September 22, 2007


Not a novel insight, but it's pretty freakin' impressive that organizers got as many as 50,000 protesters down to a tiny Louisiana town for the march over the Jena 6 case. Antiwar folks haven't managed anything half as formidable lately. Also, check out this Chicago Tribune piece, on how online groups such as Color of Change and the black blogosphere—which brought the Jena 6 story into the national spotlight—appear to be creating a new infrastructure for a modern-day civil rights movement, which in the last two decades has had to rely heavily on a few key leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor has a somewhat different take. Everyone who's studied the issue agrees that there are large racial disparities in the U.S. justice system. The question, says CSM, is how much of this is a result of prejudice on the part of individual prosecutors and police officers (which, at first glance, appears to have been a factor in the Jena case), and how much a result pre-existing racial disparities in income and education that are then amplified by the criminal justice system. Experts seem to disagree. I don't really know who's right, but Kenneth Nunn of the University of Florida brings it all back to the Jena 6:
"The public at large basically thinks that these cases are aberrations, and that's one reason why so much attention is paid to them," says Professor Nunn. "It's the idea that it's the redneck sheriff doing this and not the way we sort of stack the odds against black criminal defendants. We can point to a few bad apples, say, 'See, it's them,' and the rest of us feel great because we're demonstrating how we disagree with racism."
I don't think that's what's going on in this particular instance, but I guess I can see his larger point.
-- Brad Plumer 7:20 PM || ||