Heather Mac Donald, one of America’s most penetrating writers on race, culture, and crime, looks beyond the Jena Six theatrics and tells unvarnished truths:
The race industry will try to keep Jena in the media and political spotlight for as long as possible, and to reinforce the notion that this episode exemplifies blacks’ situation in America. But if there were many other instances of (arguable) overcharging for black crime, we would have heard about them by now. The orgy of Jena coverage will not just fail to improve the lagging performance of blacks; it will impede such improvement by strengthening the victim mentality. Both whites and blacks are complicit in this sabotage. These ecstatic festivals of racism-bashing are a crippling ritual in the codependency between absolution-seeking whites and angry blacks, a phenomenon that Shelby Steele has powerfully analyzed. The demonstrators exhibit a palpable desire for the moral clarity of the civil rights era, as do the reporters, who have covered their every utterance. “This is the first time something like this has happened for our generation,” one student told the New York Times. “You always heard about it from history books and relatives. This is a chance to experience it for ourselves.”
He’s right; there has been nothing like Selma or Montgomery for the current generation, because much of America has accomplished almost an about-face on race since the 1950s. The current martyrs to American bigotry are a far cry from Rosa Parks. Like the “Jena Six,” they tend to have committed acts of violence or other crimes for which they are allegedly being excessively punished. Think of the six high school hooligans from Decatur, Illinois, whom Jesse Jackson tried to beatify in 1999 when their schools expelled them for a violent stadium fight; their backgrounds included robbery, trespassing, truancy, and failing whole school years. We are only belatedly learning that Mychal Bell, the sole member of the “Jena Six” to have been prosecuted for knocking out and kicking Justin Barker, has a previous arrest record that includes battery and property damage. Barker’s injuries led to $14,000 in medical bills, according to a lawyer.
The Jena situation is undoubtedly a bit more complex than the tale that the press has woven of hate-filled whites and peace-loving blacks. But even if it were not, the catharsis that this morality play has offered to its participants is spurious. The real tragedy is the dysfunctional culture that holds back too many blacks from seizing the many opportunities open to them.
Read the whole thing at City Journal.
More of Heather’s work here.
Patterico continues to probe the Jena 6.