Jena 6 Protests Raise Hopes for a New Social Justice Movement

Civil rights leaders of the 1960s are heralding the Jena 6 protests as the beginning of a new era in the struggle for racial equality and justice. Tens of thousands have descended like a cleansing flood on the small Louisiana town plagued in recent times with the ugly scourge of racism, symbolized by the nooses hanging from a tree claimed for “whites only.”

But is the Jena 6 Protest really the opening salvo of a new age of aggressive defense of Black African-Americans’ economic and political rights? Or, is this simply more business-as-usual? As with all such claims, the proof is in the execution: will the new generation of Black community leaders aim for new heights and move in a new direction or will they stick with the same old same old?

An objective analysis of the stalled Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s shows that the problem the movement ran into in the 1970s, causing it to peter out, came as a result of its being swallowed by the Democratic Party, chewed up and spit out. In the Democratic Party’s process of mastication, a small minority of educated, middle-class Blacks were swallowed whole, but the Black working class, the great majority of Black African Americans, were spit out like they were just so much indigestible matter. There’s an old saying among activists for social and economic justice: “The Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements!” That was certainly the case with the struggle for Civil Rights.

The Democratic Party, the party founded by the Slavocracy, the party of Jim Crow and the “Dixiecrats,” was also the party in which the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s have buried the movement that made them nationally recognized public figures.
How did it happen? The Democrats held out the temptation of power for a few, positions as big-city mayors and aldermen, members of Congress and even a state governorship or two.

In other words, they were bought off with the temptation of power in exchange for demobilizing the movement. But the great majority of Black African Americans have not participated in this upward mobility program. In fact, the average person in the Black community today has a lower standard of living and quality of life than 40 or 50 years ago when the Civil Rights Movement was at its height, and what else should be expect when this oppressed community has been relegated to depending on the likes of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the “Aw Shucks,” big-grinned salesmen for the do-nothing Democratic Party.

Rev. Jessie Jackson seems to have woken from this power-induced stupor, at least long enough to call out Barack Obama for the faker he is after the Black candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination refused to join tens of thousands of his fellow citizens in the Jena 6 protests. Rev. Jackson says Obama “is acting like a white man,” according to published press reports. Has Rev. Jackson recovered his senses and returned to the role he once played as an important critic of the Democratic Party’s consistent failure to fight for Black economic prosperity and political rights? We can only hope.

And that leads me to what I think is the most important lesson we can take from the situation in Jena and the national response: we can’t predict the future of this new justice movement like Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton attempt. We have no crystal balls that tell the future. However, the power “we the people” do have is to make the future, to mold it, to bend it to our collective will. We have the choice to erect a truly independent aggressive new campaign for economic and political rights for all, regardless of ethnicity or creed. It’s up to you and me and the millions of our fellow citizens who know the unfair system professional politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties created is keeping working people of all colors and creeds down.

It’s time to bring an end to this bi-partisan reverse Robin Hoodism that has left us with the rich getting richer and everyone else getting poorer. Yes, let’s hope this is the beginning of a new era for social justice! And let’s realize that we can make it so if we refuse to be fooled again by the tricksters who pose as our friends while driving the knives into our backs.

Chris Driscoll is a life-long socialist activist, who served as media director of the 2008 Nader-Gonzalez presidential campaign, was the DC-Metro Chair of the Labor Party for a decade and spent most of his life helping to organize unions, anti-war and social and political justice movements. He is currently the national secretary of Election Boycott Advocates and can be heard each week on Carson's Corner with the Election Boycott Advocates at 9 p.m. Eastern on Blogtalk Radio. Read other articles by Chris.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Bill McGee said on September 21st, 2007 at 6:52am #

    What if the prosecuter was acting on the lethality of the 6-to-1 odds rather than according to racial bias? It appears that the white student was not seriously hurt, but was this not the same ratio of bullies-to- victim as in the Rodney King beating? Are we too quick to jump on the racial-bias, politically-correct bandwagon to understand some simpler truth here? Hurting peoples’ feelings is not the same, despite what political correctness tell us, as pounding and kicking their bodies!

  2. Kenny said on September 21st, 2007 at 10:20am #

    I find this article very enlightening; the so called black leaders have forgotten what the movement was all about. The case of the Jena Six only exploits what we already know to be true. As big as this case has become many don’t realize that it happened almost a year ago, and the media has only recently made this a public issue. The fair treatment of all blacks is what the movement is supposed to represent. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have alienated a lot of the black population because of the things they have done in the past. As for the Obama situation its an unfair assessment on what his campaign stands for. We will never see a black president in this country until all blacks view each other with a little bit more trust. Your dammed it you do by the majority and your dammed if you don’t by the minority. Staying neutral is the only way to actually win the election. I think our Black Leaders forget that equality is something that comes from both sides of the fence not just the black, white side.

  3. Deadbeat said on September 21st, 2007 at 12:29pm #

    While Jackson and Sharpton have criticized the Democrats they both chose to run their campaigns WITHIN the Democratic party establishment. Jackson, too, was too consumed with his quest for control and deliberately broke up the coalition he built up after his 1988 presidential bid.

    In the end both Jackson and Sharpton affairs with the Democrats has been reactionary and has stunted the political progress of African Americans.

  4. Chris Driscoll said on September 21st, 2007 at 3:39pm #

    Dear Bill McGee,

    I’ve not heard any of the protesters in Jena defending the alleged violent reaction of the Jena 6, only reacting to the severity of the verdict and the hanging of nooses from the “whites only tree” at the school. When racism emerges in these violent symbols from the past, symbols glorifying lynching, I think it is important to respond as a nation with condemnation. In the last week I have seen reports of nooses hung from trees at the University of Maryland, College Park campus, and just last night, nooses hung from the back of a pick-up truck in a town near Jena in Louisiana. I believe that yesterday’s protest in Jena was the right response. How about you.

    Chris Driscoll

  5. messianicdruid said on September 21st, 2007 at 7:30pm #

    “Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubedly be seen to be done.” Gordon Hewart

    I recognized a serious problem by learning the black kid was the only african in the whole courtroom during the trial. Where was the “jury of his peers”? It will never be acceptable for a room full of whites to sit in judgement on a single black person. Even if the verdict is just it will not be accepted, given the present state of the “justice” system. Why do blacks refuse to respond to summons for jury duty?

    “Never ascribe to malice things more readily credited to ignorance.”

    Most involved in this spectacle are unaware of being manipulated, unaware of the actual situation or unaware of the consequences of their actions. Is there any way for people to be forced or coerced into looking at another person’s point of view?

    When confronted by an unhappy woman, most men assume the condition is somehow related to him. This is a conditioned response of acceptance for the responsibility of a situation. False guilt has been also instilled into white people in general for the past, and in some cases, present oppression of minorities. I do not assume responsibility for the angst of others, but I realize, at some point I’m probably going to have to deal with it.

  6. Hue Longer said on September 26th, 2007 at 2:39am #

    Poor poor white folks who never hung a noose.

    Privilege for being white is real in the US– no matter how many black friends you have and no matter how much you think you wish equality for all.

    “even if’s” put aside, THIS was not a case of justice with an unfortunate lack of blacks who hate jury summons…For just one example, the DA is the same fuckwit who represents the school…the same proud racist who talked of “erasing lives” with his pen when the uppity blacks got upset that he called the noose incident a prank after he overrid the decision to expel the little white rascals

    Why would white people NOT get behind fighting this blatant injustice? white Liberals are the f’n worst when it comes to racism…always wanting to think they are victims too and getting mad at others who wont see them that way

    Before anyone patronizes others because Jesse Jackson arrived at an easy to come to party, maybe they should put their own logic qualifier to the test and ask why they felt compelled to see things the way THEY do.

  7. Jonas said on September 28th, 2007 at 9:35am #

    If six white students attacked and beat a black student, or the case was reversed, would anyone march in support of the white punks being treatged unfairly? No, the whole nation would be in uproar and all good white liberals would be tearing their clothes, wailing in grief and shame over violent white racists.
    Notice how all the Jena 6 whiners never even mention the victim’s name or extent of his injuries, as if it was some unpleasant detail. Or the fact that the culprit had a violent criminal past? Almost no article on the subject ever delves into those details. Instead, they want to hang the halo of martyr over this punk.
    This reminds me of all the times the same people like Jackson or Sharpton cry about taxis passing up black fares. But do any of those complainers acknowledge that taxi driving is a dangerous job due to crime and almost all taxi cab criminals are black? I don’t blame a taxi driver for passing up a black fare. Even if the driver doesn’t get robbed, he will be cheated and abused. This I learned driving a cab.