Yesterday, in the first civil rights demonstration of this century, 20,000 people (mostly black) marched in the small Louisiana town of Jena (mostly white) to protest the treatment of the Jelna Six.

The genesis of the demonstration is as follows. Some months ago a black teen-ager at the Jelna High School was given permission by his principal to sit under a large tree on campus that was traditionally reserved for whites only to sit under. Subsequently three white teen agers hung nooses from the « whites only tree. » Then six black teen-agers (the Jelna Six) attacked a group of white students leaving one of them bruised and bloody. He was taken to the local hospital but he was released in a few hours and attended a school function the same day.

Blacks in Jelna demanded the whites who rigged up the nooses (reminiscent of the KKK, vigilantes and stringing up blacks in the segregated south), be prosecuted for a hate crime. They were not prosecuted. Instead the Jelna Six were arrested and charged with attempted murder, a charge later reduced to assault and battery. Yesterday’s peaceful march was a protest against what appeared to be disriminatory justice.

Blacks in Jelna claim the whole thing is racial. They say more blacks are unemployed, more are arrested and in jail and more have no health insurance than the comparable white group in the town. They also note the white barber in Jelna refuses to cut blacks’ hair. The barber admits this but says he is not a racist. He claims he would lose all his white clientele who do not want their hair cut by untensils that have cut black heads. The blacks say the racial discrimination in Jelna can be extrapolated throughout the rest of the country.

Some black leaders in yesterday’s march claimed that, in many respects, the United States is still a racist country.

Is it?



  1. […] IS AMERICA RACIST? « Neil McKenty Weblog IS AMERICA RACIST? « Neil McKenty Weblog […]

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    Certainly, the USA is still racist. Racism is not eliminated overnight and much progress has been made. After all, a black man is a prime contender for the Democratic presidential candidate. The injustice and wrongs done in Jena, La must be rectified.
    And do not assume Canada is free of racism either. Canadians are more reserved about it, covering it up with a veneer of politesse.

  3. 3
    Barbara Says:

    I would like to add that I believe the large majority of Canadians (and of Americans) are not racist.

  4. 4

    Barbara: –

    I agree with you. I also should add the enormous strides the U.S. has made in this area since the enlightened civil rights legislation of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. On the other side of the coin, it seems deplorable to me that the major Republican candidates for president are skipping a black debate next week on PBS. Their decision does not seem to make any sense, even politically.

  5. 5
    Barbara Says:

    It makes political sense to them, alas\: little to be gained and an opportunity for gaffes.

  6. 6
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    First of all, what is a tree doing being sanctioned « whites only » in this day and age.
    Second of all, why did the school not discipline those kids who hung the nooses. That is not acceptable anywhere at any time.

    Attitudes passed down from one generation to the other will take generations to remove. But that does not mean that the rule of law should not apply.

    I have little doubt that there is still a significant amount of racism lingering in those parts of the country where it was entrenched as a way of life hundreds of years ago. Doesn’t excuse it or make it right. At this point it just is. And it will take a lot of work to change.

    The vast majority of the 300 some-odd million Americans are not racist. But, there does need to be something done about the growing American underclass–black, white or whatever. The division between the haves and the have-nots will become an increasing problem in the US and eventually here. And, it may be powerful enough to alter the world position of the US.

  7. 7


    Jean Vanier said some years ago that if the gap between the world’s haves and have nots is not reduced the have-nots will eventually rise up and take what they feel is theirs. We better get cracking. thanks for the comment.

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