Saturday, December 15, 2007

Racist or Bumbler?

You may have heard about Department of Justice voting rights honcho John Tanner's ill-advised remarks back on October 4 and 5, during meetings with the NAACP and the National Latino Congreso:
At the time, there was a bit of outrage about what Tanner said. From Barack Obama:
Such comments are patently erroneous, offensive, and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country.
Mr. Tanner has already demonstrated questionable judgment in overruling the decision of Justice Department lawyers that the Georgia photo ID requirement would disproportionately discriminate against African Americans. For Mr. Tanner to now suggest, in an effort to defend his erroneous decision, that photo identification are not necessary for minority voters because "they die first" shows just how far the Justice Department has fallen. This is a disgrace and yet another reason why the next Attorney General must demonstrate a strong commitment to civil rights.
Tanner did apologize later:
"My explanation of the data came across in a hurtful way, which I deeply regret."
And then requested a move. Now he has been assigned to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, where he will probably find some way to chew his toenails. Stay tuned.

It seems to me Tanner just as guilty of Not Making Sense as of racism, in that he seems to first argue that requiring IDs for voting cannot disenfranchise minorities because minorities are more likely to be harassed by the police and asked for IDs and therefore are more likely to have IDs already, but then he says that it really doesn't matter if elderly minority folk have IDs because they're too dead to vote, anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2007

To Sir, with Love

. . . in the immortal words of Lulu.

This tempest in a teapot from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, via Negrophile:

[School board member] Elliott has drawn heat for an opinion piece that ran Dec. 4 on the Speaking Out page of the Democrat and Chronicle, which in part said:

The reason it is important to have more teachers of color to teach students of color has more to do with 'universality of experience' which, in the case of African Americans, is based on race.

African Americans continue to fight to overcome the ill effects of slavery and segregation, Elliott wrote, and as a result, non-black teachers could be less likely to understand, communicate with or be sensitive to how students of color engage in learning as a result of that experience.

How could anyone disagree? I'm down with Ms. Elliott (I would add that Black children need to see Black leadership everywhere, not just at school--yes, there need to be Black teachers and Black principals at school, but Black children also need to see Black doctors at the hospital; Black lawyers and judges in the court room; and Black city council members and mayors and governors and legislators in city, state, and federal government). Racism is so pervasive, so insidious, so institutionalized, so much a part of white American life that it is so very difficult for many white people to even begin to have any kind of understanding of the Black American experience.

Did anyone protest when a white woman said something similar about six months ago?
Over 40 percent of public school children are members of “minority groups;” only about 17 percent of their teachers are black, Hispanic, or Asian. This imbalance in ethnicity and gender compromises the role model that teachers can offer to poor children of color, particularly black and Hispanic males.
Remember this:
Black students are suspended far more frequently than white students ("No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the federal data show. . . Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other students from the same social and economic environments, research studies have found") even though they do not misbehave more frequently.
Who is suspending the Black children? Teachers who do not understand them, teachers who bring their own mistaken (racist) perceptions into the classroom, teachers who in all likelihood would bristle in outrage if accused of racism, and yet, and yet. . . .it takes so much to scrub that culturally inherited filth from one's soul. How many have the courage to face themselves and their privilege and acknowledge that the privilege and wealth of the some were bought with the suffering of others.

P.S. The whiteys across the Big Pond are facing the same challenge:

In London, [MP Diane Abbott] added, just 12 per cent of teachers were black while in some areas half the children were. On Saturday a black teachers' network will be launched to provide support to teachers but also encourage them to explain cultural differences to their non-black colleagues.

According to Abbott, some white teachers misunderstand the way that black boys behave, seeing them as aggressive because of a 'culture gap', while others stereotype pupils.

One other great thing Tavis Smiley said (he also said he stole it from Cornel West): In order to lead, you have to love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Don't Get Clarence Thomas

What world does he live in? But I digress.

In 1996 California voters rose up in protest against the Color Threat and passed Proposition We Hate Black People, Brown People, and People of the Feminine Persuasion 209, a nasty bit of legislation intended to dismantle affirmative action.

In order to fully understand why affirmative action is necessary, one must review the facts:
Slavery was ended only 154 years ago. (Emmett Till was murdered only 52 years ago.) The Civil Rights Act was passed only 40 years ago. (The Tuskegee Experiment ended only 35 years ago.) After only 10 years, not even enough time to begin addressing institutionalized discrimination practices, the Supreme Court already began to restrict affirmative action only 30 years ago.

But if you don't want to look at history, you can just look at the present circumstances. It seems so obvious that the demographics of the leadership of this country does not reflect the demographics of the country, as the vast majority of legislators and CEOs are white men, which means there is a problem that must be addressed. It seems highly unlikely to me that all who happen to be Brown people, Black people, or people of the feminine persuasion are not as smart nor as capable as the white men who run the show. If the lack is not in capacity, we must look to a lack in opportunity.

Recently, the state of California audited the 23 California State Universities and found that, indeed, there are not so many Brown people, Black people, or people of the feminine persuasion being hired, and the recommendation was made that the CSU "develop an affirmative action plan."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yes, Sir

The Michael Vick spectacle is over now, maybe, with the sentencing, at which time the judge could not resist the opportunity to hog center stage with pompous self-righteousness:
“I think you need to apologize once again to the millions of people who look up to you,” United States District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson said.
Really, how many times do this think this blowhard is going to be in the national spotlight? The temptation to shine was great indeed. Vick's sentence is 23 months, a sentence that is
. . . more than Vick’s co-defendants in the case — and also more than the 12 to 18 months prosecutors originally suggested, as part of Vick’s plea agreement.
This seems unnecessary to say, but I will say anyway that I think we can all agree that dogfighting is very bad no good. However, my opinion is that Vick has paid enough for what he did. He has been doing nothing but pay since this whole mess was uncovered:
Monday’s proceedings provided the next chapter in the dramatic and dizzying fall of Vick, who was once the highest-paid and one of the highest-profile players in the N.F.L. As the Falcons’ franchise quarterback, he had a 10-year, $130 million contract and lucrative endorsement deals. But now the N.F.L. has suspended him indefinitely. His major endorsements have vanished. Financial institutions have also started legal proceedings against him for defaulted loans. The Falcons are seeking to recover $20 million in bonuses from him. Prosecutors forced Vick to pay more than $928,000 for the evaluation and care of the 47 dogs that were taken from his property. Six other dogs that were seized have died or were euthanized.
Not to mention the relentless notoriety, the excessive media coverage, the nonstop vilification.

The crime Vick is really paying for is that of being a successful, wealthy Black man in America.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If You're Going to San Francisco

Just say no. In the immortal words of Nancy Reagan (who has always looked to me like someone whose chihuahua-like high-strungness was fueled by diet pills).

This, seen at Negrophile, is news that should be on the front page every day until the injustices are addressed. This is the news about America's War on Black People:

San Francisco imprisons African Americans for drug offenses at a much higher rate than whites, according to a report to be released today by a nonprofit research institute.

In a study of nearly 200 counties nationwide, the Justice Policy Institute found that 97 percent of large-population counties have racial disparities between the number of black people and white people sent to prison on drug convictions.

And here is where all those morons say, "Those Black people. If only they'd get off the crackwagon." Well, no, not really:
The institute, which is based in Washington, D.C., and researches public policy and promotes alternatives to incarceration, says whites and African Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates. But black people account for more than 50 percent of sentenced drug offenders, though they make up only 13 percent of the nation's population.
(I've seen conflicting reports on this. Some sources report that whites are three to five times more likely to use drugs than Blacks.)

So Blacks and whites account for about equal numbers of drug users. But Blacks get sentenced disproportionately. Well, that's not really news. Disproportionate sentencing, blah blah blah. Ah, but how disproportionate, you ask?
San Francisco locks up a higher percentage of members of the African American community in drug cases than any other county in the study. In the county, 123 people out of every 100,000 are sent to state prison each year for drug offenses. Of those, whites are incarcerated at a rate of 35 per 100,000 white people, while blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 1,013 per 100,000 black people.
What is the lesson here? There are many, the most obvious being that it's OK to use drugs in SF if you are white, but stay straight if you are Black:
"It is not that San Francisco is sending a lot of people to prison for drug offenses, it is that the people they are sending are black," said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the institute. "An average citizen who uses drugs in San Francisco has a pretty low chance of going to prison, but if you are African American, the chances are fairly high."
(By the way, this also an issue across the Big Water:

Figures showed that of those arrested [for possession of cannabis], 40% were African and Caribbean, 28% were white Europeans and 13% Indian and Pakistani. Of those who were later charged, 18.5% were African or Caribbean and 14% were White Europeans. Nineteen per cent of white Europeans were given a caution, rather than being taken to court, compared with 14% of people from African or Caribbean communities.)
P.S. Whites are more than twice as likely to receive treatment for drug use than Blacks (59.3% versus 22.1%).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

You Call That News?

There have been so many issues I wanted to write about that I got overwhelmed. And ended up writing nothing. There is probably a clever blogging term for this circumstance.

Anyway, I will get started with this piece from Colorlines:

This summer ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter conducted a joint national investigation of fatal police shootings in America’s 10 largest cities, each of which had more than 1 million people in 2000. Several striking findings emerged.
To begin, African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated.

The contrast was particularly noticeable in New York, San Diego and Las Vegas. In each of these cities, the percentage of black people killed by police was at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.

"There is a crisis of perception where African American males and females take their lives in their hands just walking out the door," said Delores Jones-Brown, interim director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in New York.
Although it is dangerous to be Black in America, it is now less dangerous to be Black in D.C. than it used to be:
Washington, D.C., which had the nation’s highest rate of police shootings during the 1990s, has cut the rate of shootings dramatically through a combination of training and accountability.
Not surprisingly, holding the police accountable makes a big difference.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Work to Do

. . . in the immortal words of the Isley Brothers.

I could have left this Achievement Gap Summit after the first session I attended, by three brothers, three warriors on the front line, about what these brothers have done at their school to raise up the children.

One of the co-founders, Fluke Fluker, described a trip he made to Africa, and in so doing, told us that Masai warriors greet one another by asking, "How are the children?"

So here we are, well-meaning folk all I am sure, talking and listening about the achievement gap. Black students and Latino students are attending college at half the rates of white and Asian students. Three times as many Black men are going to prison than are attending college. (Obviously, the problem here is also the criminal injustice system, not just the lack of equity in education.) Tavis Smiley said this morning that education is the civil rights issue of this decade.

But, people, let us stop laying all the responsibility at the teachers' door. We are our brother's keeper. We all have a responsibility. We are all accountable for the education of our children, which means we are all accountable for their welfare.

Do they have food? A hungry child can't learn.
Are they receiving dental care? A child sitting in class with a toothache can't learn.
Do they receive preventive health care? A child who is ill at home is not learning.
Are their homes and neighborhoods safe? A child who is afraid will not learn.

Talk. Listen. Read. Learn. Teach. Vote. Do something.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


I joined the Blackout yesterday! There was no spending yesterday in our household, and A. and B. were careful to make sure that their father did not spend any money, either.

A small step. Now we need a day during which we spend our money only supporting Black business.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buy It Now

Just a reminder to buy whatever you need so you can participate in the economic boycott November 2.

Show up.

November 2, 2007 National Blackout Day


WHO: Warren Ballentine 'The People's Attorney' and radio 'Truth Fighter' is calling for a National Blackout throughout America, on Friday, November 2, 2007.

WHAT: Attorney Ballentine is calling for a National Blackout that is necessary for African Americans, and is long over due. Especially with all the present injustices that are being allowed and accepted in America right now. From the situation with Mychal Bell and the Jena 6, Genarlow Wilson, Megan Williams, and all of the nooses being hung all over America lately. Until we have federal legislation in place regarding these hate crimes, as African Americans, we need to band together to show our 'Economic Power' by refusing to spend ANY money that day from fast food restaurants to gas. More on Jena 6 at
http://www.JENA6TV . com.

WHY: As African Americans we spend an estimated 715 billion dollars a year, and if we were to stop spending for one day that is 2 billion dollars that will not in the system. However, we ask that you don't make a mad dash to the stores days prior or on the days following. If the stores have a major increase in sales right before or right after the Blackout than we will not create the impact we are striving for.

WHEN & Friday, November 2, 2007

WHERE: Nationwide Blackout for ALL African Americans

Blackout 2 November 2007

Don't Spend ANY money — Show a sign of solidarity

Many people marched in Jena, LA, last month in support of the 6 young men unjustly charged with attempted murder for a school yard fight. There are many situations all over the nation that scream of injustice and unfair treatment of people in this country.
. . .

On Friday, November 2, 2007, Warren Ballentine, Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders are calling for a national boycott. Black people alone spend 2 billion dollars a day in the United States and we are only approximately 12% of the population—2 billion dollars a day, lining the pockets of companies that have shown no interest in our interests. We ARE living in the new civil rights movement.

We cannot allow the march in Jena to be only an event. It MUST be a movement. In the 1950s, the bus boycott was only supposed to be for a few days or weeks. It ended up being over a year.

The goal was for fair treatment and bus integration. Our parents and grandparents sacrificed and showed that with faith and strength, they could show corporate America the power of the community and demanded fair treatment. As we know, those buses were integrated. This is not about color. This is about class. The middle class and poor people in this country are not treated as the Declaration of Independence says we should be treated. It states that 'all men are created equal'. Clearly the governing class of the United States disagrees with their document.

Join us on Friday, November 2, 2007 and don't spend ANY money. If you have to shop, do it the day before or the day after. If you need gas, get it the day before or the day after. We have to join together as a community. You may be thinking, it's only one day, what difference will it make? I had the same thought at first, but just think about it. If we all save our money that day, it WILL make a difference. That day may become a weekend. That weekend may become a week and that week a month. As we showed in the 1950s, we can make a difference if we do this together.

Show a sign of solidarity.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Education for the Poor

The War on Poor People is also part of the American War on Black People. More than 40% of the nation's poor live in the South. The state with the greatest concentration of poor students is Louisiana, where 84% of public school students are poor; more than 60% of Florida's public schools are poor.

Where there are inequalities in education, of course inequalities in income and wealth follow. (The poor get poorer.)

How this country finances education is criminal. Criminal, I say. (There is a Judgment Day a-comin', and some people are going to get the shock of their lives is all Ima say about that.) Schools are financed by local and state taxes, which means that the accident of birth governs whether an American child receives an adequate education.

When there is concentrated poverty in the schools, it means that poor students have the least qualified, least experienced teachers, fewest counseling services (and certainly the greatest need for counseling services), least access to technology, and--this probably goes without saying--the highest drop-out rates.

Reform, reform, reform. There is a solid affirmative action program in place for rich white kids, with all the children of alumni admissions policies and so on. Let us now turn our attention to people in need.

[Stats from today's News & Notes on NPR]

UPDATE: More on this from Education Week:

More than half of public schoolchildren in the U.S. South now come from low-income families, according to a new report, which predicts that the nation as a whole could reach the same demographic milestone within a decade if current trends persist.

“What these figures are beginning to tell us is that we’re no longer talking about a small slice of the population when we talk about low-income students,” said Steve T. Suitts, the author of the report, which was released today by the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta-based group. “We’re talking in the South about a majority of students and that does have profound implications and challenges for schools.”

According to the report, the South, for the first time in at least 40 years, is the only region in the nation where low-income children constitute a majority of public school students. Overall, the study found that in the 2006-07 school year, 54 percent of students in 15 Southern states examined came from families poor enough to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. Under the guidelines for that program, families cannot earn more than 185 percent of the federal poverty threshold—about $31,765 a year for a family of three—to participate.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Whiteness Is Inhuman

. . .The trauma of racism is, for the racist and the victim, the severe fragmentation of the self, and has always seemed to me a cause (not a symptom) of psychosis--strangely of no interest to psychiatry. Ahab, then, is navigating between an idea of civilization that he renounces and an idea of savagery he must annihilate, because the two cannot co-exist. The former is based on the latter. What is terrible in its complexity is that the idea of savagery is not the missionary one: it is white racial ideology that is savage and if, indeed, a white, nineteenth-century American male took on not abolition, not the amelioration of racist institutions or their laws, but the very concept of whiteness as an inhuman idea, he would be very alone, very desperate, and very doomed. Madness would be the only appropriate description of such audacity. . . .
. . . I would not like to be understood to argue that Melville was engaged in some simple and simple-minded black/white didacticism, or that he was satanizing white people. Nothing like that. What I am suggesting is that he was overwhelmed by the philosophical and metaphysical inconsistencies of an extraordinary and unprecedented idea that had its fullest manifestation in his own time in his own country, and that that idea was the successful assertion of whiteness as an ideology.
--from "On Herman Melville" by Toni Morrison in Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Genarlow Wilson Did Not Create His Own Reality

Genarlow Wilson is free. For the first time in years, he can get up in the middle of the night and make his way in the dark to the refrigerator and get himself a snack. He can go outside whenever he wants. He can sleep all day. He can make choices about what to do every minute of the day. The way we all do. He is free.

Maybe some of you have heard of this New Agey spirituality based on the Create Your Own Reality concept. It is what it sounds like: no matter how horrifying your circumstances, whether you are an Ethiopian orphan or a child starving in Darfur, your soul picked them from the vast array of choices on the menu at the Heavenly Diner. You coulda had a V-8, but no, you wanted to experience suffering in Africa. To build your character. To enlighten your understanding.

Stretches all credulity, really. Such a convenient belief system, in that it absolves one of the need for compassion and the moral imperative to speak and act for those who cannot do so for themselves. It is probably no accident that the Create Your Own Reality people also preach the Gospel of Greed Prosperity. (It goes without saying that the prosperity is for themselves. It's interesting, because although so many of the Create Your Own Reality folks align themselves with liberal politics, their beliefs and actions align with the We Hate Poor People party.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We Are All One

"Every man is our brother, and every man’s burden is our own. Where poverty exists, all are poorer. Where hate flourishes, all are corrupted. Where injustice reins, all are unequal."

That's Whitney Young, y'all.

Put Away Your Wallet

Stock up. There's an economic boycott coming:

ATLANTA -- Civil rights leaders called Tuesday for a march on the Justice Department and an economic boycott next month because they believe the federal government has been sluggish in dealing with hate crimes.

They called for Americans not to spend any money Nov. 2 as an economic boycott of the federal government's handling of hate crimes. And they announced initial plans for a Nov. 16 march on Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other activists at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta cited the uproar in Jena, La., surrounding three white teens accused of hanging nooses outside a school and the six black teens charged in the beating of a white student. Five were initially charged with attempted murder, but that charge was reduced.

The civil rights leaders believe the federal government should prosecute the noose hanging as a hate crime. Louisiana authorities have said there is no state law under which they could prosecute the students suspected of hanging the nooses.

"The Justice Department is missing in action," King said.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Erik Ablin, said in an e-mail message that federal, state and local officials are aggressively investigating numerous noose hanging reports around the country, as well as other incidents involving racial or religious threats.

I'm all for it. Show the power. If nothing else, it will be good for legislators and companies to see how many people really are paying attention. November 2. Mark it on the calendar.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ring the Alarm!

. . . fire in the house! in the immortal words of (heheheheheh) Christina Aguilera et al.

. . .didja hear my gasp of disbelief? I was skimming the NYT headlines, and each has a little excerpt to entice you into actually reading the article. This paragraph is simply breath-taking:
For a presidency still haunted by memories of Hurricane Katrina, the forceful round-the-clock response was a political no-brainer — the “anti-Katrina,” in the words of Peter Wehner, a former domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush.
The unmitigated gall! The effrontery! The baldfaced chutzpah! The, the, the. . .excuse me while I hyperventilate.

How could anyone possessing the capacity to make meaning out of print pass this by unnoticed?


If the fires were taking place in Richmond or in Oakland (not the Here There Be White People Hills, I mean the real Oakland), let's say, or in Compton, or in some parts of Long Beach (not Belmont Shores), they would be permitted to burn merrily and in fact, there might be a wienie and marshmallow roast.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Who's the Idiot?

Back to My Little Pony, the racial achievement gap:

It appears to be that time once more for the race and IQ debate to rear its foolish head by dint of something said or published by a person of purportedly high intelligence.

We were last here in 1994, with the release of "The Bell Curve," in which Charles Murray, a historian, and Richard Hernstein, a behavioral psychologist, argued that black people, on the whole, are of lower intelligence than whites as a whole.

A firestorm erupted, with loads of dissenters and critics on one side and loads of defenders and believers on the other. Murray swam through the turbulence, laughing all the way to the bank as the book climbed the bestseller lists. . . .

Now comes the chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a scientific research facility in New York, telling a British audience that he sees a dire future for Africans because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really.”

If you are using a measurement tool, and the results look screwy time and time again, might one not question the accuracy of the measurement tool and therefore investigate the process whereby it is created and the methodology used in the measuring and a whole host of other related factors?

Let's not linger, though, there is more to see. Sex, baby! Yeah! Because the good Dr. Watson (most famous perhaps for being one of those who discovered the DNA molecule) also fantasizes that the Black people be getting they groove on:

Hunt-Grubbe also reports that Watson has suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, hypothesizing that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos. In 2000 Watson shocked an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, when he advanced his theory about a link between skin color and sex drive. His lecture, complete with slides of bikini-clad women, argued that extracts of melanin — which give skin its color — had been found to boost subjects' sex drive.

Don't take it personally; although Watson may seem racist at first glance, a more thorough examination reveals he is batshit crazy.

Among the screws that are not only loose, but rolling around freely looking for a brain to which to attach in the echoing dark cavern of his haid are his fantasies of creating a Watson World in which all the ladies please his palate:

He has also suggested that beauty could be genetically engineered, saying "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."

In this best of all possible worlds (in the immortal words of Leibniz and then Voltaire), there are no--gasp!--gays:

He has been quoted in The Sunday Telegraph as stating: "If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn't want a homosexual child, well, let her."

And by the way? Fuck the fat people, too:

On the issue of obesity, Watson has also been quoted as saying: "Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them."

UPDATE: From the 10/26/07 NYT:

James D. Watson, the eminent biologist who ignited an uproar last week with remarks about the intelligence of people of African descent, retired yesterday as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, and from its board.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Justice for Martin Lee Anderson

Maybe you remember this:
Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died Jan. 5, hours after arriving at a juvenile boot camp for stealing his grandmother's car and violating probation. A local coroner says sickle cell trait, not an altercation with boot camp guards, killed Anderson. But an eerily silent surveillance video shows Bay County deputies restraining, kicking and punching the boy, who at times appeared limp and unable to comply. The results of a second autopsy remain secret, but at least one coroner involved says the youth did not die of sickle cell, or any other natural causes.

Now those responsible for Martin Lee Anderson's death have been acquitted:
An uneasy sense of dèjá vu swept over Florida last week after an all-white jury acquitted seven juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a black teen last year.

First of all, stealing your grandmother's car is joyriding, and when a white kid does it, particularly a white kid from one of those rolling green hill communities, the cops take him home and hand him over to the parents with a warning. So we can all agree that the original offense was an example of disproportionate sentencing. And then, and then, a death sentence.

Today I am wearing black for Martin Lee Anderson. I am wearing black for Martin Lee Anderson, and for Mychal Bell, who remains in custody, and I am wearing black for all those who have been unjustly imprisoned in this country of outrageous injustice.

[thanks to Raven for the link]

UPDATE: More on this at]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Make Segregation Equal?

I understand it. Neighborhood schools have a lot to recommend them. You can walk to school; there's a sense of community; your children and their friends live close to each other. Desegregation may mean traveling an inconvenient distance to school, and it may mean social isolation for children after school, and it brings a host of other problems. But, still.

Schools with a majority nonwhite student population are going to have less money, because these are schools on the wrong side of the street from the gated communities and gently rolling green hills and high property values. These schools usually will not be staffed by the most experienced administrators and teachers. They may not have all the supplies they need, nor enough books, nor computers. The way schools are funded makes sure of this, in this land of I Got Mine and You Can't Have Any (so short-sighted).

Yes, all schools should teach the same material, be equally rigorous, provide the same supplies, offer the same opportunities. They should.

But even if they did, even if schools truly were separate but equal, that would still be a terrible world in which to live. Wouldn't it mean that we gave up?

The Possibility of Reform

Would Ashley Jones have received a life sentence if she were white?

The United States wants to reserve the right to lock children up. Forever.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In December, the United Nations took up a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1, with the United States the lone dissenter.

Indeed, the United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14.
Which is odd for a nation of people who purport to believe in redemption. But the people who are the loudest in calling for retribution and punishment, the people who are least willing to show mercy, the people who decry compassion as weakness, these are the people who say they believe in the Bible, in Jesus, in the New Testament. And the sole theme of the New Testament is redemption and salvation. That's it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


K. the Brilliant alerted me to the ghetto fabulous party phenomenon:

In October of 2006, law students at the University of Texas-Austin held a “Ghetto Fabulous” party, at which partygoers carried bottles of malt liquor and wore Afro wigs, necklaces with large medallions, and name tags with traditionally black and Latino names such as “Tanika” and “Jesus.” Just a couple of months ago, in January of 2007, white students at Tarleton State University in Texas sponsored a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day party, at which partygoers came dressed in “ghetto” gear, flashed gang signs, ate fried chicken and ribs, and drank malt liquor from bottles. One woman even dressed as Aunt Jemina, red handkerchief in her hair and syrup bottle in hand. For those readers who may view such events as limited only to the South, just a few days later, white students at the University of Connecticut School of Law held a “Bullets and Bubbly” party that featured do-rags, gang signs, gold teeth, and malt liquor.

I don't have much to do with college parties, you know. If you want to check'em out, here's a list from Uncommon Misconceptions:

  • Ghetto Fabulous Party, Cornell University, March ‘04
  • Ghetto Fabulous Party, Univ. of Texas Law School, September ‘06
  • Tacos and Tequila Party, University of Illinois, 10/5/06
  • Halloween in the ’Hood’ Party, Johns Hopkins University, 10/28/06
  • Gangsta Party, Clemson University, 1/14/07
  • Martin Luther King Party, Tarleton State College, 1/15/07
  • Martin Luther King Party, University of Arizona, 1/15/07
  • Bullets and Bubbly Party, U. Conn. Law School, ~1/20/07
  • South of the Border Party, University of Santa Clara, 1/29/07
  • South of the Border Party, University of Delaware, 5/5/07

Although not a new phenomenon, it seems that over the last year "ghetto," "gangsta," "south of the border" and "taco and tequila" parties have become college chic and cool. Parties at more than a dozen colleges and universities received national coverage in the past year, with countless others going unnoticed save for the pictures posted to sundry websites. It is tempting to interpret such events as clichéd racist expressions. They are, after all, contemporary minstrel theaters that allow middle- and upper-class white Americans to cross moral and social boundaries by racial cross-dressing. But such easy explanations keep us from fully appreciating the circumstances on today's college campus that make minstrel parties pleasing and powerful for so many.
If there is a sensibility to which I have an exceedingly strong aversion, it is that of certain middle-to-upper-class whites. This sensibility is characterized by entitlement, by self-satisfaction, by a preening adoration of self that is nauseating. Its fascination with itself is endless, and it finds even in its flaws an unending source of gratification, boasting of its ignorance and charmed by its egotism. It's the sensibility of people who have never grown up. They got stuck, mentally and morally, in toddlerhood. Which explains the aggressive lack of compassion and empathy, and the failure to understand why what they do is reprehensible.

Oh, it all fits. Why did the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee boycott the hearing on the Jena 6? Why did the Republican presidential candidates pull an FTA on Tavis Smiley? Because they refuse to admit there are other people in the world. But I digress.

In many respects, ghetto-fabulous parties are the culmination of conservative politics on college campuses. They reflect the ongoing insecurities of whiteness in the wake of the civil rights movement and the supposed prominence of multiculturalism and political correctness.

I am sick unto death of the term "politically correct." As far as I am concerned, it is a fabrication of small-minded bigots. What the bigots protest is the curtailing of their freedom to be disrespectful without ceasing to everyone they deem inferior, and that includes all women and all non-white people. Why is it so difficult to treat all people with respect? That was a rhetorical question, but I will answer it: it is difficult, nay, it is impossible, to treat respectfully people for whom you have contempt, particularly when the basis of your contempt is that they are not like you. (No matter that we did not none of us choose to have male bodies or female bodies, we did not none of us choose our skin color nor our geography nor our social class, we all just ended up who we are and where we at.)

Indeed, ghetto-fab parties are part of a broader reactionary movement that believes whiteness and the ivory tower are being imperiled by political correctness, radical professors and "minority rights." Pushing against these perceived evils, conservative students have organized political theatrics on campuses, holding "affirmative-action bake sales" and offering "white-only" scholarships. They have in essence created a culture today in which those with power think of themselves as victims and those without become targets for violence.
The plight of the privileged white person is sorry indeed.
"Decrying the ghetto party as 'modern-day minstrelsy' is surely an expression of righteous indignation, but it is only the beginning of the story rather than the end," argues Dr. Jared Sexton, an assistant professor in African American Studies at UC Irvine. "The persistent challenge is to understand why the perverse pleasure of cross-racial caricature and its disavowed currents of mockery, ridicule, envy and hatred are so powerfully attractive to its participants-participants who, as a rule, rely on the dynamics of racial segregation that have produced the ghetto for the very form and substance of the most public and the most intimate aspects of their social lives."

The answer is obvious:

To be sure, White supremacy and its institutional supports no longer enjoy secure futures. . . .
Says Bernestine Singley, ". . . the hearts and minds displayed in these staged acts of racial assault reveal a breathtaking, even heartbreaking, wall of denial, contempt, and cowardice."

Contempt and cowardice sums it up, I think. The same people strutting around at the ghetto fabulous parties? They are the ones who clutch their purses when a Black man walks by, who are afraid to go into Black neighborhoods, who get twitchy if they are not in the majority at all times. They are right to be scared. The world, it is a-changin'.


Somebody got in trouble!

WASHINGTON October 16, 2007, 3:06 p.m. ET · Democratic lawmakers denounced federal authorities Tuesday for not intervening in the Jena Six case, citing racist noose-hanging incidents far beyond the small Louisiana town where a school attack garnered national attention.

. . . Democratic lawmakers, many of them black, blasted federal authorities for staying out of the local prosecutor's case against the six, particularly that of Mychal Bell, who is currently in jail after a judge decided he violated the terms of his probation for a previous conviction.

"Shame on you," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said to Justice Department officials, directing most of her fury at Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for Louisiana's western district — and the first black person to hold that position.

"As a parent, I'm on the verge of tears," Jackson Lee said.

"Why didn't you intervene?" she asked repeatedly, raising her voice and jabbing her finger in the air as some in the audience began to applaud.

Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., called for quiet before Washington spoke.

"I was also offended, I too am an African-American," Washington told the panel. "I did intervene, I did engage the district attorney. At the end of the day, there are only certain things that the United States attorney can do."

Following that exchange, Conyers pointed out he had invited the local district attorney, Reed Walters, to testify, but he declined. At that, some in the audience yelled out, "subpoena him!"

Better late than never. I'm looking forward to what happens next. Will Reed Walters be subpoenaed?

And you know there is always one:
The senior Republican on the panel, Lamar Smith of Texas, said, "more than anything what we need is an effort to reduce racial tension... What we do not need is stoking racial resentment."
There's no context here, so it's possible Lamar Smith's remark was not so awful as it appears at first listen. It does sound as if he is making an accusation, and as if he is trying to shame people into backing down, and even minimizing the seriousness of what is happening. "What we do not need is stoking racial resentment." This implies that the racial resentment ("Those angry Black people!") is an everboiling pot just looking for an excuse to blow.

One out of Three

1. the right to vote
2. civic equality
3. the education of youth according to ability

Monday, October 15, 2007

Look Inward

Congress is looking at the Jena 6 matter:
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Jena Six case Tuesday morning, less than a week after a youth at the center of the controversy was locked up again.
Which is all to the good. Not only to prevent these young men from becoming just another set of stats, but--is this too much to hope--to keep the struggle for justice in the forefront of our minds.

Even as I write this, I feel a little disheartened, not the least because in my heart I do accuse the liberals (or progressives, if that is the term you prefer) of shying away from social justice issues having to do with race. Or not shying away, exactly, but refusing to buckle in for the long ride. Oh, they will hitchhike here and there on a cause, especially if it allows them to castigate the conservatives (not that there's anything wrong with that, and I like to have me my fun, too) or if it allows them to congratulate themselves for their open-mindedness, as if they are somehow virtuous for not being as racist as the conservatives are.

dnA at Too Sense puts it bluntly:
Most white people don't care about what they see as "black" problems. Not even liberal white people.
Which was followed up by commenter Francis L. Holland:
For some reason, white are willing to believe that they are partly at fault for the systematic war on Iraq, but they are not willing to believe that they are partly at fault for the systematic war on Black people here at home. We pose the triple threat threat that they, once having embraced fairness here in the United States - they may have to integrate with us; they may have to share power with us; and they may have to share economic resources with us.
All whites benefit from the systematically racist workings of the way we live in America. I just saw A Lesson Before Dying. A little boy is looking at a globe and asks his teacher if there are white people in Yugoslavia. The teacher says no. The boy asks, "Who does all the work?" Where does the wealth of this country come from? Who benefits. Race is all about economics.

When he was young, W.E.B. Du Bois (so generously and charitably) believed that racism came from ignorance, but later in life believed that "material relationships masked themselves to the guise of race relationships."

We are responsible for what we know. Good intentions are not enough. Refraining from behaving in an overtly racist and discriminatory manner does not absolve one from responsibility. Good God, there is a war on Black people in this country. But it is a home war, it's been going on for so long, it's soooooooooooooo boring. Can we talk about Iraq instead? But oh God, the Black people. . .why should I feel guilty?

Guilt serves a beautiful purpose, you know. It is an indication that all is not well in the soul. You should feel guilty because you benefit from the sufferings of others. You will stop feeling guilty when you take some kind of action--when you refuse to countenance racist jokes, when you educate yourself about what this country has done and is still doing to Black people, when you examine every corner of your soul and scrub it clean, when you stop saying--when you stop thinking--things like, "What do they want, anyway?" or "So I got on this bus, and it was full of Black guys" or "I just never know what to say to them."

What used to be called "the Negro problem" is never going to go away. Pick a side. (If you say nothing, if you do nothing, you have picked your side.) (Although the problem, as how I look at it, is a white problem. It is a white problem with looking inward, with having integrity, with facing the truth, with accepting guilt and responsibility and making reparation and changing how we live and think and behave in this country. What is happening is evil, and those who stand by and let it happen are as bad as the perpetrators.)

UPDATE: I keep thinking about this. I don't think I said what I really wanted to say, which is that American whites who do not wish to support the current oppressive racist structure of how we live must first figure out how to recognize that they are part of the oppression, then identify what their role is, and then somehow extricate themselves as much as possible, at least untangle their thoughts from the dominating racism, and only then is it possible to begin any kind of positive action. Applying rigorous honesty the whole time, and being willing to come face to face with some ugly and then keep going.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Business as Usual

Mychal Bell has been sentenced and returned to custody on charges stemming from offenses that occurred prior to the Justin Barker matter:

NEW ORLEANS -- A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate drew thousands to Louisiana for a civil rights demonstration is back in jail, but a prosecutor said Friday the sentence has nothing to do with the racially charged case.

Mychal Bell, 17, was unexpectedly sent back to prison on Thursday after going to juvenile court in central Louisiana's LaSalle Parish for what he expected to be a routine hearing, Carol Powell Lexing, one of his attorneys said.

Instead, state District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. decided Bell had violated probation and sentenced him to 18 months in jail on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property, Lexing said.

Some of you know that I used to be a probation officer. Long ago. It was a period of short duration, but I was there long enough to understand and become sickened by the racist workings of the criminal injustice system--and that is in California, where whites settle themselves comfortably into a wide-eyed "Who, us? We're not racists!" attitude and even get a little huffy when you try to explain that even if a white person intends no racism, there may be a little stain lurking, and that the white person certainly is privileged in this land of ours. I served in both the adult and juvenile courts.

With that background knowledge, I can tell you a couple of things about what is happening with Mychal Bell, even not knowing him or the particulars of his case:
1. "simple battery" could be as insignificant as a shoving match
2. apply the same reasoning to "criminal destruction of property"
3. 18 months seems an excessive sentence
4. what is absolutely criminal is that no one seems to have explained what is going on to his parents:

“He’s locked up again,” Marcus Jones said of his 17-year-old son. “No bail has been set or nothing. He’s a young man who’s been thrown in jail again and again, and he just has to take it.”

There's no bail once a defendant has been sentenced; bail is only an alternative to remaining in custody before the trial and final disposition of a criminal offense.

It's not clear from this whether Bell is in jail or whether he is housed at a juvenile detention center. For his sake, I hope the latter.

I don't know the nature of the original offense that resulted in Mychal Bell receiving probation. I don't know the nature of the probation violations. There are some people who are simply always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he may be one of those. It's almost impossible to obtain the facts, as juvenile court records are not available to the public.

I do very much suspect that the D.A. and judge are highly motivated to place Mychal Bell in custody, and this may have been the perfect opportunity. The protesters have all gone home. Even bloggers who once called for justice for the Jena 6 are now re-thinking their earlier stance and repenting of their fervor. (Not me. I adhere to the "Enough is enough" doctrine. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER THESE YOUNG MEN WERE ANGELS OR NOT. WHAT MATTERS IS THE DISPROPORTIONATE SENTENCING BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK DEFENDANTS IN THIS COUNTRY.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Education Requires Integration

Or at least it should.

School integration is good for everybody:

Wells’s [Amy Stuart Wells, of Columbia University's Teachers College --ed.] brief primarily focuses on the long-term benefits of school integration. She cites social science data that shows integrated schools have a strong, positive effect on students’ racial attitudes and ability to interact with others in multiracial settings. The data show that minority students receive long-term benefits from integrated schools: they tend to move into more racially integrated settings in their lives and careers; they experience greater social mobility; they have higher occupational aspirations; and they develop intergroup skills that benefit both the graduates and their employers.

At the same time, research shows that white students who attend racially integrated schools have fewer racial stereotypes and prejudices, even controlling for other relevant social factors. Not only do integrated schools help the life chances of minority students, they also lessen the discrimination they face in society. Furthermore, Wells presents research showing that schools are often the only place that children are exposed to the multicultural experiences that lead to these benefits.

But there is so much opposition:

MILTON, Mass. -- Last spring, town officials in this affluent Boston suburb changed the elementary-school assignments for 38 streets -- and sparked outrage. Some white families had been reassigned to Tucker, a mostly black school which has historically had Milton's lowest test scores.

Among those reassigned is Kevin Keating, a white parent who is talking to lawyers about going to court to reverse the plan. I "just don't feel good putting [my son] in an inferior school," he says. His ammunition: the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that consideration of race in school assignments is unconstitutional.
Some work for integration in an attempt to reduce the racial achievement gap in test scores:
Although the push to integrate public schools is often associated with the civil-rights movement, these days many school administrators want to integrate schools for a more practical reason: to raise test scores. Studies show black and other minority students tend to perform better academically when they learn alongside white classmates. Districts face the threat of losing government funds if school test scores fail to meet a certain threshold.
Even though closing the achievement gap is ostensibly a significant goal of the No Test Publisher Child Left Behind legislation, really, are we surprised that to learn that
the Bush administration and various organizations have filed briefs opposing the integration policies.
The real issue is that school segregation is a basic human rights violation:
[According to a UN Human Rights Commission report] the state of segregation in U.S. schools may violate an international human rights treaty to which the United States is a signatory.

Some News, and Various Updates

Gallaudet Attack:

An investigation is continuing to determine whether a recent attack on a black student at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., was a hate crime.

The Sept. 29 incident began in the dorms of the secondary school on the university’s campus. According to D.C. police, seven students -- six whites and one black -- held down a black student and wrote “KKK” and drew swastikas on his body with a marker.

Genarlow Wilson: I've been looking for news. I'll keep looking.
Jena 6:
More here. And here.
Nooses everywhere you look, apparently. There was a protest at Columbia about the noose on the Black professor's office door. Also, "a white Queens woman was arrested recently for throwing a noose around a tree and threatening to hang her black neighbor’s children from it."
Pleajhia Mervin: The security guard calls the victim a liar, then denies he is racist by saying, "I don't see color, I see people." [from Electronic Village] I have many thoughts, but will summarize: 1. Thank God for the witness who got the video. 2. Everyone sees color.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Be Scared

Also under the category of "I'm not racist, but--" is the Fear of Black Men:
Like many other black men, James says unspoken rules limit how they interact in predominantly white workplaces. In some cases, they must dress more formally than their co-workers, speak softly, or generally comport themselves in unaggressive ways to counteract stereotypes that paint black men as unintelligent, violent, and dangerous. These biases are based on long-held beliefs about black masculinity and sexuality that grew out of this country's history of slavery and segregation.

Who Shows Up

Remember Pleajhia Mervin, the high school student and birthday cake offender? She is facing criminal charges, while the security guard who broke her wrist is on paid leave. (And Pleajhia has been expelled from school. Probably because she is Black, I'm just going out on a limb here, because of that one federal study: "No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the federal data show. . . Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other students from the same social and economic environments, research studies have found.")

The Reverend is on the scene. As well someone needs to be. Do not criticize the Reverend to me unless you are willing to quit your job and be Johnny on the Spot whenever an injustice of this nature occurs.

[Followed the link at More here at Electronic Village about the 9/30 protest.]

Somebody's Ugly Is Showing

Courtesy of K. the Brilliant, who sent this story along, I'd like to dedicate this next song to the staffers at Glamour, who issued a Glamour Don't decree banning certain ethnic "political" hairstyles:

Early this summer, the junior-level editor accepted an invitation to speak to a group of women about corporate fashion at New York City law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

During the presentation the editor said that “political” hairstyles such as Afros and dreadlocks are a “Glamour don’t.” Several of the African American women in the audience took offense. Since then, the story—which was first reported in the August issue of American Lawyer—has been circulated in the form of a chain e-mail, a Glamour spokesperson says. The incident even led to a segment on NPR.
Editor-in-chief Cindi Lieve is trying to do damage control. She would do damage control, but all you people who are accusing Glamour of racism (Racism! The idea! All women are beautiful here at Glamour! Well, if they are glamorous, of course, and if they are over 5'10", weigh less than 110, are of a preternaturally youthful mien, and yet have fairly big boobs for their frail yet hyperathletic frames--that's just the start, though, because then they have to read our ads, buy the products, and use them religiously. Oh, and also? They need to follow our fashion advice or they will look like frumpy matrons or 7-11 hos or dirty hippies or radical militants, and nothing is less hot beautiful, and sure, even women who are Black can be beautiful, but just try to look as little Black as possible. . .) are getting in her way.

Because they at Glamour are NOT RACIST! And they will be the first to tell you how NOT RACIST they are!
“These are deep, really personal issues for a lot of women, so it doesn't surprise me at all that this discussion has had legs,” Leive wrote in an e-mail to Folio:. “Ironically, they're the sorts of issues we cover all the time in Glamour, so that's what we've decided to do here: hold a forum to get well-known women—and our own readers—talking about issues of beauty, identity and race, and then run the results in the magazine.”

Oh, Glamour ladies. You are transparent, and your insides are ugly.

Monday, October 8, 2007

We Are All Accountable for Our Actions

Even Jena 6 Reed Walters.

From, one of the groups that helped people mobilize for the Jena 6 rally, a way we can protest Reed Walters' abuse of power:

In a clear case of prosecutorial misconduct, Reed Walters has refused to protect the rights of Jena's Black population and has turned the police and courts into instruments of intimidation and oppression. It's time for everyone outraged by his actions to demand that the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board investigate him immediately.

Anyone can file a complaint against any attorney in Louisiana simply by sending a letter to the Disciplinary Board. It's easy as following the steps below:

  1. Download the letter (you can preview it below), here.
  2. Open it and replace text in red with your information (and change as you wish).
  3. Print the letter, sign it, and place in a stamped envelope.
  4. Mail it to the Office of Disciplinary Council at the address listed on the letter.
  5. Email us at so we can keep track of how many complaints have been sent.
Preview of Microsoft Word Document. You can download the actual document, here. Your name
Your address
City, State, Zip
Phone Number

Today's Date

Office of Disciplinary Counsel
4000 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 607
Baton Rouge, LA, 70816
(225) 293-3900

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to request an investigation into the conduct of LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters over the last year with regards to several incidents, culminating with the prosecution of Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, and an unidentified minor. I am concerned that DA Walters has selectively and aggressively used his prosecutorial discretion in several cases over the last year and I believe he is unable to be an effective and impartial advocate for justice in LaSalle Parish.

In a statement published in a New York Times op-ed on September 26, 2007 that now appears on the Louisiana District Attorney Association website, Walters describes his role as District Attorney as one where he has to "...match the facts [of a case] to any applicable laws and seek justice for those who have been harmed. " What Walters ignores in this definition is the tremendous latitude prosecutors have to raise, lower, or dismiss charges as they see fit, under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion. It has become clear that when Reed Walters is making decisions, white perpetrators in Jena receive a completely different kind of discretion than black ones.

When it came to prosecuting three white students for hanging nooses in the so called "white tree" at Jena High School after black students sat under it, Walters said (in the same New York Times op-ed) this act "broke no law. I searched the Louisiana criminal code for a crime that I could prosecute. There is none." But Louisiana Revised Statute 14:107.2 creates a hate crime for any institutional vandalism or criminal trespass motivated by race. His discretion, not Louisiana law, is what led to a lack of charges in this case.

Similar discretion was applied after an incident on December 1, 2006. A black teenager, Robert Bailey, was attacked by a group of whites, beaten to the ground, and apparently hit with a beer bottle. Bailey suffered a gash to his head, and Walters could have prosecuted the group of whites with felony charges. Instead, Walters charged one man with a misdemeanor, but that person served no prison time. The others walked.

A very different and more dangerous form of discretion was applied three days later, when an assault on Justin Barker, a white student, occurred. Robert Bailey and five other black teens were arrested and charged by the police with aggravated second-degree battery, a very harsh charge under the circumstances. But Walters went even further and used his discretion on December 7th to increase the charges to attempted murder, later arguing that the students' tennis shoes were dangerous weapons.

A week later, Walters announced that he would try Mychal Bell for attempted murder as an adult, another example of his discretion being aggressively used to bring harsh punishments only to certain young people. When Walters reduced the charges against Bell, he should also have taken the case back to juvenile court. His failure to do so is another example of an inappropriate application of discretion. The result was a conviction that could have ended with a 22-year prison sentence. The 3rd Circuit Court has already ruled that Walters' decision was improper, and nullified the decision.

Walters' misconduct extends beyond these instances of uneven application of his discretion. After black students staged a sit-in under the contested tree to protest the light punishment for the noose hangers, Walters came to Jena High School and told the student body that if they did not settle down, "[he could] make [their] lives disappear with a stroke of [his] pen. " This statement was confirmed by Walters during Mychal Bell's court proceedings, and clearly connects to the actions he took after Justin Barker was assaulted.

Walters' threats against the Jena 6 defendants were not limited to the school assembly. In December 13, 2006, he published a statement in The Jena Times reading in part "I will not tolerate this type of behavior. To those who act in this manner, I tell you that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and with the harshest crimes that the facts justify. When you are convicted, I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law. I will see to it that you never again menace the students at any school in this parish." There are clear problems with his public characterization, prior to any trials, of the young men who had been arrested for the assault on Justin Barker as criminals who had been menacing the school. The wording of the statement and an introduction associating his tirade with the "recent two incidents at Jena High School" created the impression that those accused of involvement in the fight were also suspected of setting the November 30th, school fire. The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 3.6(a) clearly state that: "A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter." His statements to The Jena Times clearly violate this code.

It seems clear from my knowledge of this case that there are ample grounds to conduct a timely and thorough investigation into Reed Walters' conduct as District Attorney of LaSalle Parish. If you choose not to investigate DA Walters, I expect to receive a written explanation of why you deem that an investigation is not warranted. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing the results.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


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Let's clean up the courts. Then we can tackle the environment. (Apparently today is Blog Action Day, and the theme is the environment, which to me takes a far backseat to injustice.)