Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


...students arrived at the local high school to find three hangman's nooses dangling from a tree in the courtyard. ...
May 23, 2007 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Under the ole shade tree... Welcome to Jena, LA -- mix high school segregation, racism, nooses, fights, ineffective school administration, attempted-murder charges, shotguns, and a town in upheaval--a "racial powder keg". Much more here, including links to help.
posted by amberglow (87 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
and great coverage at Afrospear, including links to intl news accounts of this and more.
posted by amberglow at 4:23 PM on May 23, 2007


the Guardian: ...Jena is gaining national notoriety as an example of the new 'stealth' racism, showing how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America's Deep South, ... (altho nooses aren't exactly stealthy)
posted by amberglow at 4:25 PM on May 23, 2007


This is sad, but it's not like rascism in schools is new. It seems to be just a mismanagment of the original situation, that led to kids thinking their actions were OK.
posted by Suparnova at 4:38 PM on May 23, 2007


I read an interview with David Duke a while back where he sneeringly told the reporter that he had no reason to join the mainstream, as the mainstream had finally joined him. I suppose this story is giving him quite a lot of pleasure. :(
posted by maryh at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how the people of Jena are supposed to deal with what appears to be selective prosecution. I would probably freak out and kill somebody.
posted by phaedon at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2007


it is 2007. what.the.fuck?! Atomic energy, artificial organs, nano technology all around us and we're STILL knee deep in this garbage? I for one believe we should have just let the south go when they wanted out of the union, and then accepted any and all black refugees.
posted by nihlton at 4:42 PM on May 23, 2007


I for one believe we should have just let the south go when they wanted out of the union, and then accepted any and all black refugees.

Look, this incident is disturbing and inexcusable, but lets not pretend that north of the Mason-Dixon line is some kind of racial utopia because even a cursory examination will reveal it's not so.
posted by jonmc at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah, im not trying to pretend that it is, id like to believe that this sort of thing would never fly anywhere but in the south. This whole cluster fuck should have ended with the noose kids being properly disciplined.
posted by nihlton at 4:51 PM on May 23, 2007


there should be a "but" in there. put it where you like.
posted by nihlton at 4:52 PM on May 23, 2007


Shades of Tulia, Texas a few years back. How depressing. The worst thing is that vast swaths of the south that used to be this fucked up are NOT this fucked up any more. But to pretend that major pockets of entrenched racial hatred exacerbated by drugs and poverty and depression don't exist is naive too. Something else no Democratic candidate other than John Edwards, sometimes, even mentions, even though the long tail of the GOP Southern Strategy has played a role in sustaining and rekindling some of the worst impulses in some of the most ignorant and disempowered Americans.

Yes, I'm blaming Bush and his friends, in case that isn't clear.
posted by spitbull at 4:55 PM on May 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


The worst thing is that vast swaths of the south that used to be this fucked up are NOT this fucked up any more.

This is the worst thing?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2007


"Race is not a major local issue. It's not a factor in the local people's lives."

I'm sure that's true...if you're white.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:06 PM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Rather than mindlessly bashing southerners, it might be more useful to try to examine the circumstances that lead to such continued racial animosity among ordinary people. Outside the south, it's common for blacks and whites to either be completely segregated, and have virtually no significant contact with each other, or for blacks to be dispersed widely within a hugely white majority.

In the south, you see a different phenomenon, with blacks and whites living separately, but in close proximity, sharing schools, parks, etc., but maintaining separate social circles and regarding people of other races with hostility. In such an environment, when a new person enters the world, no matter how good their intentions are, most of their experiences with people of other races will not be positive.

It's can be difficult for an ordinary person to remain entirely racially blind in such circumstances.

None of this serves to excuse the behavior in the article, but I don't think southern racial problems are due so much to any inherent defect of southerners as to individual ordinary people's not unsurprising responses to difficult circumstances.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:07 PM on May 23, 2007


Yes, I'm blaming Bush and his friends, in case that isn't clear.

I assume that you are using "Bush and his friends" as some kind of politically fashionable shorthand, but in case you're trying to unilaterally condemn Republicans on the race issue in the South, keep in mind Jim Crow laws were enacted at a time when solid southern states were run almost exclusively by Democrats.
posted by phaedon at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2007


Outside the south, it's common for blacks and whites to either be completely segregated, and have virtually no significant contact with each other, or for blacks to be dispersed widely within a hugely white majority.

Yes he's free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he's free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago, the West-Side
And he's free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he's free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he's free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he's free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston...

-Randy Newman
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2007


Hey, I live in New York City and we are, somewhat, integrated here. People are rather less racist than many other areas in the United States. African-Americans and Hispanics appear at most levels of society and in most neighborhoods.

If I sound a little lukewarm, it's because I spent a lovely New Year's Eve in Sydney a couple of years, where interracial couples appear to be the rule rather than the exception and no one seems to notice. But still, New Yorkers for the most part do try to be colour-blind and I do love them for the attempt.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:17 PM on May 23, 2007


None of this serves to excuse the behavior in the article, but I don't think southern racial problems are due so much to any inherent defect of southerners as to individual ordinary people's not unsurprising responses to difficult circumstances.

MPDSEA: Your comment sounds like an unequivocal excuse to me. No one is bashing the "South" or "southerners". The article is pretty Louisiana specific. Also, what "difficult circumstances" do you refer to? That people have to share parks with people of a different color?

No one is saying that southerners are congenitally racist. When people generalize about the South being more racist (and Jena, LA doesn't help the cause) they're talking about the prevailing racist atmosphere and attitudes of people there. Racism (overt or subtle) is viewed more as a way of life, and the reflexive responses of so many that state (that the north isn't racism free) totally miss the point.
posted by Azaadistani at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nice shot, phaedon. Indeed, it was the Dixiecrats who enacted those laws.

And Johnny Damon used to play for the Red Sox.

For those with an education in politics that goes beyond knowing what the parties are named, the Dixiecrats became the modern republican party. They were filled with the ranks of such luminaries as Strom Thurman and Jesse Helms.

Still, he's right that we can't blame a current political party or administration for racial tensions, even if it's a party that wins elections by racial disenfranchisement. Phaedon.

To crib from Mark Twain, Republicans aren't all violent, racist bigors. But violent racist bigots tend to be republicans.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:22 PM on May 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


This is sad, but it's not like rascism in schools is new.

I don't think anyone is saying it's new, the problem is that it still exists.
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


the reflexive responses of so many that state (that the north isn't racism free) totally miss the point.

No, they merely make another one.
posted by jonmc at 5:25 PM on May 23, 2007


Look, this incident is disturbing and inexcusable, but lets not pretend that north of the Mason-Dixon line is some kind of racial utopia because even a cursory examination will reveal it's not so.

Oh please.
posted by delmoi at 5:28 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's telling me, delmoi.

Dude, I'm merely making a point is all. What happened here is reprehensible, but I bet you a lot of people are secretly glad it happened in the South, so they can say 'look at the ignorant rednecks' while ignoring the racism in their own backyard. I don't think that's exactly a big revelation.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on May 23, 2007


and FWIW, I never would've brought it up were it not for nihilton's first comment, because I sincerely do find this kind of shit disgusting and stupid, and you know me well enough to know that's true.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on May 23, 2007


phaedon, I'll apologize now, that was uncalled for.

It just pisses me off when people make those arguments that essentially turn politics into sports. The parties might as well be different teams in many ways, especially the way they're promoted now. Issues are put on the back-burner behind the greater issue of "Republican" or "Democrat" and I think a lot of that has to do with the way that control over the house and senate are decided, and a lot to do with Karl Rove, Lee Attwater, Richard Mellon Scaife, and a lot of other people connected to Bush.

Racial violence is not any one person's fault. And as much as I hate Bush, it's not his fault either, though he's of course done nothing to help, and has probably exacerbated it quite a bit.

It's also not limited to the Red States. The blue states have their share of racial violence as well, generally running in the other direction than what we think of. Also, it's a much, much smaller share, and much, much less of a reflection of the pan-cultural thinking.

I live in a Blue State (NY) but I grew up in the Red States (TX & OK) and I love both of them, but who are we kidding stating that this isn't a Red State problem first and foremost?

I hate to Godwinize, and hopefully I'll get away with it here, but this is my theory:

When you take a group of people who, for generations, haven't been able to get ahead on the promises of their country and their culture, they'll start to get understandably angry. Provided this group is substantial enough to be worth winning over, than someone will come around to talk to them and point out their "enemies." This created Nazi Germany. This created Islamic Extremism. This is creating and will continue to feed the Radical Christian Right.

Bigotry might not be on the talking points the GOP sends out for the Sunday Morning shows (unless you count bigotry against homosexuals, which we should) but it is nonetheless part of their culture, the question they have to step around, walking on eggshells, making a point to be against racism while winking and nodding and trying hard not to be too firm about it because they don't want the racists to stay home on election day.

The republicans know who the racists are voting for.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:03 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've seen at least as much racism in Los Angeles as I saw in the metro Atlanta area in Georgia. The problem is probably worse in the rural south (South Georgia and the Appalachian parts had a lot more of this), but the urban south is not really any worse than most cities I've been to. (After all, Los Angeles's issues with racism are pretty well known nationally).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:05 PM on May 23, 2007


Being from Detroit and having visited every city in North America with a decent sized airport for longer than insignificant periods of time, I am completely convinced that Detroit is far more racist than any other major city in the United States, south or otherwise.

And it doesn't get much more north than that.
posted by fusinski at 6:18 PM on May 23, 2007


Bigotry might not be on the talking points the GOP sends out for the Sunday Morning shows
But it is--we've seen the mainstreaming of enormous racism--all the anti-Mexican talk, all the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim talk, the talk about how foreigners and illegal aliens are destroying "our culture", the Imus stuff, Rush and his "Magic Negro" shit, Lou Dobbs on CNN nightly accusing Mexicans of being criminals and lepers, (to the point where even the SPLC is speaking out against his racism, etc--it's all part of the continuing GOP "Southern Strategy".
posted by amberglow at 6:18 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think that's exactly a big revelation.

No? Then why post it in Every. Single. Thread. There are obviously problems in the north but this old-school white/black racism simply doesn't exit in the same way. Not that I've ever seen "cursory" or no.

Amberglow is right though that Mexican/Arab is the new black these days, and that sort of bullshit is not geographically confined.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


and FWIW, I never would've brought it up were it not for nihilton's first comment, because I sincerely do find this kind of shit disgusting and stupid, and you know me well enough to know that's true.

Okay, I hadn't seen that comment (or read the whole thing). But still, I don't think the scope of the problem is comparable at all, if you compare the north to some of these rural southern towns.
posted by delmoi at 6:26 PM on May 23, 2007


this old-school white/black racism simply doesn't exit in the same way

New-school racism is obviously much improved over its ancient counterpart.
posted by fusinski at 6:26 PM on May 23, 2007


I blame the cowardly lack of morals in our country. Falwell's rascist past has been all but erased since his death. He's just "controversial", not a rascist defender of Apartheid.

I love the first line of the quoted article " [racial ]demons many thought had been put to rest." Yeah, many passively rascist white people. I don't know of a single African American who thinks that the demons of Jim Crow have been put to rest.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:30 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I didn't perceive your comment as a call-out, Navelgazer. First off, the Jim Crow laws were enacted well before the Dixiecrats splintered from the Democrats. And to say the Dixiecrats "became" the modern republican party, well i guess we could argue that point, since the republicans already existed as a party (on an anti-slavery platform, to boot) well before the 50's, and it might be more accurate to say the Dixiecrats later on joined the Republicans in their opposition of the civil rights movement. Whether the Republicans adopted this platform in order to further espouse their mighty plan of evil, or just to get a foot in the door of the South, is probably beside the point.

In terms of the parallels that you raised, well I'm not looking to justify anything by pointing to historical artifacts. But it is preposterous to think that the racism "buck" somehow starts or stops with Bush. Do I blame Bush for fucking up in Iraq? Seven days out of the week. But comparisons to Nazi Germany are dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. The fact that politics of hate can be successful in this particular case I think says less about the people in power than it does about the voters. Then again we don't live in a country where important figures step up to the plate and do things for the public good.

I'm sorry, but calling out "Bush and his friends" trivializes this matter entirely.
posted by phaedon at 6:37 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


My mind officially boggled when I read that a group of guys taking away a shotgun that was pointed at them is considered assault in Jenna LA.

Unarmed people disarming the guy who threatened them with a shotgun is a crime?
posted by Megafly at 6:41 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are some places in the world that are bad places. People with reasonable attitudes and the means to do so leave these places as soon as possible or never stop there to begin with. Eventually, the only people left are those without alternatives (generally the poor, disenfranchised, and desperate) and those that agree with the status quo, making whatever was bad about the place earlier stronger and more entrenched.

This is how hellholes like Jena, LA come about. This city is not representative of some backwards "Southern racism" that exists under the surface of every city and town to the south of a hundred-and-fifty year old political line. This is the kind of small, shitty town that people a few counties away drive to once and then never go back to. To judge the entire South racist based on what occurs in shitholes like this is as deeply mistaken as judging the state of California racist based on the Rodney King beating--these are symptoms of problems that may still exist but are not representative of an entire region's or race's sentiment.
posted by Benjy at 6:45 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


But still, I don't think the scope of the problem is comparable at all, if you compare the north to some of these rural southern towns.

There are as many ghettos in the north as in the south.
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on May 23, 2007


a town where 16 years ago white voters cast most of their ballots for David Duke

Yeah, there is no problem here.

I agree with jonmc that the north is no bastion of racial harmony, and frankly, the south has probably dealt with race issues better than the north, which just sort of ignores the festering hatred, yet, the south still has much more overt, community accepted old line racism. They don't march, wear the hoods, talk openly in public, etc., but if you are an overt racist in the north, you are shut out of politics and upper middle class social institutions to a very large degree. This is less so down south, especially in the small towns. Change happens slower in small towns, north or south, and socially on race more of them are like 1970, then 2007. Yes, the big things have changed, yet the details, well they just haven't been worked out yet. You don't have to sit in the back of the bus, but don't get too uppity or else.
posted by caddis at 7:01 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


My ancestors came from Jena. But they left in the early 20th century for the oilfields of Oklahoma.

There are as many ghettos in the north as in the south.

And there are as many poverty-level, minority-heavy communities in the north as the south, too.

I've heard some quite liberal Seattleites say some quite racist things out loud, though mostly about Native Americans and Asians.
posted by dw at 7:03 PM on May 23, 2007


I've got plenty of racism in my backyard, but I can still say, look at those ignorant rednecks.
posted by phaedon at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2007


This is interesting from Wikipedia (don't know how true tho): The town is 85 percent white, an unusual high white composition in Louisiana. In the 2003 gubernatorial race, however, La Salle Parish voted heavily for the Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, rather than the young Republican challenger Bobby Jindal, an Indian American now a U.S. Representative from Metairie in Jefferson Parish. Blanco received 2,974 votes (61 percent) to Jindal's 1,917 ballots (39 percent).[1]
posted by amberglow at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2007


I remember reading stuff about Jindal and racism back then. I found this, which accuses Blanco of using her race to win over racist whites. ...But there's a less savory reason that Blanco made inroads in northern Louisiana. This is where former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke got the votes in 1991 that propelled him into the run-off election against the corrupt former governor Edwin Edwards. (The latter is now serving time in jail for taking bribes; this was the race that gave us the classic bumper sticker, "Vote for the Crook. It's Important.")
"If there was a racist backlash against Jindal anywhere, it would be in north Louisiana, in Duke country," Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis told Rod Dreher of National Review Online after the race. To some extent, Blanco laid the groundwork for a such a backlash herself. She dusted off her maiden name and campaigned as Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. Voters encountered the full name on the ballot, where her opponent was listed as "Bobby" Jindal, complete with quotation marks (Jindal's given name is Piyush). ...

posted by amberglow at 7:57 PM on May 23, 2007


and the AP from 03: Did Racism beat Jindal?
posted by amberglow at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2007


Thanks for the post and all the additional links, amberglow - I hadn't heard anything about this.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2007


No, I'm not blaming republicans exclusively. I'm acutely aware that the Democratic party was the party of segregation until the late 1960s in the deep south. The republican "Southern Strategy" to which I referred legitimized race-baiting politics that denied the gains of the Civil Rights Movement a foothold in what became republican strongholds, like northern Mississipi and Georgia.


So by "I blame Bush and his friends," I mean both for promulgating a slyly segregrationist pragmatic politics on the Reagan model, but also for taking the nation's eyes off the prize of full equality. At least Clinton made regular *efforts* in that area.

As for Bush? Two words: New Orleans.
posted by spitbull at 8:50 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


as a northerner, i've never heard of anything so preposterous as black people feeling like they have to ask whether they can sit under a certain tree at school ... i know we've got problems up here, too, but not to the point where people feel afraid to sit under a tree, for pete's sake
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jena is a pretty little town with some great barbecue.
posted by ColdChef at 8:54 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


"When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:55 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and apparently racism. Barbecue and racism.
posted by ColdChef at 8:58 PM on May 23, 2007


pyramid: Well, when growing up in the small town Deep South, I never heard news of a black (or black immigrant) being raped with a plunger by the local cops either. But whatever.
posted by raysmj at 9:18 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did you know Hegel taught at the University of Jena? In Germany.
posted by phaedon at 9:25 PM on May 23, 2007


Amberglow is right though that Mexican/Arab is the new black these days, and that sort of bullshit is not geographically confined.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on May 23 [+]
[!]



Imho, it gets worse, as the increasing rise, globally, of the twin bogeymen of India and China continues, you can see the increasing resentment and response to this shift, with cries of 'unfair trade practices', 'cheap labor' et al all over the media.

furthermore, the increase of 'fear' and 'paranoia' spread throughout the world [having just experienced three airports in three different countries on two continents talk about the same plastic bag/lotion gel bullshit] has made life increasing difficult for those of us who visually look arab/middle eastern/swarthy/south asian or even remotely like a potential T word

so much so that after 9 years of residing in the land of the brave and free, just months after becoming eligible for citizenship, I've left the country in order to explore other countries to relocate to, including the one where i'm a first class citizen, where my character, credibility and credentials would not be questioned, simply based on the circumstantial fact that my skin has more melanin than yours.

this isn't about north or south or one extreme example, as many commenters have noted, its about the fact that 40 some years after your civil rights movement, in the 21st century, racism, narrow minded prejudice and bigotry is still so prevalent and endemic.

the same qualities occur in your "representatives abroad" who have no qualms about kiling, destroying or blowing up people who don't look like them.

meh.
posted by infini at 9:29 PM on May 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well...at least the south bashing isn't in full effect. I, for one, really like barbecue.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2007


I never heard news of a black (or black immigrant) being raped with a plunger by the local cops either.

oddly, enough, i haven't heard of my local cops doing that either
posted by pyramid termite at 9:35 PM on May 23, 2007


I'm so sure that amberglow would have voted for Jindal. (Rolls eyes.) And now you're into the American Spectator? The truth is that Blanco was vastly more conservative on social issues than the Democratic norm, and Jindal was to the right of Jerry Falwell on them, practically.

I don't get the "using your full name" bit. North Louisiana isn't French-derived name country. How's it that much more odd in any case than using "Bobby," which isn't his legal name but sounds all down home?
posted by raysmj at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2007


In Pittsburgh, PA when I was a kid, I remember a suburban teacher telling me a story about local parents waiting at the schools with baseball bats when they tried to bus in the inner city black kids.

I don't think racism is a fixable problem. It can be mitigated at best, but we are hardwired for xenophobia. I consider myself to be enlightened and non-racist generally, but the results when I took an IAT kind of shook me up.

If Jena had been on my list of places to go, it would be off it now.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2007


pyramid dynamite: The incident to which I referred happened "up there," and you state that you're from "up here." Or are you now only from a rather isolated spot of that rather large, ill-defined area, now that I bring that incident up? Can you generalize about a larger population from one incident?

No. This incident should be deplored, and the punishment meted out is far too lenient. But isolated or particular incidents do not paint the whole picture of any nation or region, although media dramas (especially those that are harped on for weeks) would appear to make some people believe that.
posted by raysmj at 9:51 PM on May 23, 2007


Correction: Ludicrously lenient.
posted by raysmj at 10:02 PM on May 23, 2007


would that people get as upset about racism as they do about defending southern honor
posted by pyramid termite at 10:12 PM on May 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Wow, amazingly enough, I just signed up for metafilter for this post. I've been reading for a couple of months. I enjoy the discourse but have never been compelled to join.

When I was a student at UAB, my Western Civ professor used to talk about racism and how it wasn't indigenous to the South. He gave examples such as California and Hispanics and Ireland and Britain (which is less race and more religion if I remember correctly). He also brought up Chicago on numerous occasions, though I don't remember what he said.

He was black. I always found that interesting that a successful black man in the South saw racism as not being as bad as it's made out to be. His argument was that the South just had a bad reputation but it is rampant everywhere.

I agree with him on that point. Then I read stories like this. I think about the last time I was out at a bar. The bartender talking about the black guy who brought in ribs to eat or the patron who says Ruben Studdard is that damn "n" who capitalized on 205.

I used to point out the error in their judgment. Now I just look away. It usually does no good to argue. People won't change their mind.

It's when I run in to people like this that I realize that the South has a long way to go. It's definitely not going to happen overnight.

Unfortunately, the town of Jena, LA has an even longer way to go.
posted by robtf3 at 10:19 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are you kidding? You're the one who conveniently decided that you weren't from up there, but one particular place up there all of the sudden. I could go at you so much harder here, but I'd really just like to see more material about the incident and not, say, amberglow quotes from right-wing publications that he'd never trust in a zillion years otherwise.
posted by raysmj at 10:22 PM on May 23, 2007


White USian living in China here, and not as part of the jet-set expat crowd...

If it weren't for decades of propaganda policy stating simply "You're a fucking moron if you think the foreigners are any different or inferior, because that attitude seriously gets in the way of making us a more civilized, cultured, and above all poor and backward-ass people, so knock it off" from the authoritarian government, I would not be able to live here. China, just like everywhere else in the world, has its hate politics, and blaming foreigners for corrupting the culture and living unfairly off the Chinese and the fact that it rains or whatever else.

I'm not going to say that democracy is flawed, but I am going to say that you don't often see that kind of aggressive attitude coming from those in power in the US, and it's kind of disappointing. Forget the racism, forget what's right, forget all that - black people are productive members of society just as much as whites are, integration vastly increases the flow of ideas, and shit like this just gives the Louisiana a bad name and prevents places like Jena from becoming any better. Not punishing the kids for the nooses, just from an economic standpoint, is stupid.

It's all so much bullshit that it just makes me want to puke.
posted by saysthis at 10:42 PM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


would that people get as upset about racism as they do about defending southern honor
posted by pyramid termite at 10:12 PM


I think people get upset about Southern honor because it's easier to associate with the South as a whole.

Prejudice and racism, on the other hand, stems from the fact that you're talking about people who are different from you. There is no emotional 'noose' hanging over you. Nothing to make you think "Hey, that could be me!"

I agree though. People should be very upset about racism. The problem is, people don't consider something unless it affects people that are like them (either in color, class or religion or, in this case, region). They don't think about the fact that we're all homosapiens.
posted by robtf3 at 10:54 PM on May 23, 2007


The American Spectator only sees racism and/or defends the South (or its idea of some amorphous South) for partisan purposes, for the record. It's a partisan rag, for gosh sakes. It's a piece about George Allen, so of course a noose comes up.

I don't think it wrong to use this article to point out why incidents such as this take place: Too many politicians and pundits treat race like a ball tossed around in a larger game about ... oh, nothing much, really. It pays the mortgage, a la the spin in "Thank You for Smoking." The game's the thing. Too bad that game has spillover effects that are not remotely amusing.

And too many people enjoy fighting over trivial crap involving race, regardless of partisan orientation, or bring out the infamous race card when it's convenient, etc. It's far easier to find a scapegoat or stereotype rather than try to figure out the reality on the ground.

This, and the incidents discussed, make me think of "Do the Right Thing," which is still impossibly relevant, both to the South and North and all over America, despite being set in NYC.
posted by raysmj at 11:02 PM on May 23, 2007


Sorry, when I said "in this case, region" I meant people defending Southern honor. Definitely not the original post. That's clearly about race.
posted by robtf3 at 11:07 PM on May 23, 2007


To quote the Sun article:

"The critics note, for example, that the white youth who beat the black student at the party was charged only with simple battery, while the white man who pulled the shotgun at the convenience store wasn't charged with any crime at all. But the three black youths in that incident were arrested and accused of aggravated battery and theft after they wrestled the weapon from the man - in self-defense, they said."

Wait: some twerp pointed a shotgun at some people, who managed to wrestle it away from him, then THEY were charged -- with stealing the shotgun? That's disturbing news.

All I can say is I'm glad the black youths got the gun away from him thereby preserving Southern honor. I'm so Yankified these days I'd've fled screaming if I didn't simply piss myself and faint. Shotguns might mean pain!
posted by davy at 11:14 PM on May 23, 2007


robtf3: The original post was about race, but amberglow made it about an entire region two posts below, before anyone else had posted a single comment. And he continued to do that.
posted by raysmj at 11:24 PM on May 23, 2007


Wait: some twerp pointed a shotgun at some people, who managed to wrestle it away from him, then THEY were charged -- with stealing the shotgun?
posted by davy at 11:14 PM


Are you sure you know the whole story? I'm not trying to play devils advocate here, but how do you know they didn't initiate the confrontation?

Since when has the media told the truth about anything in our time? Don't answer that... I'm sure it's more than I want to believe.
posted by robtf3 at 11:24 PM on May 23, 2007


robtf3: The original post was about race, but amberglow made it about an entire region two posts below, before anyone else had posted a single comment. And he continued to do that.
posted by raysmj at 11:24 PM


Thank you Ray for pointing that out. I had just read over comments and hadn't really paid attention to who had said what or what I was reading. Especially in the beginning.

I obviously need to pay more attention.
posted by robtf3 at 11:43 PM on May 23, 2007


No? Then why post it in Every. Single. Thread.
posted by delmoi


Probably because every. single. thread. about racism that happens in the south is used to paint every town, city, and citizen as racist.

When I was a student at UAB...
posted by robtf3


You have a black professor's opinion but disregard it after hearing a racist remark? When I first visited california 15 years ago the first thing I heard off the plane was a racist remark. I took it as that person being racist. But when in the south a person hears a racist remark he thinks "the south has a long way to go".

The original post was about race, but amberglow made it about an entire region two posts below, before anyone else had posted a single comment. And he continued to do that.
posted by raysmj


Amberglow is a great defender and advocate for groups, regions, and causes for which he feels empathy. When it comes to one he detests, the south, it becomes a search and destroy mission.
posted by justgary at 11:55 PM on May 23, 2007


You have a black professor's opinion but disregard it after hearing a racist remark? When I first visited california 15 years ago the first thing I heard off the plane was a racist remark. I took it as that person being racist. But when in the south a person hears a racist remark he thinks "the south has a long way to go".
posted by justgary at 11:55 PM


I didn't mean it that way. Like I said, I agreed with my former professor. I did not disregard anything.

I personally don't think the South deserves the reputation it has. Especially since I was raised in Birmingham. Birmingham and Alabama has done a lot to make up for it's past ills. Or at least, as far as I can tell, it is trying. I guess I can link to stuff if I have to.

There is probably no other place in the US that you can talk about racism like you can here (this is opinion). It's easy to bring up and it's easy to discuss. It starts arguments and fights, but we're trying.

The problem lies with the people who feel the need to continue stereotypes and prejudices. I do feel there are plenty of people in the South who are like that. The South still has a long way to go.

The same goes for the North, the East, the West, the where ever you want to be. We, as humans, have a long way to go. What is wrong with acknowledging that fact?

So, back to what you said. I take it as the people talking to me being very racist too. I just know that it is inherent in the society and culture. The class. The race. The religion.

I don't disregard anything any of my professors told me. The very fact that I am discussing them now should tell you this. I think he had a very good point.
posted by robtf3 at 12:28 AM on May 24, 2007


I must agree with Saysthis, at this stage in the very very internetworked world, the global village which has shrunk to where we can all post together here from our respective continents of location implies that putting all else, including our common humanity, aside, it just doesn't make business sense anymore to perpetuate and not deal with racism.

Let's take Silicon Valley and the role of foreign born immigrants as a case in point.
posted by infini at 1:57 AM on May 24, 2007


This was a great post amberglow.
posted by caddis at 5:18 AM on May 24, 2007


The most telling part of the news story is that the black students felt like they had to ask to sit in the shade.

I wonder how the white citizens of Jena would feel if they were only 15% of the population?
posted by jaimystery at 6:39 AM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


The thing about the South and racism is that there is no one view, no one thing going on. It's easy to say that all Southerners are racists or that it's way better down here than up North, but the truth is a lot more flexible.

Growing up in a small Southern town in East Tennessee, the only African-Americans I ever saw were on TV. But in the same state, there are communities that are well integrated and seem to have fewer issues. Where I currently live, the sight of interracial couples and interracial groups is no big deal. There are very few "Black" neighborhoods, not because there are few blacks, but because most of the segregation of neighborhoods is economic. Here there are bad neighborhoods, but they are bad, not because of the color of the folks living in the but because the folks who live there are poor. The major thing I've noticed in the South is that white Southerners are much more aware of racism and much more concerned about the appearence of racism. The statement, "I'm not a racist, I have black friends." is common. Race is there and underlies most of your interactions, but people do try to ignore as best they can.

The problem remains because there are so many small communities that are completely isolated. There just aren't any blacks or any non-whites in these areas, so the idea of integration and equality doesn't come up. So many of these small areas, like where I grew up, firmly believe that they just don't have race issues. And they're right, they don't. Not because the whites don't have prejudices and so forth, but because there just aren't any blacks to challenge them. When the challenges come, it's often a shock to the whites who live there that they do have a prejudice and they are confused as to how that happened.

This entire country has a very long way to go to be free of this demon, and it will only die when the old guard and their ideas fall away.

My favorite comment about racism in the south came from a co-worker of mine a few years ago. She was a young African-American woman and had grown up in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area. After college she went to Detroit to stay with some family and after she came back she was talking about how hard it was up north. She said that white folks up there stare at you and treat you like dirt. When I asked if she'd had the same experiences down South, she said "Yeah, but white folks down here know they're racists and work hard to prove they're not. White folks go out of their way to be nice and polite and not say the wrong thing. They're aware they have a bad rep and don't want to encourage it. Down south they take care of their n*****s. Up north, they just want you to go the hell away and stop reminding them that you exist."
posted by teleri025 at 8:04 AM on May 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Up north, they just want you to go the hell away and stop reminding them that you exist."

And if she felt this way it must be true!
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2007


delmoi:
"...Okay, I hadn't seen that comment (or read the whole thing). But still, I don't think the scope of the problem is comparable at all, if you compare the north to some of these rural southern towns."

I think the point he's trying to make is that there's a lot. You're saying it's not comparable, and it's not, because it's not just a different scale... It's a different type. It's subtle and pernicious. Ghettoism is an example. In my own wonderfully Liberal Mecca of Madison we have our "south side" (and it is on the south side, funny that). The white government leaders are trying to approach the problem and bring integration to the communities, but it's a hard project, and I think the first step is really to acknowledge that just because we're not hanging nooses from trees doesn't mean we aren't racist, or that our policies don't discriminate. Even policies that are supposed to be for the general welfare of the people, it may, in fact, be harmful.

I don't know the answer. But let's not pretend that the great northern cities are immune from all sorts of bigotry. Especially the subtle kind.
posted by symbioid at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2007


If a white southern man in such a place points a shotgun at 3 black youths in self-defense he's likely to go ahead and pull the damn trigger; i.e. I don't think somebody's got to be stupid just because he's a white southerner. On the other hand lots of people who (will say they) are "just funnin' with ya" will gladly point a shotgun at somebody even if it if ain't loaded; i.e. I don't think white southern men are smarter than everybody else either.

If you really feel threatened you don't just wave the shotgun, especially if you're in a demographic that's likely to be favored in that locale.
posted by davy at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2007


Hi, my name is Mark and I'm a southerner.

When I was born, my mom told me that I was very special and that one day I would be a man, and help people in my town and maybe even people all over the world.

I lived with my brother and two sisters in a small house , we had what we called "neighbours" that lived around us and they had families also.

People didn't always agree with each other but
most were friendly. I mowed lawns for spending money.

I have two hands and two feet,my eyes are set towards the top of my face , just above my nose. Some people say I look nice.
My father came from humble roots but we allways had the things we needed.

I live in a small town in Tennessee . We have a newspaper in my town and a few radio stations, no TV stations yet.

I read Metafilter on my computer, in my room. Some times I feel like I'm not welcome , other times I feel at home. When I read what jonmc wrote above I think I'll stick around. I don't like being called names when I have not done anything wrong, and when you point at were I live and say "southerner" you're talking to me, thats who I am. It's a simple principle really , but hard to follow at times. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
posted by nola at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2007


I don't like being called names when I have not done anything wrong, and when you point at were I live and say "southerner" you're talking to me, thats who I am. It's a simple principle really , but hard to follow at times. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
When people slur "yankees" combined with an insult, us people who live north of you don't get all upset. When people deride "New Yorkers" and "San Francisco values", and all that geographical stuff, we don't make as much of an issue of it either. It's only white southerners who take any and all publicity of shitty racist things that happen there as personal insults. It's also why the GOP's Southern Strategy works so excellently with white southerners for decades and decades now.

If something happens in one racist town in the south, that doesn't mean everyone is accusing the entire south--very few people do that in reality--even in these types of threads. It's a fact that this town has enormous social and racial problems. It's also a fact that everywhere has racism. People always point both out, and there's no problem in either pointing out that town's racism, nor the racism that happens everywhere. It's automatic at Mefi that all of these will occur.

Hanging up nooses is not your common racist act nowadays, especially when it's in reaction to black kids simply wanting to sit under a tree. High school fights usually don't lead to attempted murder charges for just black kids in a fight, when it's the white kids who started it, and escalated it all. School administrators and local lawmakers nationally don't not usually act the way they have here in this town. ...
posted by amberglow at 6:28 AM on May 25, 2007


or to summarize amberglow's longish comment succinctly "what part of this are you not getting through your thick head, dude? We have a problem here and its causing us a shitload of problems in the world today."
posted by infini at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2007


I'm sorry, I know there are problems nationwide, but I'm not getting on the same bus as amberglow, with his trusty copy of the American Spectator beside him. He can go feel all self-righteous without me.
posted by raysmj at 8:12 AM on May 25, 2007


er am I allowed to speak up on this then? I happen to be a non white permanent resident of the United States, I do beleive that I might be speaking from some direct experience in this subject matter here?
posted by infini at 9:04 AM on May 25, 2007


Not because the whites don't have prejudices and so forth, but because there just aren't any blacks to challenge them. When the challenges come, it's often a shock to the whites who live there that they do have a prejudice and they are confused as to how that happened.

This is the frightening bit of the particular flavor of prejudice we are discussing.

That it festers without provocation.

I'm enough of an old fart to figure out that it's easy to mouth rainbow platitudes when you don't live cheek-by-jowl with the problem.

But I am still puzzled by how small southern towns react so horribly when faced by "challenges" - as if drawing on ugly attitudes that have seeped into the water table.

It's never enough for those stung just to shout "you're all self-righteous!".
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2007


I read the artical amberglow , and was about to post to the thread that I thought it was a good post , but when I got inside I could see it was not going to be a post about just the event.

It's not really a big deal in the grand scheme. But it matters to me a little , and I won't lie it's gotten under my skin.

I grew up trying to distance myself from my "southern" roots in word and action. I was ashamed of being from the south because of what I had been told about it from my TV, I drank the cultural waters of my time and learned all the evil things about the south, and none of the good. But as time went on I got older and one thing I noticed, that most nightmare scenarios I had come to expect living in the south had not happend and so far continue not to happen anywhere near my daily life.

I could just be lucky, I've never been robbed never had anything stolen , never been beat up, never really got into any fights. Never heard anyone call someone else a n***er (at least to their face) not seen anything in person that even remotely resembled public rascism. Never heard anyone say publicly anything untoward about people to do with race.
Never seen anyone threatened because of their ethinc heritage. Seen blacks and white shopping at the same stores eating in the same restaurants , not strange at all to see them sharing a table.
I've worked on thousands of construction sites with mexican crews doing the brick , and white southern boys hangind the shetrock , causiously exchanging greetings with each other , and if the job last long enough sitting down at dinner time (lunch) with each other.

I know what your thinking (at least in part) anecdotal. Or maybe you think I'm missing the bigger picture. But I get it , don't worry I understand.

All I'm asking is that you live here for 28 years and see as much of the real southern world as I have before you assume you know enough about life here to judge it with this news story acting as the rule.
The south is a big place , a lot a people live here. Give those of us, most of us , a chance.

some here are ready to pass judgement over us because of where we live. xenophobia is at the heart of your post, and that is what I'm talking about . But never mind, most people north
of the Mason Dixion will live and die never feeling the need to eat crow about what they think and say about the south .
I'm looking forward to traveling up north some day. Since I've never been I'm sure I'll learn new things.
I plan on taking it as I find it.
posted by nola at 1:13 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to traveling up north some day. Since I've never been I'm sure I'll learn new things.
I plan on taking it as I find it.

posted by nola

Darn it, nola!
You're just the sort who's going to be horribly mugged two minutes after you tip-toe into Times Square...
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:52 PM on May 25, 2007


Don't worry JT I always travel with a group of back woods imbreed goat rapers that stand about 7' 3" and armed to the teeth with muskests and bowie knives ;)
posted by nola at 3:57 PM on May 25, 2007


nola, i didn't mean to come down on you, but these posts always broaden out when there's a regional connection (racism in the south, neo nazis in the northwest, guidos in ny/nj, etc)...i helped it along with that Guardian article (which wasn't even that good)--and probably shouldn't have. I always find it essential tho, to see how these types of incidents are covered out of the country, and if they are at all--foreign papers are usually quick to publicize all racist and backwards things about the US. (This is how the Guardian covered the Diallo stuff here in NYC: The killing in 1999 of Amadou Diallo, 22, from Guinea, by undercover white police officers, became a byword for police brutality and racism. ...)
posted by amberglow at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2007


Video of recent peace protests there (and people are petitioning the DOJ to investigate, but it's the Bush DOJ, so...)
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on June 9, 2007


« Older Round-the-world travel guides from Perpetual Trave...  |  DO NOT click the YouTube link ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments