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Sunday, 01 July 2007

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Sisyphus

Ohhhh, that's crappy. What the hell can we _do_ about it?

And as for seeing a California/KKK connection or not? Yes and no. On the one hand, it wasn't named the Inland Empire for nothing. On the other hand, the US is a big place and I see the value in talking about local structures of racism, as every place has it's own definitions of race and its local scapegoats, and I think the discussions, and the solutions, should be implemented locally. CA has serious race problems that are so different from Louisiana that I think each location should be analyzed separately.

All of which is to say, have you read my favorite book? By George Lipsitz? Coolest dude ever.

Jonathan Dresner

It's not much, perhaps, but in addition to spreading the word, there is a online petition supporting a US DoJ investigation which elle pointed to.... though the gutting of the civil rights division under this administration doesn't give me a whole lot of hope.

Prosecutorial discretion is a necessary component of any legal system, but this is... indiscrete?

SEK
CA has serious race problems that are so different from Louisiana that I think each location should be analyzed separately.

Agreed. That's why I don't brook totalizing statements about the role race plays in American culture, which is how that debate, as well as many online, are framed. Identity politics don't work well in a national -- much less international -- context, as the approach tends to normalize certain experiences as formative. There may be similar institutional structures of oppression across the nation, but the experience of growing up black in the South is fundamentally different than growing up black in Brooklyn. In certain respects, I think someone growing up Jewish in the South has more insight into the Southern black experience than a black man from New York. The fact that, were I to say this on my departmental listserv, I'd stir up an impenetrable shit-mist makes my point (and yours) all the more powerfully: there's an assumption that it's the essential, unquantifiable blackness of African-Americans that unites the community. So I'm framing this offensively, I realize, but let me turn it around:

A Jew from Brooklyn has absolutely no idea what it's like to grow up Jewish in the South. (I would know: I was one, then did.) Whatever that Brooklyn Jew said about the Jewish experience in America -- about the quintessential identity of the American Jew -- flat-out wouldn't apply to his Southern compatriot. Same scenario. I'm rattling on, but the listserv debate I'm complaining about was one of my formative graduate school experiences. The scars, sometimes they do not heal.

(And I own, but haven't read the Lipsitz. When I moved away from race and community as my dissertation topic, a number of books I wanted to read went from the "must read to complete dissertation" to the "want to read when dissertation completed" pile.

SEK

Also, Jonathan's correct: if you follow the links, you'll see there are many avenues of complaint available.

Jonathan Dresner

The point about Jewish experience is a good one: if there's another group which is considered as homogenous by outsiders as African Americans, it's Jews, no question. (though all marginal groups face that to some extent: I was reading the Disability Carnival recently, and the assumption that all people in wheelchairs are the same person, or at least know each other, did come up). Growing up a mid-Atlantic Jew is different from either the Southern or NY experience... (even the NY experience has its diversity. I'm from a mixed marriage, by NY standards: Long Island and Bronx!) and I find myself as alienated from NY Jewish life as from New Orleans Jazz culture.

At some point we just need to surrender the generalizability of our own experience.... except for mine, of course, which is typical!

Sisyphus

SEK, you always have to watch out for the leftier-than-thous (they especially congregate in grad programs); for them it's always more about making them look like a hero or savior or all-knowing guru than solving the social problem. It sucks that that happened.

Jewishness is an especially tricky identity to generalize about because, as a religion, you can convert to it, which doesn't really work for the "biological race" models. I know several people with a parent who converted to Judaism on marriage, which adds a whole different layer to the Jewishness-and-location question. Thinking on it, now, they all also went through hippie ashram experiences as well, so maybe there's some sort of NorCal thing going on here. Hmm.

At some point we just need to surrender the generalizability of our own experience.... except for mine, of course, which is typical!

We shall call it the Dresner Effect then! :)

Porlock Junior

A nitpick:

"Moreover, given that Jena is 85 percent white (as is La Salle Parish, if they chose to expand the jury pool), it's statistically unlikely a black person would be chosen."

Unlikely since the jury pool is radically biased; but if you picked a dozen people at random from a population that's 85% white, it's better than 6 to 1 against an all-white selection.

There's something to be said about picking a dozen people at random and requiring unanimity for a conviction. It ought to be tried sometime.

Reminds me of the story told by Darrell Huff in How To Lie with Statistics. One of the French philosophes suggested trials before a large number of judges so that their prejudices would balance out statistically. Then the Revolution came, and he was tried before a large number of judges, all of whom shared the same prejudices, and he was executed. If anyone knows who that was, by the way, I'd like to find out.

Tom
given that Jena is 85 percent white (as is La Salle Parish, if they chose to expand the jury pool), it's statistically unlikely a black person would be chosen.

Just a technical comment. If jurors were selected fairly with a 0.85 probability of whiteness, then the probability of an all-white jury would be 0.85 to the sixth power. It says here on my calculator that's about 38%.

Tom

Porlock, we are thinking alike. But there were only six people on the jury.

Kevin

I know understand that when I talk about "identity politics," I'm obviously not thinking the same things other people are talking about. I guess I've always thought of it as the new hip way to talk about good old fashioned civil rights; but the more I see people taking up the cause of identity politics, the more I see people behaving exactly as you were treated on the listserv, which is absurd and counter-productive. I get especially bugged when people start talking about "Black authenticity," as if some people are more authentically black than others. In your case, I'd add that there has long been a paternalizing attitude amongst the rest of the country towards the South. There's this attitude that "we understand Southern racism better than anyone who lives in the South because we've gotten over it." I have a good friend from Alabama that went to Cornell. He tells the story of when he first got here someone, upon hearing his thick Southern accent, asked him if his grandparents owned slaves. That, in my opinion speaks volumes (it also shows that the Cornell English dept. apparently doesn't care about poor math scores on the GRE).

Cordeau

This is the most ridiculous , hmmm, I dont even know what to call it, lets just say article to keep it simple. This is one the most racist countries in the world. People can act like thats a figment of everyones imagination but its just a fact. The fact that these young african american males were even indicted is a major miscarriage of justice. Rather less tried by a white jury in one of the most racist states in this country, and found guilty?! Let us remember this was a school fight (people usually get suspended, maybe expelled for this "crime") and there were incidents that lead up to this and attempted murder is a serious crime for which no evidence of that has even been presented! What a great country we live in though!!

Evan richards

FREE JENA 6! they're the real victims here!

Yobachi

I came across your blog in a random search.

If your interested in participating in the Day of Blogging for Justice surrounding this event, read the following link and comment to that effect so that I can add you to the list:

http://www.blackperspective.net/index.php/latest-news-on-jena-6-strategy/

I may also quote this post in a future post of mine.

Randall

Please send this to as many people as possible to sign for the Prosecution of the Jena Six... White kids need to be protected from these thugs..A message needs to be sent so more incidents like this doesn't happen..

Prosecute the Jena Six
http://www.PetitionOnline.com/102179RC/

Nicole

GET IT TOGETHER!!!!!!! THIS ARTICLE IS CRAZY. AND YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY FOR EVEN THINKING AND BELIEVING WHAT YOU WROTE IS TRUE. I WISH THAT YOU COULD EXPERIENCE THE INJUSTICE AND PREJUDICE THAT MY PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH FOR DECADES AGO TO THE PRESENT TIME AND LETS SEE HOW YAL WOULD REACT. THIS SITUATION HERE IS OBVIOUS INJUSTICE AND NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. YOU THINK WE HAVE MADE 5 STEPS FORWARD, BUT IN ALL ACTUALLITY HAVE STEPPED BACKWARDS.

Nicole

GET IT TOGETHER!!!!!!! THIS ARTICLE IS CRAZY. AND YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY FOR EVEN THINKING AND BELIEVING WHAT YOU WROTE IS TRUE. I WISH THAT YOU COULD EXPERIENCE THE INJUSTICE AND PREJUDICE THAT MY PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH FOR DECADES AGO TO THE PRESENT TIME AND LETS SEE HOW YAL WOULD REACT. THIS SITUATION HERE IS OBVIOUS INJUSTICE AND NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. YOU THINK WE HAVE MADE 5 STEPS FORWARD, BUT IN ALL ACTUALLITY HAVE STEPPED BACKWARDS.

Nicole

GET IT TOGETHER!!!!!!! THIS ARTICLE IS CRAZY. AND YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY FOR EVEN THINKING AND BELIEVING WHAT YOU WROTE IS TRUE. I WISH THAT YOU COULD EXPERIENCE THE INJUSTICE AND PREJUDICE THAT MY PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH FOR DECADES AGO TO THE PRESENT TIME AND LETS SEE HOW YAL WOULD REACT. THIS SITUATION HERE IS OBVIOUS INJUSTICE AND NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. YOU THINK WE HAVE MADE 5 STEPS FORWARD, BUT IN ALL ACTUALLITY HAVE STEPPED BACKWARDS.

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