I can understand the emotions generated by the juxtaposition of the noose incident with the attack on Mr. Barker and the outcomes for the perpetrators of each. In the final analysis, though, I am bound to enforce the laws of Louisiana as they exist today, not as they might in someone’s vision of a perfect world.
That is what I have done. And that is what I must continue to do.
This is an excerpt from an opinion piece submitted by Mr. Reed Walters, the D.A. prosecuting the Jena 6 to the New York Times. The fact that I find amazing about this piece and all the other ones written in support of the original handling of this case is that nowhere in any of the pieces is the behavior of the whites discussed. It is as if they would have us to believe that this all took place in a vacuum somewhere. According to these folks, some innocent white boy was beaten senseless by these black criminals for no reason. None of these authors apply the context they talk about in their pieces, they acknowledge these things as if they were irrelevant to the case.
Yes there were nooses, and yes there was a shotgun, and yes there was a black kid beaten at a party, but none of this is relevant. What also is obviously not relevant to Mr. Walters is the fact that in each case of white misconduct there were no charges filed. Ok, Mr. Walters there is no crime for the nooses; fair enough, but what about the shotgun incident or the beating of the black kid at the party or your performance at the assembly?
What kills me about this guy and many more like him is that they completely ignore cause and effect. They fell to accept that if you continue to ignore injustice it doesn’t go away it festers and eventually it explodes. Granted, if you take the actions of the black youngmen and separate them from the other incidents it would appear as Mr. Walters has described, but that is not the case. After years of Jim Crow and other subtle forms of racism, you want us to just pretend that stuff never happened and it has no context in today’s reality.
The fact that you still had a “white tree” in 2007 dismisses all of your arguments concerning the relevancy of the nooses and the other actions that followed. Let’s be real Mr. Walters, your town has a racial history as does all of America and to pretend that it doesn’t only goes to show how disingenuous you and your type are. You pretend that you can ignore 300 years of racial strife and expect Blacks to do the same. No, Mr. Walters this is your game, we are confronted daily with the continual perpetration of white preference and so our memory is a little clearer.
Am I calling for a statue or monument to be made for these young men? Absolutely not! They are not angels and used violence in an inappropriate manner. What I am calling for is equal treatment under the law for all citizens. I learned early in life that you can’t legislate other people’s opinions or emotions, but what you can legislate is equal treatment and application of the law. The protest in Jena was not about the criminal activities of those young men it was about the unequal application of the law and the intimidation by you and the school board. The outrage was that we were not going to allow such an uneven prosecution of the law to go unanswered.
Last week, a reporter asked me whether, if I had it to do over, I would do anything differently. I didn’t think of it at the time, but the answer is yes. I would have done a better job of explaining that the offenses of Dec. 4, 2006, did not stem from a “schoolyard fight” as it has been commonly described in the news media and by critics.
So we are to believe that the only error on your part was in communicating why you did not apply the laws equally? No sir, you made many errors in this case and you assumed that because of that racial history that you deny played any role in this, you thought you could get away with them. If you are truly bound by the laws, then why are the only people in jail in these cases black?
You conjure up the images of a lone white student being viscously beaten by these black criminals, but how about you conjuring up the picture of three black men hanging from those innocent nooses hung from that tree.
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.