BACK TO NORMAL
September 23, 2007 - The “outside agitators” have gone home, boarding the buses that brought them for the return to from whence they came. Al Sharpton has gone back to New York and Jesse Jackson has gone home to Chicago to continue their never ending quest for more TV time and newspaper space. The Jena Giants got whipped Friday night 38 to 12. Of course they were without their star Number 10, quarterback and strong safety Mychal Bell. He wasn’t in the lineup. It wasn’t academics that kept him out of the game, he carries a B+ average. It wasn’t an injury, at least not a physical one. Mychal Bell hasn’t been available since December 4, 2006. He is sitting in the LaSalle Parish Jail as he has been since his arrest ten months ago.
Life goes on in Jena pretty much as it had before last school year. Jonny Fryar is still President of the Jena School Board but Scott Windham is no longer the principal at Jena High. The tree that had been planted back in 1974 as a symbol of unity by a group of Jena teens, Black and White, is gone; removed by order of the School Board because it had become a symbol of something else. The few Black families in Jena still live in the Tall Timbers section, that eclectic mix of ramshackle huts, rundown trailers and neatly kept modest homes that would have been called “nigger town” a half century ago. Truth be told in many homes in Jena it is still called “nigger town” when no one outside of the family can hear.
Most in Jena, most Whites that is, say that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Jena is no more racist than any place else in America. It’s a nice, quiet little town where everybody mostly gets along. That is not to say that there aren’t problems. Folk’s pocketbooks shrunk when the lumber plant closed. There is not as much money in town and unemployment is high, especially down in nig…uh…the Tall Timber section of town.
White folks will tell you that the incident that got Bell sent to jail had nothing to do with race. It was a vicious attack on Justin Barker that involved seven Black students. The account that District Attorney Reed Walters presented to a jury had it that Mychal Bell attacked Barker from behind, blackening his eye and knocking him immediately unconscious. White folks will tell you that Barker did nothing to provoke the attack. We don’t know what the other side of the story is. Mychal’s court appointed attorney choose not to present any evidence at the trial.
Jena has had its day in the national media sun and that sun has set. But it was an exciting day without violence. Business took a holiday; government offices closed; and most Whites left town for the day. Now it is business as usual, the stores are opened again and Reed Walters is sitting in his office preparing to try the other 5 of the Jena 6. And no, it is not about Race. Things are just back to normal.
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