"(S)ome Americans do not understand why the sight of a noose causes such a visceral reaction," declared President Bush to the White House gathering for Black History Month.
As The Washington Post rushed to remind us, President Bush was "responding to news coverage of such episodes as the 'Jena Six.'"
But if history is about truth, not myth, that news coverage deserves another look, before the Jena Six enter the history books alongside Emmett Till and "the Scottsboro Boys."
By now, most folks know the media story. White students at Jena High in Louisiana hung nooses on a tree to warn black students not to sit under it. After a fistfight over this racist outrage, black kids in the fight were indicted for attempted murder, while the white racists who hung the nooses walked away with a verbal spanking.
Last September, 20,000 traveled to Jena to march against this prosecutorial outrage. Fortunately, however, there are still a few real journalists around. Among them are Craig Franklin, assistant editor of the Jena Times, whose wife teaches at Jena High, and Charlotte Allen, who wrote an extended piece for The Weekly Standard. According to Allen and Franklin, here are the facts and chronology you have been denied by the Mainstream Media.
There never was a "whites-only" tree at Jena High. Both races sat under it, though whites congregated there. The nooses, or lariats, were the work of three young teens, who got the idea from watching "Lonesome Dove" on TV, where rustlers are hanged.
Franklin says they were a joke aimed at white friends on the rodeo team. As they were painted in Jena High's gold and black, Allen reports that the kids said the nooses were directed at a rival school's Western-themed football team.
When school officials confronted them, all were remorseful. All had black friends, and none knew the nooses were offensive to blacks.
Far from being let off, they spent "nine days at an alternative facility, followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court and evaluations by licensed mental-health professionals."
They were not prosecuted for a hate crime because none of those who investigated the incident believed they committed a hate crime. Hung on Aug. 31, 2006, the nooses had been taken down instantly. Only a few students ever saw them. Case closed.
September, October and November passed at Jena High with no racial conflict emanating from the noose incident of August.
On Dec. 1, however, Robert Bailey Jr. tried to crash a party at the Fair Barn in Jena. One Justin Sloan, 22, not a student, put a fist in his face. So witnesses and Bailey reported to police. And Sloan was prosecuted for battery.
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