Jena 6 deserve justice

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September 18, 2007

2:48 AM

We live in a bubble. The brick walls of our campus cushion us from unwanted reality, providing a fluffy and warm existence within. In Jena, La. this is not the case. Racial tensions have been escalating in a local high school in Jena since last summer, when a black student sat on a bench that was unofficially designated for white students.

p. According to a Sept.14 article on WashingtonPost.com, six black students were arrested and charged with attempted murder after a fight with a white classmate. After occasional fights at my high school, the accused would generally get a week of after-school detention or a few days of suspension. But being arrested and accused of attempted second-degree murder? This has gone beyond the gravity of a mere fight.

p. Racial tensions still exist in rural parts of the South, which is a painful fact. But it becomes more frightening when members of our generation shamelessly exacerbate them. And what’s worse is the lack of punishment they receive from their elders. Picture the grotesque image of three colored nooses hanging from a tree as a warning — this cannot be dismissed as a prank; it is a full-fledged hate crime. According to a Sept. 4 article on CNN.com, the perpetrators of this crime were first expelled, but then had their punishment reduced to a few days of suspension. Big surprise.

p. This incident has grabbed national attention and thousands of protestors are planning to march on the day of sentencing, Sept. 20. That’s great. But what is anyone going to do about this on, say, Dec. 7? The media has a ridiculously short attention span and, because of it, so does the public. When we turn our heads the other way after a while, something like this may happen again, as it did now. So what do we do? Do we keep our eyes peeled in constant vigilance for such an episode? If only there was a step-by-step procedure we could follow to put a definitive end to this. But there is none.

p. Even though there are no overnight schemes to make it all better, we can still start making motions towards progress. It is disturbing to see youths of our generation committing acts that are utterly disgusting and incomprehensible. But we have to see them. Ignorance cannot be a choice.

p. It’s hard to come out of a soft, lathering bubble — I know. It’s like waking up early on an icy winter morning and deciding to walk out on your warm and overwhelmingly inviting bed. But it has to be done. We shouldn’t have to wait for something like this to happen to show our concern and sympathy. By showing that we care and are intolerant of such incidents, we will be able to lessen the intensity of such tensions, if not eliminate them completely.

p. It is true that, as college students, we can get very few to lend their ears and listen to all that we have to say. However, we can still increase our awareness and knowledge now, so when it comes time for our voices to be heard, we know exactly what to say and do. One way or another, this has to stop, so we might as well start putting an end to it now.

p. __Kalyani Phansalkar is a freshman at the College.__

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