The case of the Jena 6 has become a focus for anti-racist activists who mobilized thousands last September 20 in defense of young African-American students singled out for vindictive prosecution in that Louisiana town. The original source of the tension: racist hoodlums (unknown) had hoisted a noose -- symbol of decades of Jim Crow racism and terrorist lynchings against blacks -- on a tree outside a local school.
Now, as AP reports, a spate of copycat racist provocations has been sweeping the country, focusing on educational settings, though not only there. As the article states (emphasis added):
Nooses were left in a black Coast Guard cadet's bag, at a Long Island police station locker room, on a Maryland college campus, and, just this week, on the office door of a black professor at Columbia University in New York.
The noose — like the burning cross — is a generations-old means of instilling racial fear. But some experts suspect the Jena furor reintroduced some bigots to the rope. They say the recent incidents might also reflect white resentment over the protests in Louisiana.
"It certainly looks like it's been a rash of these incidents, and presumably, most of them are in response to the events in Jena," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists and other hate groups. "I would say that as a more general matter, it seems fairly clear that noose incidents have been on the rise for some years."
Thousands of demonstrators, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, converged on Jena on Sept. 20 to decry what they called a racist double standard in the justice system. They protested the way six blacks were arrested on attempted murder charges in the beating of a white student, while three whites were suspended but not prosecuted for hanging nooses in a tree in August 2006....
Though the terror of the civil rights era is gone, the association between nooses and violence — even death — remains, Potok said.
"The noose is replacing the burning cross in the mind of much of the public as the leading symbol of the Klan," Potok said.
The Democrats will sometimes give lip service to anti-racist causes, but they have, of course, done fundamentally nothing but sit back and watch the ruling class squash dissent, all the while wailing that the unruly masses don't understand the subtleties of the political process, which demands selling out the poor, working and middle classes, while greasing the palms (while sometimes tut-tutting at the greed of it all) of the fat cats.
Even The New York Times couldn't resist hammering the point, as liberal Congressman Barney Frank decried the more insistent reformers within his party, "Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats".
I know I'm conflating two different civil rights issues here, but the point is the same: whether it's playing dead so Bush could nominate ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, dedicated to rolling back civil rights and liberties, or beefing up the authoritarian Unitary Executive and it's near-limitless war powers, most of America lies in the cross-hairs of reactionaries, racists, and ultra-nationalists. It is time to come out hard and strong against their vanguard -- the racists with their nooses and burning crosses, their hate crimes and beatings, their slurs and discrimination, and take up again the cause of building liberty and hope in this giant and disorganized land. There are forces in this country that have been too quiet in taking up this cause; institutions, like the nation's labor unions, that have tremendous latent social power and organizational abilities and should begin to take leadership in the fight against racism, militarism, and attacks on civil liberties.
For further reading, I offer Ted Shaw's comments, printed the other day over at the NAACP's Legal Defense Website, "Jena Six - Another Lesson in the Role of Race and the School to Prison Pipeline".