let’s do the Timewarp Again

Is it 1950 again?  Between the Supreme Court’s attacks on a woman’s right to choose and now its attack on the desegregation of American schools, it is certainly starting to feel like the 1950s again.  Read all about it:

Divided court rejects school diversity plans

Now I could spend all day talking about racism, the need for racial integration, the benefits of racial integration and the importance of strengthening the integrity of Brown v. Board of Education.  But plenty of others have already done that.

Here’s one from the LA Times called “Fracturing a landmark.”

And here’s one from the Washington Post called “Standing in the Schoolhouse Door.”

No I don’t need to talk about those things because they’ve already been talked about.  And plus, we were all prepared for this, right?  We knew it was coming.  The news prepared us by covering it and explaining the debates and letting us know who was protesting what, how and why. 

What?  You didn’t see all of that coverage.  No, you probably just saw the news about the murdered pregnant woman from Ohio, or the pro wrestler who killed himself and his family or, more likely, Paris Hilton.

Why doesn’t the news cover news anymore?  Hmm…. I wonder.  Am I saying the conservative coalition is purposely controling the news so we don’t have access to pivital information so we can’t act?  No.  Am I saying the media is covering other stories to cover up major social issues like this and the abortion case (remember, the partial birth abortion ban ruling was buried during the Virginia Tech tragedy)?  Not exactly.  Am I saying something fishy is going on and I don’t like it?  And am I saying the news media are failing at their responsibilities to keep us informed about important debates, rulings, and upcoming events?  Absolutely. 

The progressive left, liberal America, needs to organize around these issues.  We need to come together and fight these rulings that take our country backwards.  But we can’t if we are bombarded by Paris Hilton in jail, David Hasselhoff drunk and Lindsay Lohan high.  We need real news and we need it now.