Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena 6 backlash, some good links

Of course a backlash is bound to happen. And i don't mean so much individual actions (though those will happen too), but a broader sense of white resentment. And not just white people in that area, but white people all over the country. It's a cycle of rationalization and illogical, short-sighted notions of fairness and equality, a cycle that comes into play every time something like this gets attention in the news.

It's like they...we (i never know which pronoun to use for articles like this-- that's a post unto itself) see Jesse Jackson on TV and just shut down, no matter what the issue is. We want to talk about legal minutiae (but how many times was the kid punched? how heavy were his shoes? how much time elapsed between the noose incident and the fight? blah blah blah?) rather than look at the big picture (legal lynching, cruel and unjust punishment that doesn't fit the crime, etc.). We resent being painted as racist to the point of complete intellectual, ethical and logical collapse.

We just want so badly to believe that America is a fundamentally fair place, that we all have an equal shot at success, that we are indeed the masters of our own destinies same as everyone else. Because if we start to question all of this, if we dig deeper into the myths that have been implanted into us since preschool, it gets scary.

And it's not just conservatives, of course. It's liberals and progressives and even radicals as well. Even if we're speaking out about the Jena 6 or going to rallies or whatever, are we making the connections? Are we seeing this as one outrageous incident that deserves our attention, or as the completely predictable result of a society that systematically grants privileges to one group while oppressing others? Are we exploring our OWN racism? It's easy to take a courageous stand against the out-in-the-open, obvious racism going on in this case. But are we willing to look inside ourselves, to do the self-work necessary to become principled, effective anti-racists?

Particularly ridiculous cases like this one become media firestorms, which is great on one hand but also somewhat dangerous. Any cause celebre (Mumia, anyone?) is. While we need to get all the media attention we can, we have to be extremely careful to be constantly invoking the bigger picture, making the connections, building the foundation of support necessary to move against these larger forces. If we don't, the case will end (in either victory or defeat) and the thousands of other cases just like it all over the country will continue to be ignored.

Because we DO need to win these small battles-- people's lives depend on it. But we can't forget that Black boys and men all over the country are being locked up and killed over bullshit every day, that cases like the Jena 6 aren't anomalies, they're just the tip of the iceberg.

So how do we fight against or organize around these larger demons-- the prison-industrial complex, institutional racism, the white-lens media, capitalism, etc.? I don't think there's any easy answer for that. It's a combination of self-work (reading, educating yoruself, reflecting, etc.), interpersonal activism (having conversations with friends and family, writing articles and letters-to-the-editor, etc.), and larger-scale collective organizing. I think one without the other two is a dead-end.

I know this post evolved from "racist rationalization" to "how to save the world," but i guess it's just one of those days. Been feeling antsy up here, just working on music and poetry and writing. I think i'll spend the day researching organizations around here who are doing good work. There must be a few.

A few good links loosely related to the above:

"Carving Jena in Anti-Racist History"

"Have a Glimmer of Understanding, or Go Home"

The True Front of Progressivism

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