In the midst of the media's typically one-sided view of Thursday's civil rights protests in Jena, Louisiana, Jason Whitlock, the black sportswriter who called Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton terrorists during April's Don Imus controversy, penned an op-ed in the Kansas City Star that should be must-reading for all Americans.
Entitled "Lessons From Jena, LA," Whitlock's piece marvelously exposed a side of this story that mainstream media outlets, as well as folks like Jackson and Sharpton, want to desperately withhold from the public in order to provoke racial tension rather than reduce it.
After a wonderful introduction, Whitlock got down to business (emphasis added throughout, h/t NB reader Thomas Rosenbrook):
Jesse Jackson compared Thursday's rallies in Jena to the protests and marches that used to take place in cities like Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. Al Sharpton claimed Thursday's peaceful demonstrations were to highlight racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
Jesse and Al, as they're prone to do, served a kernel of truth stacked on a mountain of lies.
There are undeniable racial and economic inequities in our criminal justice system, and from afar the "Jena Six" rallies certainly looked and felt like the righteous protests of the 1960s.
But the reality is Thursday's protests are just another sign that we remain deeply locked in denial about the path we need to travel today for true American liberation, equality and power in the new millennium.
Fortunately, Whitlock was just getting warmed up:
There was no "schoolyard fight" as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree.
Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.
As NewsBusters noted, media have almost universally ignored or downplayed this. But there's more:
A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the "Jena Six" case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker's assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the "Jena Six" in reaction to [Jena District Attorney Reed] Walters' extreme charges of attempted murder.
Didn't hear anybody report that last night, did you? But there's more that appears to have gone largely un- or under-reported:
Much has been written about Bell's trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell's public defender was black.
It's rarely mentioned that Bell was already on probation for assault when he was accused of participating in Barker's attack. And it's never mentioned that white people in the "racist" town of Jena provided Bell support and protected his football career long before Jesse, Al, Bell's father and all the others took a sincere interest in Mychal Bell.
Yet, Whitlock saved the really inconvenient truth for the end:
I am in no way excusing the nooses. The responsible kids should've been expelled. A few years after I'd graduated, a similar incident happened at my high school involving our best football player, a future NFL tight end. He was expelled.
The Jena school board foolishly overruled its principal and suspended the kids for three days.
But the kids responsible for Barker's beating deserve to be punished. The prosecutor needed to be challenged on his excessive charges. And we as black folks need to question ourselves about why too many of us can only get energized to help our young people once they're in harm's way.
I've been the spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City for six years. Getting black men to volunteer to mentor for just two hours a week to the more than 100 black boys on a waiting list is a yearly crisis. It's a nationwide crisis for the organization. In Kansas City, we're lucky if we get 20 black Big Brothers a year.
You don't want to see any more "Jena Six" cases? Love Mychal Bell before he violently breaks the law.
Sadly, this isn't how media or folks like Sharpton and Jackson work. After all, if cases like this were prevented, how would these entities foment racial tension for their own benefit?
Bravo, Jason. Bravo!