Jim Crow’s Children: Jena 6, Shaquanda Cotton, & BLOG POWER!

 UNEQUAL JUSTICE: It’s Bigger than Jena! 
Reed Walters’ Sins of Omission 
6 Reflections from JENA

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    COSELLOUT selects one “Cosellout” (see definition) every month who represents the very worst in sports journalism. Up until August’s final week, a large list of viable candidates were making names for themselves. However, columnist Jason Whitlock blew away the rest of the field in an anchor-leg stretch run that would make Carl Lewis envious. There will be no citings of “runners up” for “Cosellout-of-the-month” for August.  No, any such “honorable mentions” would diminish Mr. Whitlock’s all-star performance. 

    He Wasn’t Always Crazy: Sometime last year Jason Whitlock either lost his mind, got in touch with his inner self-hate, or found the road to riches for any African-American journalist. Perhaps, even all three. Every other column soon became the same: 1) hate on any other African-Americans;  2) use the most inflammatory and racially- stereotypical language; 3) barely cite any actual sources; 4) blame Al and Jesse for everything except 9-11; and 5) blame hip-hop for everything except, well… everything. While his columns would have gotten any white journalist rightfully and justifiably fired long ago, Whitlock’s career took off. (the one racial double-standard that you rarely hear complaints from whites).  Whitlock was soon anointed a “serious cultural critic” despite columns that detailed his life and times at the playboy mansion and the strip club circuit. Invitations to news talk shows and hip-hop panels started to roll in big-time.  Soon you could find him all over TV telling Tucker Carlson that Sharpton and Jackson are “domestic terrorists” and bonding with Bill O’Reilly on the more nuanced aspects of hip-hop culture.  So when he signed on with FOX Sports this summer, I shook my head in disbelief wondering: “what in the world took him so long”! 

    FOX Debut: His FOX article debut came on August 16, an absolute dream date for a sportswriter’s first new column. It was just one day after NBA rogue referee Tim Donaghy
    pleaded guilty to two felony charges in a scandal that NBA Commissioner David Stern called “the worst that I have ever experienced either as a fan…, lawyer …or commissioner of the NBA". Wow! Considering all the handwringing over the years about “The Punch”, “The Choke”, and “The Malice”, that’s a pretty heavy statement coming from the commish. Whitlock’s reaction? Not one single solitary word. For the uninformed, Tim Donaghy is white. So rather than blame Kenny Rogers as gambling inspiration or The Sopranos for Donaghy’s rumored mafia dealings, Whitlock did what he does best: bash black folk. He found space to call the NBA All-Star weekend “a black KKK rally”; to brag how he “dissed Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Vivian Stringer [Rutger’s Women’s Basketball Coach]”; and called Ms. Stringer  “Nelson Womandela”. Did Whitlock address ANY basketball legal matters? Well yes, Rutgers woman’s basketball player Kia Vaughn filed a lawsuit against Don Imus, and he put her back in her place. To cap it all off he spent the rest of the article talking about Michael Wilbon’s “embarrassment” of a column that actually had the audacity to bring up some of the racial tension that Ball State coach Ronny Thompson had to deal with. His second article with FOX was more of the same. A black athlete’s out-of-wedlock children gets mentioned, Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring gets blamed on hip-hop, and, in an effort to redefine the term "twisted-logic", the verdicts of OJ Simpson and Jayson Williams are used as exhibits to support “the myth of racism”. 

    Initial COSELLOUT reaction:
     Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. Can we get some new material Jason? Mr. Whitlock did not disappoint. We thought that maybe he talks about OJ and “the myth of racism” because he probably has never heard of Genarlow Wilson, Shaquanda Cotton, Byron Halsey, or The Jena Six. But wait! Whitlock HAS heard of “The Jena Six” and wrote an article about it on August 30. He HAS heard about:

    1.      “the white tree” 

    2.     how a black youth had to ASK PERMISSION to sit under that tree; 

    3.     three NOOSES that hung from that tree after three black youth sat under it.

    4.     the mere 3-day suspension those white kids received despite calls for expulsion 

    5.     How the DA told the black youth “I can make your lives disappear with the stoke of a pen”

    6.     the six black youth who just might spend the balance of their lives in prison for beating up a white youth who got out of the hospital that very same day. 

    7.     how then-16 year old Mychal Bell has already been convicted and may serve up to 22 years in prison. 

    8.     The deadly weapon that Mychal Bell used was… his tennis shoe.

    “The Jena Six” has been spreading like wildfire around the blogosphere for months, and now it is FINALLY getting some of the mainstream attention it deserves after the embarrassing fact that the BBC covered the story even before the New York Times. Not surprisingly[1], only a couple of days after an ESPN writer raised greater awareness of the story, Whitlock chimed in with “the other side of the story”. Sometime after acknowledging that water was wet, Whitlock conceded that the boys should not have been charged with attempted murder and that school board was clearly wrong in not expelling the noose-hanging kids.  Then Whitlock went on about a whole bunch of minor incidental points just so that readers can forget about all of the major ones. Scribe to Five has completed a much more detailed response to Whitlock’s unconscionable commentary while we will just tackle his main assertion:


    "Including the fact that not one witness — black or white, and there were 40 statements taken — connected the jumping/beat down of the white student (Dec. 4) to the noose incident (Sept. 1).  No one mentions that a black U.S. Attorney, Donald Washington, investigated the "Jena Six" case and held a town-hall meeting explaining that there was no evidence connecting the jumping/beat-down to the noose incident.”


    Whitlock shamefully misses, well, everything. Whether the noose was or was not a DIRECT instigating factor is completely irrelevant to its importance of the story. Firstly, Scribe to Five points out that the three nooses were part of the beginning of a string of progressive incidents (including a white group beatdown of a black youth). The nooses, and the very fact that the youth had to ask permission to sit under the tree, tell us a whole lot about the environment that young black youth live under on an everyday basis in Jena (besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that the black youths didn’t forget about the noose!). This should be a high profile media story, IN AND OF ITSELF, even if there was no follow-up fighting. Now, just for fun, throw in the school board’s response to the noose; the DA’s threat to the youth,  and the sentence of Mychal Bell, and you have a travesty of justice that is indefensible WHETHER DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO THE NOOSE OR NOT.  Taken all together there are two separate stories here. The smaller story, if one can possibly believe it, is the terrible injustice to the six youths. The larger story is one of severe institutional-racism that permeates every aspect of leadership in the Jena community. Whitlock diminishes the first story, and completely ignores the bigger second story. Whitlock predictably writes: 

    “shame on the prosecutor, the media and Al Sharpton for not rising above the ignorance and distortions, and seeking a truth that will set everyone in Jena free, including the "Jena Six."

    "Set everyone free?" Can Whitlock be serious? Forget that instead of grouping them with the prosecutor, he should be praising any activist (including his good friend Al), media member, or anyone else who has brought much-needed awareness to this story. Lets add it all up one more time: white-tree permission slips?; hanging nooses?; school-board wrist-slaps?; DA threats; "deadly" tennis shoes; and possible 22 year sentences? What does it all spell: T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-M. The domestic kind. The SYSTEMIC kind. The “Jim Crow” kind. Every other young black youth in Jena is being sent multiple messages on multiple levels about what “the rules” are and “what their place is”.  When the story of “The Jena Six” fades away, these conditions will still remain. The very last thing that “will set everyone in Jena free” is ignoring that there is a deeply rooted community problem that goes far beyond one case, one school, and six boys (not to mention Jena and Louisiana). THAT, Mr. Whitlock, is the story. 

    “The Jena Six” poses a big problem for Whitlock
    since it throws a major monkey wrench into his whole “myth of racism” theory. He simply refuses to acknowledge its depth.  Not even in a state whose majority white population voted for David Duke for Governor back in 1991; not even in a state where a town’s
    very first African-American mayor was executed just two days before he was set to take office (this under-reported “suicide” happened way back in.. 9 months ago); not in a state that is essentially the juvenile justice and prison-building capital of the world where young black youth are its most profitable asset. And certainly not in a town like Jena where in March 2000, an emergency court order was sought by the US Justice Department to stop ill-treatment of children at the Jena Juvenile Justice Center. 

    Million Dollar Question:
    If Jason Whitlock can look the other way or minimize institutional racism at its most draconian level, then what about when discrimination takes a more insidious form? Will anything short water hoses and biting dogs on videotape move him? Or would he have been one of the many nitpicking critics back in the 1960’s, both white and black, who lambasted Martin Luther King for including children during the march? Yes, THAT would have been his article. Please Mr. Whitlock, stick to writing about Jenna Jameson, and not "The Jena Six". Your track record and delusional denial speak for themselves.

    "Bad journalism" is one thing, journalistic MALPRACTICE is another. Whitlock’s rants have earned him raises, fame, and adulation from bigots across the land, but not the disbarring that he so richly deserves. Even the most delusional of “anything-but-racism” deniers agree in principle about “The Jena Six”. Hell, Trent Lott thinks this shit is fucked up! Simple rationales like “bad article”, “careerism”, and “self-hatred-gone-wild” can no longer explain Jason Whitlock by themselves. The man seems to have entered an alternate reality that could be Freud’s playground. Except there is nothing fun or funny about the power of his pen. Whitlock, with his untreated condition, is a very dangerous man. He provides cover, comfort, and collaboration to white bigotry everywhere. He calls himself “The Big Sexy”. Others have called him “Clayton Bigsby” (black and blind white supremacist of Chapelle’s Show fame). While the Bigsby title may be most appropo, we call him our unanimous August choice for “Cosellout of the Month” and leading candidate for 2007. 



    [1] Jason Whitlock has a history of writing racism-enabling articles directly after another writer, usually an African-American writer, dares to point out institutional racism. In this case, it was probably a response to Jemele Hill; two weeks earlier it was a response to Michael Wilbon; last year when Scoop Jackson wrote on the extensive study of the lack of diversity in the field of sports journalism, Whitlock followed up with another rebuke. There are many other examples as this is Whitlock’s modus operandi.