Far too often it seems people have difficulty walking and chewing gum at the same time. Much of this has to do with the American tendency to frame things dichotomously. If we have two individuals in some sort of conflict one has to be the victim and the other the victimizer. Any teacher who has intervened in a playground conflict knows it is rarely that simple. Often one has a situation where the role of victim and victimizer are switched in the conflict. In order the solve the problem the teacher has to walk and chew gum at the same time.
It seems to me both the pro Jenna 6 and anti Jenna 6 camps are unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. Here are the events of the Jenna 6 conflict.
Several black students soon joined white students under the tree. The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, hung from the tree, an obvious reference to that old pastime of good ol’ Southern towns —lynching.
I see this as a very serious issue, such actions symbolize deep racial problems at the school. Is a three day suspension an appropriate consequence? [It turns out they were no suspended either. They went to school at another facility for a week and then did work around the school.] I believe so, yet if such an action occurred in Madison, I don’t believe the consequence would have been as steep. Does that mean Madison is more racist than Louisiana. Certainly not, we just don’t like suspending students.
Robert Bailey, a black student who tried to attend a mostly white party, was beaten, his white assailant was charged with simple battery, no jail time.
In most states battery is considered a misdemeanor, and the most serious forms of battery may get you 6 months in jail. These serious forms are reserved for battery of a police officer, correctional officer, or teacher. If this was the white student’s first offense, it seems to me like it was an appropriate consequence. You certainly do not want to do something crazy like 20 years to life for every fight at a school, a party, or in a bar.
A few days [CNN says months] later at school, Justin Barker, a friend of the noose-hangers, supposedly taunted Baker, then was assaulted from the back, knocked to the ground and kicked by a group of six black students, several of whom dispute that kicking took place.
Unlike Robert Baily this incident occurred at school. It is not unusual for fights to occur between students at school. Schools have differing policies on how to handle these batteries. Often they are handled in house without the police being involved. A likely consequence for such a serious offense would be a 3 day suspension.
Now if the school was, in the light of recent racial tensions, taking a zero tolerance approach to fighting I could understand the police being involved [the zero tolerance seemed one sided though]. I could even see these six boys from Jenna being charged with battery. If those 6 boys went in front of a judge who was having a real bad day a couple nights in juvenile detention would also be in the realms of possibility. What is totally outside the realm of possibility is 20 years to life. A school yard fight should not get a teenager charged with attempted murder.
I think most reasonable people can come to the conclusion that justice was not served in Jenna. Reasonable people can do so without dehumanizing victims, nor condoning the victimizers. Reasonable people can walk and chew gum at the same time.