Don’t Free the Jena Six

Sep 262007
Authors: Ian Bezek

I have been greatly disheartened by the recent Jena Six controversy.

It has been a remarkable step backwards for race relations in America, and it has slowed our progress towards a colorblind society.

The Jena Six are a group of black students that, according to witnesses, assaulted a white classmate.

Justin Barker, the victim, was beaten badly and the perpetrators were seen stomping on his “lifeless” body according to bystanders. He was taken to the emergency room and suffered a concussion and the loss of vision in one of his eyes for three weeks.

Not surprisingly, the students who committed the assault were arrested and charged with second-degree battery.

One of the Jena Six, Mychal Bell, has become the focal point of the controversy after being convicted.

Despite the fact that Mychal has an extensive criminal record with five violent crime convictions to his name, he started receiving support from a large group of sympathizers. While Bell’s defenders admit he is guilty of the crime, they argue he was incited.

Earlier in the school year, a group of white students hung several nooses on a tree in the schoolyard. Despite the fact that this event occurred months before the assault and that CNN reported the nooses were unrelated to the assault, many people say that Bell and his co-defendants were just responding to a racially driven hate speech.

To complement this argument, people have pointed to derogatory comments Barker allegedly made to a black student just days before the assault.

I should stop to point out that I find the actions of the white students that hung the nooses reprehensible. I am ashamed that members of any race would commit such an offensive act.

My father was a university professor, and he invited students from all countries and races over to our house to enjoy American hospitality. Our guest book had students from more than fifty countries share a meal with us, and beside this, we hosted an exchange student from Cambodia for a year.

Needless to say, I appreciate people of other races greatly, and often find them to be kinder and friendlier than my white acquaintances.

However, it is unacceptable for race to be used as a “get out of jail free” card.

Incited or not, Bell assaulted Barker; being verbally threatened doesn’t give you the right to brutally attack your opponent.

We live in a nation of laws, and we cannot let violent criminals go free, regardless of their race. An assault is an assault, whether it is a black student beating up a white, or an Eskimo beating up an Arab.

Bell has five violent crimes in his history; he is a danger to society.

It is shameful that some people, such as Al Sharpton, have tried to make a criminal into a victim. Justin Barker was beaten to a pulp, and yet people are running around saying his assailant was mistreated.

Courtrooms are a place to serve justice, not debate racial injustices; Bell is guilty and should be punished.

While watching the protests to free the Jena Six, I kept hearing the protesters say, “Black Power,” and “No justice, no peace.”

Imagine the irony, at a protest ostensibly in favor of civil rights the protesters making threatening remarks of their own.

This is standard fare for Sharpton and his friends, however, as they make their money off playing the race card.

I urge you not to join the “Free the Jena Six” movement, as fighting racism with injustice only creates more hate.

Ian Bezek is a sophomore economics major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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