In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a “whites only” shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn’t sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn’t care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.
The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena’s black population didn’t take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could “end their life with a stroke of the pen.” (from While Seated via Kottke, more from the BBC)
And it went down hill from there. Fights errupted, someone tried to burn down the school and then a white student was injured and six black students were charged with attempted murder. The trial is starting now and is beginning to draw attention.
This sounds like something from the 1960s. Ridiculous.
I find it hard to believe that the school considered the nooses a “harmless prank.”
I find it hard to believe that the “pranksters” weren’t expelled (head of the school wanted to but the school board overruled).
I find it hard to believe that the DA upped the charges to “conspiracy to commit second degree murder and attempted second degree murder,” which could put the students in jail until they’re 50 if they are convicted.
I find it hard to believe that the national news media didn’t pick up the story until now (or I’m just living under a rock).
I guess this kind of racism shouldn’t be so hard to believe, but it is.