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    September 20, 2007

    Joe and the 'Jena 6'

    Posted by: Chris

    Shame on you, Joe Solmonese. Whatever moral authority you had to lead a gay rights group, much less the movement, you squandered today.

    Solmonese_2I usually skew toward being the lawyerly type, focused on policy and legal rights and such. Rarely do I read or see stories that cause in me a visceral emotional reaction. But the Joe Solmonese speech about the racial strife in Jena, Louisiana, kicked me square in the stomach.

    I met Joe Solmonese on a spring afternoon two years ago in Washington, D.C., after he accepted my invitation to a get-acquainted lunch. He had recently been appointed to run the Human Rights Campaign, and I wanted to introduce myself as editor of the Washington Blade.

    But unfortunate timing meant this was no ordinary lunch. I had recently returned from Amsterdam, where I had been spat upon, kicked and beaten by seven men who attacked me for holding hands with my partner in the street. My nose was still in a cast, my eyes still bruised and bloodshot.

    Hate_2 Joe was very solicitous and sympathetic at the time. And event though he had not been particularly active in the gay rights movement up until then, but he certainly seemed, at least on that spring day two and a half years ago, to "get it."

    I don't think he "gets it" now. If he ever did, then he certainly lost it today.

    I understand the politics of why HRC became involved in the campaign to "Free the Jena 6." African-American and other civil rights leaders have been very supportive on the issues we say are important to us, and now HRC is being supportive on the issues they say are important to them. It's scratch-your-back and no doubt for some based on a genuinely felt bond among civil rights groups.

    Still, why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race.

    But if these injustices are as common as Joe and I both believe they are, then why pick the "Jena 6"?  Why pick a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard -- as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?

    JustinbutlerblogWhen Joe spoke today at a Washington, D.C., rally to "Free the Jena 6," here was the head of the nation's largest GLBT rights organizations standing at a podium comparing the senseless beating of Justin Butler at Jena High School to a hate crime.  But he wasn't comparing victims. Oh no. He was invoking the image of James Byrd no less to side with the six macho bullies who punched and kicked Justin unconscious on the ground.

    I'm sorry but that just goes too far. Way too far.

    Solmonese tried to explain the presence at the rally of HRC, and by extension gay people generally, by saying, "We are here because we know about bigotry. We know about hate. We know the pain in high school of standing apart. Of being taunted. Of standing up, only too often, to be shut down."

    Mychalbell We certainly do, Joe. We know what it's like to be punched and kicked to the ground by teenage jocks filled with macho bravado. And that's exactly what the "Jena 6" were arrested for doing to Justin Butler.

    Football player Mychal Bell (pictured) blindsided Justin as he left the school gym with a punch to the head that knocked Justin to the ground unconscious. There the "Jena 6" commenced to kicking and stomping on him like he was a bug, causing injuries so serious they required hospitalization. If not for the intervention of an uninvolved student, things could easily have been even worse.

    I understand the broader racial issues here, and that tensions were already high because some ignorant, bigoted white students at the school hung nooses around a tree they stupidly claimed was their exclusive social property.  But no one has suggested Justin was connected to the nooses or even that his beating was racially motivated, as if that would somehow excuse it. 

    The "Jena 6" are the type of macho bullies (of all races) who victimize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students (of all races) every day outside school gymnasiums across this country. You remember those victims, don't you Joe?  They're the ones you're supposed to be defending.

    For the head of HRC to claim to stand up on behalf of gay people and compare the perpetrators of this kid's brutal beating in any remote fashion to the experience of those of us who have actually been victimized by hate crimes, whether because we are black or gay or from any other group, is deeply misguided, politically craven and downright shameful.

    Shame on you, Joe.  And shame on you, Donna Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, for dismissing the severity of the "Jena 6" beating by noting that Justin was "sent to the hospital and released the same day." Gee Donna, I was never knocked unconscious and was treated and released from the hospital in several hours. Does my hate crime even count with you?

    Scottyweaverblog If the two of you really need to be reminded what a hate crime actually is, then why don't you drive the few hundred miles from Jena, Louisiana, to Bay Minette, Alabama. If you did, maybe you'd learn that just last week, the last of three people pled guilty to beating, stabbing and mutilating Scotty Joe Weaver because he is gay. That's where you ought to be leading a rally, calling out the local media for claiming "there's no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama." That's where you ought to be drawing comparisons to James Byrd.

    Michaelsandy_2 But there were no HRC press releases about Scotty Joe Weaver; no big speeches from Joe Solmonese or poignant op-eds by Donna Payne. They haven't even spoken out this week, as three men go on trial in New York City for the hate crime murder of African-American gay man Michael Sandy.

    Instead, Joe is in Washington and Donna is in Jena, standing up for less serious sentences for violence against the defenseless.  Far too many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths are tormented by bullies just like the "Jena 6."  And quite a few of us have the bruises to show for their handiwork even as adults. The last thing  we need is the likes of Joe and Donna standing up on our behalf for the likes of them.

    Shame, shame, shame on you both.




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    1. Shame on, shame on from The Bilerico Project on Sep 24, 2007 7:32:46 AM

      Michael Crawford posted last week about HRC's defense of the Jena 6, where Joe Solmonese gave a speech about how we know bigotry and bias, and the Jena 6 know bigorty and bias, and Black people in general know bigotry and bias, and we should all work t... [Read More]


    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 20, 2007 6:33:40 PM:

      Truly, irony does exist in this universe.

    1. Double T on Sep 20, 2007 7:06:08 PM:


      The problem in Jena has been brewing for some time.

      6 White students beat one black student, they get a slap on the wrist.
      6 Black students beat one white student, they want to sentence them to 20 years.

      Is this a LGBT issue. Certainly Not.

      Why is Joe S. there? I have not talked to him about this, but I assume he is building bridges of support for LGBT rights.

      Are Black and Gays on the same side? No, but it seems we have many of the same enemies.

      Should Joe S. being supporting JENA-6 ????

      I’ll have to default to my parochial education,
      “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing”.

    1. Jazrok64 on Sep 20, 2007 8:59:00 PM:

      Violence should not be the way to resolve any issue. What's important here is the timeline. You make it sound like poor Justin Barker was just minding his business and these 6 black young men, angry , just sought him out. Research the timeline and find out what his role in this was. Know the story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuoiZnr4jLY

    1. Wes on Sep 20, 2007 9:05:48 PM:

      Thank you for this story. It is incredible.

      Which side would HRC be on if the white guy that had been savagely beaten happened to be gay?

      And yes, where the heck was HRC on the Bay Minette savage murder? That should have been publicized all over the entire U.S. And yes it was in the news in the Mobile area. But it surely was not pushed along by HRC. And Chris is correct they should have been there and they should be with Michael Sandy now.

      If this is our 'gay agenda' it sure is strange. And frankly, I am not sure what standing HRC has to defend a bashing against gay victims after this. Pick and choose your battles for crying out loud.

    1. Dave on Sep 20, 2007 9:53:37 PM:

      Sorry Chris, you sound like a typical WASP. Just because you have a latin lover- does not make you an expert on race relations. You sound like the typical white, privilged southern white male.

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 20, 2007 10:59:54 PM:

      Double T and Jazrok: Do either of you have legitimate news sources for the story of the white-on-black beating? Certainly that YouTube video doesn't qualify. Donna Payne repeats the same rumor as if it justifies the violence, with no citation to support her. I think it makes things WORSE for the 'Jena 6' if their violence was racially motivated, as Payne suggested. That makes their crime a HATE CRIME: violence motivated by race.

      Dave, your comment brought a smile to my face. You're so immersed in identity politics that you decide who to listen to based on exactly the same criteria (albeit in reverse) that you spend so much time criticizing.

      Thanks everyone for the supportive comments. I know I tend to focus on the criticisms because I think the dialogue is important, but I always appreciate a little comment-love.

    1. Dave on Sep 21, 2007 5:05:32 AM:

      Identity politics-that is what it is all about-stop being niave. We all fit into a little niche. We as gay's should stand up for injustice everywhere, even for poor, black kids from the South. Sorry, if I cannot take my gay off like some of you. I am not questioning your realness, just your motives in so easily dismissing this case.

    1. Double T on Sep 21, 2007 12:00:50 PM:

      Dave, Bravo!!!
      I'm tired of hearing that I am a gay american citizen. I'm also just a plain old AMERICAN CITIZEN.

      And what Chris is missing here, HRC is trying to fix a corrupt system.
      Chris-you really can't see this is the heart of the matter?

      Chris, let go of your Southern roots, step back and ask, “What is the big picture here?”

      1)Chris, please stop showing that pic of the beaten Crain.
      2) My boyfriend and I were in Amsterdam a week before it happened. We looked around and decided Holland was not the safest place. On a continual basis the Anne Frank Museum is vandalized by neo-Nazis skinheads.
      3) And yes, being attacked is not an easy thing and you may still be in the healing process.My heart goes out to you.

    1. Deanna Washinton on Sep 21, 2007 3:45:27 PM:

      The march was very short yesterday. The parties were very long. There was a struggle between Jackson and Sharpton and black radio talk show host.

      They are trying to make a hero out of Mykel Bell. CNN is salivating all over this. He has been convicted of a crime before.

      Six guys beat the shit out of one guy......that in and of itself should be a red flag. The only reason it is about race is that the media is driving it there.

      This will do far more damage to black and white relations than anything else. The city could have handled it. No city needs Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to create jusitice.

      Jackson/Sharpton/Solomese are all publicity whores who thrive on this shit.

      If you disagree with this Jena Six, you are not a racist. Calling people racist......is racist.

      I hate President Bush, if I were black, would that make me a racist?


    1. Jon on Sep 21, 2007 4:11:32 PM:

      The whole series of events that has been given a lot of attention lately seems confusing to me with what happened when. There are two facts that stand out to me: 1) The three nooses that were placed on the tree should be considered a hate crime. It was done to intimidate the black students. I don't care in the school board thinks kids just don't understand the history related; They should be made to, though I believe they already do. 2) If anyone is beaten as badly as Justin the one responsible should face assult charges in the least. I didn't hear that the 6 who beat him up had any physical injuries from that moment. Assult is wrong, period.

    1. Kasey on Sep 21, 2007 5:12:16 PM:


      Yes, there is racism in the justice system, in that the white students who beat up the black students earlier in the week were not similarly prosecuted.

      But to imply - as has been done all week - that the Jena 6 are an innocent bunch of victims being stripped of their life, liberty, and dignity, is patently false and an injustice in and of itself. They beat up another student. It was not an altercation where things escalated as the crowd grew; it was premeditated.

      And yet the group that supposedly speaks for GLBT people defend the assailants and plead for them to go free. Unbelievable.

    1. BA on Sep 21, 2007 5:43:29 PM:


      I can't begin to put into words my disgust with you and this post. I'm sorry, but it just goes to show how some white people just don’t get it. You have the damn nerve to call the Jenna 6 boys bullies!!! Your disgusting ignorance is showing Mr. Crain.

      It seems that because you got your ass kicked by bigots in Amsterdam everyone who gets their ass kicked from now on are innocent. Well they’re not. Justin Butler is not innocent. No, he shouldn’t have got hurt the way he did, no one should, but what the hell did he do to provoke the situation? Did you think about that before you condemned these "six macho bullies."

      Bravo to Joe Solmonese and the HRC for standing against injustice of ALL sorts.

      Shame on you Crain. You just lost a faithful reader.

    1. BA on Sep 21, 2007 6:03:15 PM:

      “Do either of you have legitimate news sources for the story of the white-on-black beating?”

      What kind of research did you do before you posted your trash?

      Go to http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/21/jena.hearing/index.html#cnnSTCOther1

      Click on “Timeline”

      “If you disagree with this Jena Six, you are not a racist. Calling people racist......is racist.”

      Deanna, I shake my head at you and people like you. If you see no problem with the disparity in how these black kids were treated and how those little white racists were treated then you are (in my book) a racist. I don’t know where you get your info, but get this through your head, no one is making Mychael Bell a hero. This goes beyond Mychael Bell.

      And I asked you, before you made up your mind to “disagree with this Jena six” what research on this situation did you do? Do you know what happened? And I don’t just mean the nooses and that boy getting beat up. It’s way more to it than that.

    1. Brian Miller on Sep 21, 2007 8:06:17 PM:

      The facts in this case are not known. The credibility of BOTH sides is suspect.

      The case is irrelevant to gay rights -- and in fact, here in California there's a struggle raging for marriage equality that HRC has had only token involvement within. Certainly less public involvement than in this non-gay issue.

      The risks of knee-jerking here are quite obvious -- imagine if Solomonese had gotten HRC involved in the Duke "rape scandal."

      That situation had many parallels to this one, and risks destroying HRC's credibility utterly if Joe's knee-jerk (and non-gay-related) reaction turns out to be as unwarranted as the national cast of characters who made fools of themselves with their pronouncements of guilt at Duke.

      This only underscores the reasons that gay people should not give money to HRC.

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 21, 2007 8:35:53 PM:

      Dave: Sorry but you can't guilt me on this one. I'll put my record of "standing up" for racial justice up against yours anyday. I didn't argue never to do it; I argued against HRC jumping into "free the Jena 6," who are guilty of the type of school violence that plagues gay youth nationwide.

      Double T, funny how you want to eradicate prejudice but jump to conclusions about me because I'm from the South. As I wrote, I am MORE likely not less, to believe the worst of white authority figures in the South as a result of my heritage. Thanks also for indirectly blaming me for being victimized; just like others are blaming the "Jena 6" victim. Funny how people sympathize with hate crime victims until they get all uppity like I have...

      Jon, I agree with the sentiment about the nooses but the protesters are trying to have it both ways on that one. They acknowledge that existing law doesn't allow hate crime charges to be filed for hanging the nooses, and yet they cite the failure to charge the white students responsible as evidence that the punishments were unbalanced. Should they have been expelled? Ab-so-friggin-lutely. And so should the Jena 6 bullies, along with being charged for their brutal violence.

      BA, sorry to disgust you with my ignorance. Of course you've failed to offer any evidence that Justin did anything to provoke his beating. And if, as Donna Payne and others have claimed, the beating was in retaliation for his hitting a black guy earlier, then all of them are guilty of hate crimes, including the Jena 6. Some civil rights heroes!

      BA, did you read the CNN timeline before you posted it? I did before I posted. It doesn't say anything about Justin being the white student who allegedly hit another at a party. Where's the evidence? Names, dates, locations?

      Brian: AMEN!!!!!

    1. Leland Frances on Sep 21, 2007 10:47:40 PM:

      Frankly, I loathe many of your opinions, but I salute you for your courage in expressing this one except that I think you should have recognized Little Joe's incompetence and declared HRC too broken to fix long ago.

      But forget him and them. I fail to get even why people of color, straight, gay, bi, or epicene, made this a cause celebre at the cost of their credibility. Whatever else anyone is guilty of, this was SIX guys on ONE guy. The ridiculous and probably racist overcharging by the local authorities doesn't change that math, nor make it right. And yet the media whores fell upon Louisiana as surely as stars fall on Alabama.

      Check out Toy Box for Brains Jasmyne Cannick's site where she proudly displays a photo of a table with individual pictures of the Six fronted by a host of votive candles as if they were dead not simply overcharged thugs. Let a thousand hip hop homages bloom.

      We should be glad, we suppose, that she didn't blame the treatment of the Six on the Racist Gay White Mafia. I guess they're too busy trying to figure out what more they can do to oppress her hero, poor shat upon Isaiah Washington.

      But I'm betting she wove the "lynching" of Michael Vick in there somewhere.

    1. Brayden on Sep 22, 2007 7:34:12 AM:

      I like the emphasis this article places on the "six macho bullies". In my mind it reads "six stocky negro thugs".

      Where is the evidence that these "macho bullies" are the same type that beats up gay youth? Being macho doesn't exclude someone from being a queen.

      What is next? Is Citizen Chris going after the Black and Hispanic drag queens who
      resisted at Stonewall?

    1. H. Alexander Robinson on Sep 22, 2007 11:23:41 AM:

      When and how did Joe and HRC become the enemy?

      With massive forces aligned against our mutual liberation your seemingly self-indulgent protest against HRC standing up for justice seems misplaced.

      I am not supportive of violence. However, when 5 five white boys attacked the 7 of us black kids attending the previously all-white Richmond, Virginia Jr. High School we fought back. God forgive us but we weren't willing to get punked by ignorant racist.

      You seem to have no idea what a noose hanging from a tree would mean to a young black man. These young people have reason to fear for their lives. It was clear that the local authorities would not act—possibly until one of more of them were physically attacked. Justified or not their reaction was understandable. If I were to concede that the Jenna 6 were wrong—a concession I am unwilling to make without a clearer more unbiased look at the facts—the punishment certainly did not fit the crime.

      Finally, how dare you attack Donna Payne? We don’t take kindly to those who attack our Queens. This courageous woman has fought the GAY battle for years. When at last she calls in her chips and gets HRC to stand with her you choose to bash her?

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 22, 2007 12:03:02 PM:

      Alexander, I have great respect for the work you've done on black and gay issues, but you are doing exactly what you claim not to: excusing violence. Even if Justin Butler were responsible for the nooses, which NO ONE has suggested or proven, a six-on-one smackdown in response is unjustifiable. To compare it to your high school experience, which sounds like it was self defense, is apples and oranges.

      And let's agree that Donna Payne is a big girl and doesn't require sainthood, or coronation as "QUEEN," from any of us. Many of us have "fought the GAY battle for years" and have never expected or deserved to be immune from criticism.

      Donna Payne wrote an op-ed that dismissed the severity of a beating of the type that victimizes gay youth every day in schoolyards throughout the U.S. And she excused it away by suggesting it was a retaliatory strike for a hate crime no one has come close to proving Justin Butler, the Jena 6 victim, actually committed. In so doing, she (not I) labeled the Jena 6 guilty themselves of a hate crime.

    1. Leland Frances on Sep 22, 2007 3:11:03 PM:

      "When and how did Joe and HRC become the enemy?"

      In random order:

      When they became the gay Borg. "We are HRC. Resistance is futile."

      When they started claiming they were all things gay politically and started trying to put other gay groups out of business by sucking up every dollar in every town that wasn't nailed down and trying to co-opt issues, e.g., fighting DADT when SLDN already existed. "We are HRC. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

      When they spent millions on their own 8-story headquarters when they didn't need half that much space.

      When they rush back to that DC castle with every cent they vacuum up in endless fundraisers across the country whereas NGLTF leaves 2/3rds behind of what they raise with local groups.

      When Joe poses in one of their videos next to a large HRC flag. When did HRC become a country? What's wrong with the rainbow flag [or even the American flag]? When were they granted the exclusive patent on the gay equality movement? I used to be proud of the simple but eloquent iconography of the yellow equal sign against the blue background. Now it’s beginning to remind me of the Biblical “mark of the beast” that one imagines every HRC employee having to have tattooed to his or her ass. It certainly long ago ceased connoting “gay equality” and is now nothing per se but a corporate brand.

      When Michelangelo Signorile revealed years ago that HRC honchos were hobnobbing with publicly closeted Assistant Secty of Defense Pete William who helped defend the Pentagon's antigay policies.

      When the REAL head of HRC, Hilary Rosen, publicly asked for pity for gay Repug Kirk Fordham when he got burned by the scandal surrounding his former boss Mark Foley. That was AFTER Fordham was paid to help elect one of the most homohating Senators we have, Mel Martinez, now head of the GOP. Rosen's relationship with Elizabeth Birch, HRC's longest lasting E.D. and the one who made it into the monster it is today, may be over but she's still keeping the organization in line with Lizzie's disastrous business plan, and we DO mean "business."

      When most of their "activism" amounts to preaching to the choir. They have spent little of their time and little of the money WE send them trying to educate the nongay voter who determine our fate on the local level and how politicians vote and act in the same regard. Perhaps they should try rimming someone nongay outside the Beltway for a change.

      When their illusion of success and paternalistic "you don't need to do anything but keep sending us money and we'll protect you" has done as much as anything to neuter the grassroots.

      When they brag about spending barely one sixth of their annual income in the crucial 2006 election, and proportionately less in 2004 and 2000. Saving it for a rainy day? Hell, Joe, how much more rain do you need?

      After more than a quarter century of HRC's existence, some 46 states had outlawed marriage equality specifically or at least had their own state version of DOMA. That's not rain, that's a tsunami.

      When other activists like NGLTF head Matt Foreman get arrested at demonstrations that Joe doesn't even show up for. Whatsa matta, Joe? Sensitive skin? Buy some sunscreen and step into the light. HRC's attempted revolution by press release alone, flown like paper airplanes from the castle towers, hasn't worked very well.

      When Joe constantly talks, e.g., about how far "we" have come in the last ten years, when he's been involved in direct gay activism for barely two. He was a gun for hire in his previous job and he's a gun for hire in this one. Too bad he's such a poor shot.

      When they reached 100 plus employees, with or without tattoos, and an annual payroll of over $6 million dollars. Think about it: that means it costs them $6 mil a year JUST TO OPEN THE PALACE DOORS each morning.

      By the time HRC turned 26, DADT was 14 years old and there was still no federal job protection or inclusion in hate crimes. They've been whining, "It takes time" five times longer than Bush has been saying the same thing about Iraq.

      When Joe's [and HRC's going back forever] first response to criticism is always, "Criticizing us hurts the movement." Verzeihen Sie Mein Fuhrer! Sieg Heil!

      When they gave awards to meat puppet Reichen Lehmkuhl and anti "crazy gay activists" Lance Bass along with time to speak at the same dinner they wouldn't allow movement icon Frank Kameny near a mike. I guess he was too "crazy."

      When they sold their soul to Coors by taking money from them and promoting Coors brand at HRC events and in their four reports on corporations which rate Coors 100% while ignoring that some of Coors profits go to support the antigay industry through the rabidly homohating groups that family members help direct. The Heritage Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, ad nauseum. Didn't you give Coors their first 100% rating the same year Pete Coors ran for Senate while calling for a US Constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for Coors employees?

      When Joe told the "Bay Area Reporter" that "It wasn't our job to help the Democrats take back the House," and later repeatedly took credit for doing just that. They also invented penicillin and will soon be sending Hilary Rosen to the moon.
      I wish!

      Until then we are stuck with Locutus, er Hilary, and Joe and the rest of the HRC Borg.

    1. BA on Sep 22, 2007 5:15:55 PM:

      BA, sorry to disgust you with my ignorance. Of course you've failed to offer any evidence that Justin did anything to provoke his beating. And if, as Donna Payne and others have claimed, the beating was in retaliation for his hitting a black guy earlier, then all of them are guilty of hate crimes, including the Jena 6. Some civil rights heroes!
      BA, did you read the CNN timeline before you posted it? I did before I posted. It doesn't say anything about Justin being the white student who allegedly hit another at a party. Where's the evidence? Names, dates, locations?

      Nor have you proven that he didn’t do anything to provoke him getting his ass kicked. But you’re ready to condemn those boys and send them off to jail for the rest of their lives (which in fact this is all about: punishment not fitting the crime and disparity in punishment between whites and blacks)
      The more you write the more you show just how much you know nothing about this case. You’re making it seem like Justin was minding his own damn business when ‘six (black) macho bullies” decided, out of nowhere, to beat his ass. You ignore the stated reports of Justin using racist epithets. I guess that does not matter to you, or anyone else who agrees with your unjust logic.

      It’s funny, with you being gay, one would think you would know this whole situation has nothing to do with retaliation. It’s not about “you hit me, I hit you”. It’s about being fed up with the status quo. It’s about being tired of injustice and bigotry. That’s what it’s about. If you don’t know that now, you’ll probably never will.

      I really don’t believe you did any sort of extensive research on this case before your post. None whatsoever. My directive to go to CNN timeline was in response to “Do either of you have legitimate news sources for the story of the white-on-black beating?” The December 2006 entry addresses that.

    1. BA on Sep 22, 2007 5:26:35 PM:

      Oh yeah, another thing, Mr. Crain, I find it funny yet sad that you post your picture of your busted up face and post the picture of Justin’s bruised face too. As if your two situations are the same. I think it’s very telling that you choose to compare yourself to him.

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 22, 2007 5:51:26 PM:

      Fascinating comment, BA. So it's up to the victim of this senseless beating to prove he ISN'T a bigot, then? Are there many other crimes where you would argue it's up to the victim to prove he (or she) ISN'T to blame, and WASN'T asking for it?

      Why don't you respond to what I wrote about the possibility the Jena 6 were retaliating for Justin Barker's alleged use racial epithets? That makes their attack a race-motivated hate crime. It's understandable that you don't really want to go there.

      Funny word games you're playing about the CNN timeline. The fact that a black student was assaulted at a party is relevant to Justin's beating only if he was the one who did the assaulting -- as HRC's Donna Payne has alleged.

      Now the story appears to be changing, and Justin allegedly used racial epithets. If that's true it's pathetic and stupid and worthy of school suspension. But it doesn't empower a gang of bullies to beat him unconscious. Gay kids (of every race) deal EVERY DAY with epithets in the school yard, especially from jock-bullies (of every race) like the Jena 6. Violence is inexcusable as a response and certainly shouldn't be celebrated.

      Being gay, I do understand the desire to change the status quo. I also know if the Jena 6 were gay, they would get no support from me.

      I absolutely posted my photo next to Justin's. Have you ever been blindsided and had the crap beat out of you by a gang, been kicked to the ground relying on nothing more than dumb luck not to be seriously injured? If not, then don't pretend to lecture me about how I ought to react.

      The photos of Justin sent chills down my spine because they DO remind me of what happened to me and my partner. And the Jena 6 remind me of the bullies who cowardly cold-cocked me and then overwhelmed me with their number.

    1. Alejandro Rodriguez-Lee on Sep 23, 2007 1:25:23 AM:

      A terroristic threat was made when those racist punks hung those nooses on that tree -- but one wouldn't know it, given the response of the school board (which chose to overrule the student explulsions), the district attorney (who came to the school and, instead of appealing for peace, promised the student body that "with the stroke of a pen I could end your lives"; he certainly wasn't directing that to the whites in the room), and the Justice Department (which, despite the FBI finding that this was indeed a hate crime, decided not to pursue federal charges).

      Then, after two well-publicized and watched incidents in which whites got the proverbial slap on the wrist, the Black students struck back -- and, of course, find themselves being lynched by the law.

      Justin was not innocent. Even if all he did was shout n***** at others, he contributed to a very hateful and hostile climate. I am not shedding any tears nor do I feel any sympathy or empathy for him, and I can’t understand why you do, Chris. If anything, he knew that he could very well provoke the beat down he received. And that's not blaming the victim; it's acknowledging that our actions do have consequences.

      But, you may argue, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me, right? My reaction: F*** that.

      As the victim of a gay bashing, you know very well that it starts with name-calling and almost always escalates to violence. And as the father of a 16-year-old boy, I'd rather he strike first than be struck (and that's whether he is called n***** or f*****): anyone who comes into your personal space to degrade you and is aggressive is not going to go away quietly, and I bet that if Justin wasn't taken down, he would have sucker-punched one of the Black students as they were walking away, with no fear of reprisal (after all, he had the school board, the sherrif's department, the district attorney, and, given the comments we’ve heard so far, too many of Jena’s white citizens on his side).

      Self-defense is sometimes necessary before you are touched. But, in Amerikka, a Black man who stands up to stand down, no matter the situation or circumstance, is just a brute. Or, as you dubbed, a macho bully.

      (And speaking of those macho bullies: according to witness statements, two of the boys charged were not even involved in the incident; they just happened to be in the vicinity of the fight. Talk about guilt by association and not being able to tell us apart...)

      So Joe is right to have taken a stand -- even if he may have taken it for the wrong reasons (in his/HRC’s eyes, Michael Sandy’s murder doesn’t warrant a public response since CNN isn’t covering the story and tens of thousands of people aren’t protesting on the steps of the Brooklyn courthouse). Yes, a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

      The most telling fact about the Jena 6 story: the tree that started all the racist fuss was cut down. If the adults in that community won’t address racist attitudes and behaviors with candor and common sense, how can their children?

    1. Mad Professah on Sep 23, 2007 9:34:55 PM:

      I praised HRC's actions on my own blog today at http://www.madprofessah.com. I just find it fascinating that HRC would be the LGBT organization to prominently involve themselves in a "controversial" issue like the Free Jena 6 protest.

      As for Chris' posts I'm shocked (but not surprised )there are people in the white gay community who really don't see the connection between identity-based application of criminal statutes and selective prosecution and the gay rights movement.

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