On December 4, 2006, six black students were convicted of beating a white student, Justin Barker, in the small Louisiana town of Jena. In the months leading up to the confrontation there were several racial events that were believed to have sparked the beating. It started when several black students decided to sit under the tree where white students typically ate. The next morning students came to school to see several nooses hanging from this tree. The white students believed to have hung the noose were suspended for a very short period of time and allowed back to school. Racial tensions rose as there were several off campus fights between black and white students before the assault of Justin Barker. The principle and local authorities contended that Justin Barker’s beating was not related to the noose incident, and five of the Jena six were initially charged with attempted murder for the beating.
This story received massive amounts of media coverage in the months before and after the trials. Many people contend that this beating was a direct result of the escalating racial tensions following the noose incident at the high school. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and over 15,000 protestors came from all over the country stating that the Jena six was yet another example of African Americans being unfairly treated in the justice system.
Whites in the town of Jena insist that the Justin Barker beating was merely the case of a mugging and had nothing to do with the noose or any of the racial tensions in the town. Blacks seem to see the two incidents as being directly related.
Whether or not you believe the Jena Six case had anything to do with the noose hanging in the tree, it offers a perfect example of racial tensions existing in our country today even to the point of racial terror. The fact that people contend the noose was just a prank and nothing to worry about might be the most concerning of the whole ordeal. Regardless of the reasoning behind the hanging of a noose, there is a sinister meaning behind this symbol. It is the most recognizable symbol for white power and racial terror and brings back images from atrocities committed not too long ago. The noose, the fighting, and the all white jury these boys were tried by, all offer a cold reminder that maybe our country has not come as far as we would like to believe.