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Assault on Dissent, Black America, Racism

The White Tree

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This is a true story.

There was this tree in the heart of Louisiana, but the tree was no ordinary tree. The tree was only allowed to offer shade to white people. Sadly, the tree was more than just a tree, it was a symbol of the legacy of racial segregation in the US south and its refusal to die, but instead of allowing the tree to protect all people, regardless of the color of their skin, against the hot Louisiana sun, it was felled. That’s right, instead of combating racism and segregation, instead of allowing people of all races to socialize beneath the tree, the people believed it was easier to just cut the tree down.

This story didn’t take place in the pre-Civil Rights south; it took place in 2007.

The tree lived on the campus of Jena High School. White kids were the only ones allowed to congregate under the tree.

–” At an assembly that kicked off classes, a black freshman asked the white principal if black students could sit under ‘the white tree’ — a shade tree where only white students regularly sat. The answer was, ‘You can sit anywhere you want.'”

The Black kids organized a tree sit-under, and a fight broke out. Six Black kids were arrested for the fight and they were charged with attempted murder. One of the Black kids faces up to 22 years in prison for the tree-desegregation brawl. No white kids were hurt in the fight and none were arrested.

The story began long before the fight that caused the arrest of the six Black kids; now know as the Jena Six.

–“A few weeks after the nooses were discovered in September, an arsonist torched a wing of Jena High School. Race fights roiled the town for days, culminating in a schoolyard brawl that led the LaSalle Parish district attorney to charge six black teenagers with attempted murder for beating up a white teenager who suffered no life-threatening injuries.”

Also, before the arrest, District Attorney, Reed Walters, threatened the Black kids about their tree-activism, “I can make your life go away with the stroke of a pen.”

Scooter Libby’s sentence is commuted and Black kids suffer extraordinarily harsh sentences for minor crimes.

— “Zealous prosecutions of black youngsters are multiplying across the nation, they say. They cite three highly visible cases in which white prosecutors won prison sentences of up to 10 years against black teenagers, only to have those sentences voided on appeal.”
Well, at least the sentences are voided on appeal…

“We are seeing two systems of justice: one system of justice for white folks and one system of justice for black folks,” said Jordan Flaherty, an editor who is following the Louisiana case for Left Turn magazine, an liberal activist publication based in New York. “If this had been a fight between only black students, there would not have been this penalty,” said Flaherty, who is white. “This is not a group of kids with a history of trouble, but they do have a history of speaking out.”

These kids hail from a race of people with a history of “speaking out”, and their activism is inspirational. Appeals are planned for the Jena Six.

As for the tree, ” town leaders were looking for a fresh start, a way to erase the recent memory of Jim Crow-like hangman’s nooses dangling from a shade tree at the local high school. So they cut the tree down.”

9 Comments

  1. Hello Kym,

    What an excellent post. For me, the tree is a metaphor for all the modern day giants that already know there are about to get cut down.

    Desperate people do desperate things as evidenced by President George W. Bush’s administration.

    Change is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time before all the tree that are still standing in the way of Change disappear.

    Manchild

  2. A tree whose shade was only for white people??? o.O

    Now I’ve heard everything.

    Poor tree. Probably would’ve made a nice desk.

    –Scooter Libby’s sentence is commuted and Black kids suffer extraordinarily harsh sentences for minor crimes.–
    They obviously aren’t political friends of Bush. Why would he help theM?

  3. joseph young

    An Open Letter To The Jena Six
    By Joseph Young
    Dear Mychal,
    I keep thinking about you. I also think about the other young men who have fallen prey to racial hatred. Its existence, more than a century after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, makes me fearful for your life, your safety. The freedom that it promised was tenuous.
    It was not entirely without strength. In the proclamation, issued three years into the Civil War, Lincoln declared, at the urging of Frederick Douglass, that the former slaves would be accepted into the Union Army and navy, making the liberated the liberator. By the war’s end, almost 200,000 black servicemen had fought for freedom and saved the Union.
    Your generation, like mine, is being denied this freedom our ancestors risked life and limb, so that we may live as free men and women. You can call them heroes, but they were not thinking of themselves when they displayed courage and self-sacrifice on the battlefields of America.
    Today, then, to guard against the impending doom of American civilization, is not only opposition to racism, but also the determination to secure the civil rights for which many Americans have paid a heavy toll. Of all the civil rights, the right to learn is the surest prevention from ignorance. If at any time, children are instructed with anti-black bias; and they are made to learn what is not true and what the dominate forces in their lives want them to think is true; there’re guilty of impeding the march toward American civilization.
    Astonishing as it is that those students would hang three nooses from the tree at Jena High School as a racial taunt, including calling the black students ‘niggers’; you would think that America would never again want to see a black person hang from a tree, or behind bars. The nooses show that we, Americans, have not come that far from the cruelties and barbarity of slavery as we think. (Between 1882 and 1968, an estimated 5,000 people, mostly blacks, met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs.) And this also is an unfortunate comment upon the belief that our schools are the great path to progress, the great equalizer. If our schools are the great path to progress, they must be the freest of our institutions, opposed bitterly to the attempt to indoctrinate our children with racial hatred.
    Well, Mychal, as you and the others wait behind bars because of a racially biased and an over zealous prosecutor, it is for us on the outside to continue the unfinished work of our fathers, to set you free. All of you were willing to fight racial hatred, and you know people of goodwill are beside you. If the Confederacy couldn’t stop us, the opposition we now face will fail. When history is written your detractors will get little note, but you will be remembered for standing up for what’s best of the American creed. You are part of a legacy in which our slave forebears fought to birth a new nation. You, Mychal, are a child of America’s destiny.
    It was Martin Luther King who said if a man doesn’t have something worth dying for he is not fit to live. Freedom is worth dying for. Justice is worth dying for. Equality is worth dying for. A child is worth dying for, because our job as parents is to protect children.
    Mychal, when you feel complete frustration and your narrow jail cell is closing in on your spirit and mind; remember the message of the old slave preacher to his flock whose resistance to oppression might have been completely in vain:
    “You are created in God’s image. You are not slaves, you are not ‘niggers’; you are God’s children.”
    Godspeed Mychal,
    Your brother in the struggle, Joseph

  4. Nicole Parker

    I think that this racial thing is an outrage, this happend years ago and our families and children should not have to go through this. I feel for the parents and families of these children, The school and town should not be aloud to treat children or people differnt because of what color they are or even what relgion they are. Something should be done and its sad that it has taken a year for this to hit the media around the world, it should have been broadcasted the day this happend. I hope that those kids get out and are able to live normal lives without being discriminated their whole life!! and that principal and school and even the whole court system needs to have a reality check this is 2007, and no one should be treated the way the this town has treated the blacks, it is rediculous! I am white and I find this very offensive because I have black friends and I would NEVER treat them different because of the color of their skin. I just hope that this gets taken care of soon and the kids get out and the others get what they deserve.
    My prayers and thoughts are with the families.
    Thanks
    Nicole Parker

  5. Carl Bowman

    I’m from Columbus, Ohio. Used 2 stay in the south. I feel bad because I’ve been going around tell people the south ain’t like the older days, now I see that’s bullshyt.

  6. Hey Carl,

    I went to college in Columbus, and I agree with you…nothing has changed in the South.

  7. JACQUELINE

    These 6 young men are facing life in prison over a tree.What about the white kids that started the fight, attempted murder this is insane, I’m from columbus ohio and am outraged that this type of unlawfull practice is sill going on. Isn’t thier at least one educated attorney down thier that can defend these kids, not a public defander or a lawyer from bubbas bar and grll. Our outrage is only going to go so far, lets take it onestep furter, anybody up for finding an attorney, or lets get a fundraiser started, donations anything for an attorney, I’m in. Lets show the true meaning of united we stand by helping these young men out,

  8. shady shaderton

    fuck the “jenna six” the all wanted to beat the ever living shit out of some kid just cause they saw a rope tied into certain twists and turns that they thought were inapropriate. they thought it gave them impunity to attempted murder, and YOU ARE GIVING IT TO THEM!!! rope knots are not racist, but you are. convict the criminals, and leave the rest alone. they are thugs.