Racism lives on in the law and in our nation’s schools

By Eric Naing

Just this week Troy Davis, a black man, was awarded a 90-day stay of execution because witnesses in his trail changed their testimony and now claim that they were pressured by investigators to lie under oath. In our criminal justice system blacks are more likely to receive a more severe punishment than Caucasians for committing the same crimes. Sadly, it seems that this warped standard of justice is being echoed by a high school in Louisiana.

Last year in the town of Jena, a group of black students at Jena High School chose to sit under a tree that was historically the territory of Caucasian students. In a chilling reminder of our nation’s violent racial history, three hangman’s nooses were hung from the tree in response. The white students responsible were given a mere three-day suspension. Superintendent Roy Breithaupt, also a white man, called the nooses “pranks” and claimed they were not a threat.

After that, white students assaulted a black student and, in a separate incident a white graduate of the high school threatened other black students with a shotgun. Following this, white students again antagonized the black student who was first assaulted, resulting in a fight which led to one of the white students getting injured. Shockingly, this incident led to six black students aged 15-17 getting arrested and facing charges of attempted murder and conspiracy.

This month, an all-white jury convicted Mychal Bell of aggravated assault and conspiracy, one of the “Jena Six.” He now faces up to 22 years in prison. In contrast, the white student who initially assaulted the black student was charged only with battery while the student who aimed a shotgun at the black students was not charged with anything.

From our laws, to the trials, to the prison system, practically every aspect of our criminal justice system is set up so that blacks get treated unfairly. This double standard not only in the traditional justice system but also in the high school system seems like it belongs more in the post-reconstruction era rather than in the 21st century.

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    In 2003, current White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “Racism isn’t that big a deal anymore.” Snow, like many other people currently in power, wishes to maintain the status quo in which blacks are institutionally discriminated against.

    Last month, the Supreme Court ruled to restrict integration programs by preventing public schools from using race as a factor in deciding which schools students attend. With the highest court in the land ruling that racial discrimination in schools is fine, then it is no surprise that our justice system follows suit. Racism and segregation in our school system are alive and well. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court decided along partisan lines to prevent schools from doing something about it.

    Significant change will take years, but for now support the Jena Six by visiting the Friends of Justice at http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/ and the ACLU of Louisiana at http://www.laaclu.org.