Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jena 6 Sheds Light on Civil Rights in U.S.

Due to recent events dealing with the Jena 6, many have found that the Justice system in the U.S. is unfair and impartial. In this article, I found it interesting that out of every 100,000 black men in America, 3,145 are in prison. Compared to the 471 white men in prison (taken from evey 100,000). The Jena 6 case has brought the chance for people in America to have conversations about the current state of civil rights. There have been countless hearings about this event, however on 10/16, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the implications of the Jena 6 incident as well as others in the U.S. that have caused racial tension. The panel questioned U.S. attorney Donald Washington, in the hearing that as said to be very emotional. "Washington said in his testimony that the Justice Department rarely brings cases against juveniles, and when it does they are not open to the press or public." The question that is on my mind is, in a situation that involves the human rights of every individual in the U.S., why must we keep it private? There is a growing tension in the U.S. dealing with civil rights, not to mention human rights. When will we take the proper action to spear head this problem?

1 comment:

terissa said...

A professor from Virginia once said to me that BET stands for Best Entertainment Tragedy. The same man then questioned myself and a group of others about the state of civil rights within the United States. Not just civil rights for blacks, but also those for gays, lesbians and transgenders, immigrants (both legal and illegal), and other ethnic/racial minorities within the US. Why is it, I asked myself, that appeasement tends to disperse tactical innovation and a desire within groups to push for change? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed, loosely, political and governmental freedoms, and barely transversed a lengthy history of social restrictions. There are, generally, two groups that can be pointed out in any conflict over civil rights issues - those who propose change for equality, and those who oppose such change for varying reasons. In the United States today, one can see how democracy and capitalism have eschewed notions of equality to the forefront of political opposition (which can be seen with the policy debates over the ENDA Ammendment, the Dream Act, new policies to implement NAFTA-like treaties to Peru and other South American countries, among others).

So why has the Jena 6 not spurned a newly lit reaction to the preeminence of inequality of civil rights within the US? Because it is the same story that has been told over and over again. Where pseudo answers can be found in the places of government and policy, there is no need to push an issue that effects specific individuals and spread it to the whole. Incidents of discrimination are counted as separate, because that is how the law treats them, hence varying levels of punishment for hate crimes and non-hate crimes.

When the society that we live in embraces legal stipulations and definitions of situations (such as the definitions of individual rights outlined in the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991, as well as by the EEOC and other bodies) that limit our response on individualized levels - where a woman is discriminated against because of her sex but she is independent in her claims - it is difficult to mobilize and demand change. American society enforces the implications of individualization, and US political practices do the same. So why can't the Jena 6 be a catalyst for change? Because they represent and individual group, a specific incident, that does not affect the rest of the black community directly. Until we begin to see every instance of discrimination as something that is the direct response of a larger web of prejudice, and accept the fact that all people are promised the same human rights, there will be no change - this is true whether another Jena 6 happens or someone keeps spray painting swastikas and hanging nooses at Columbia.