If you want to know who’s behind something, just follow the money. Those who benefit from a policy usually promote it. Sometimes they hire lobbyists, sometimes they paint themselves as disinterested crusaders for truth and justice. But the bottom line never lies.
Consider the controversy over the “Jena 6.” Thousands of protesters descended on a small Louisiana town last week to protest the charges brought against six black teenagers who were accused of beating up a white classmate.
But look who’s charging racism: Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. The latter even compared the actions in Jena to historical cases of racism. “Our fathers faced Jim Crow, we face James Crow, Jr. Esquire. He’s a little more polished,” Sharpton told CNN.
So let’s look back at the nation’s sometimes sordid past.
It was 50 years ago this week that President Eisenhower had to deploy the Army to allow nine black students to attend high school in Little Rock, Ark. That state’s governor, Orval Faubus, had ordered the National Guard to keep the students out. Faubus clearly believed he’d maintain power (money’s sibling) through active discrimination.
Just six years later Alabama Gov. George Wallace, the man who stood for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” tried to prevent blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama. Again, he was seeking to maintain political power with his racist stand.
There was more explicit violence. Bombings in Birmingham, shootings in Mississippi. Intimidation everywhere. Our nation’s past is marred with real threats and real violence against blacks. Those carrying out these attacks certainly intended to benefit from them.
This isn’t what Jena looks like. “Now, instead of violence, Jena is home to a war of words,” Kyra Phillips reported on CNN.
There is a racial element in town, though. The tension started when three white students hung nooses from a tree that black students wanted to sit under. That’s a stupid thing to do. Society no longer tolerates such displays. Nor should it.
Yet as a cheerleader said of the noose incident, “There was a lot of tension for about a week. And then we had our first real football game, and everybody just kind of forgot about it.” That’s the point. Jena’s high school is integrated. Blacks and whites play football together. We’ve come a long way in a short time. As the school librarian told CNN, “I feel that the world is not seeing the real picture of Jena High School.”
Things aren’t perfect, in Jena or anywhere. They never will be. Humans always have divided into clans, religious groups and nationalities. That will never cease. In fact, it might get worse.