Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Jena 6: a case study in prejudice.

Unless you live under a rock, or somewhere in Britney Spears' lonely, dusty underwear drawer, you've probably heard about the injustices befalling the Jena 6.

Now, the Huffington Post would have you believe that this is 1930, and that if you're white or black in the south, you live in a perpetual state of hatred and mistrust.

To an extent, the mistrust is there, sure.

What saddens me is that racism - a violent and ridiculously self-righteous kind of ignorance - occurs in all cultures, in all parts of the world. I suppose it bothers me that people like to pigeonhole the south as a bastion of All Things Racist.

Ex: Whoopi Goldberg, making excuses for Michael Vick because dog fighting is some sort of alleged cultural touchstone in the south? What? I've lived all but a scant few months of my life south of the Mason-Dixon line, and I'm not particularly sheltered. I've never seen a dogfight.

I prefer the term prejudice, as it is more far-reaching. It acknowledges the fact that every culture - whether based in politics, race, gender, religion, etc. - carries and perpetuates ignorant stereotypes.

I hate what's going on in Jena - a true injustice, to be sure, to those high school boys facing such a steep price for doing what they thought was a matter of defending themselves - because it serves to continue the prejudicial stereotype that if you live in a certain part of the country, you must fit into some sort of mold.

I see examples of prejudice - some subtle, some blatant - everyday in New Orleans. I've been refused service at a local 24-hour drive-through because the kitchen was supposedly closed - only to see them serve every car behind me. I've seen people use horrible epithets about other cultures here. But by the same token, I've seen warmth and caring here - random conversations struck up in grocery store checkout lines, church congregations working side-by-side to built new hope in the form of a new home for a family desperately trying to move on from Katrina.

Cultural intolerance surely exists - but it exists everywhere, not just in one pocket of the country or the world.

The hideous crap that is going on in Jena could feasibly happen anywhere, whether it's Louisiana or...Colorado. Wasn't Alan Berg gunned down in his Denver driveway because of his religious preferences? Matthew Shepard - wasn't he tortured and murdered sheerly because of his sexual Wyoming?

My point is this - prejudice knows no geographical or cultural boundaries.

Unfortunately, enlightened media pundits are too busy stereotyping the south to sense the irony.


Mz Bivigou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think media outlets, such as the Huffington Post, stereotyping this as a condition of the American South (an 'example' of how little that area has changed) is a coping mechanism.

I too see all sorts of evidence everyday, in cultural products, in incidents, in conversation even, that prejudice still exists and much wider than it should.

But people - despite the reality of how prejudice still functions in our society - are (understandably) desperate to separate themselves from such things, hence this kind of simplistic stereotyping of the south.

The bright side is, on an individual people by people basis, I also see a lot of good and a lot to be grateful for and a lot that says the world is changing and advancing and becoming a slowly but surely a better place to be.

Anonymous said...


I waffle a lot but I hope you know what I mean.

I really enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...