I have yet to understand why so many people in Central Louisiana still don’t recognize the reason why the Jena Six became a case study in racial injustice, internationally. It’s as if there’s a collective amnesia about the whole thing, a willful ignorance.
Six African-American high school students were charged with second-degree attempted murder of a white student on incredibly shaky evidence, made all of the more suspicious considering the prior incidents in the community. No one denies the brutality of the schoolyard fight that sent a young man to the hospital for a few hours; the fundamental problem with the case was the way in which six young men were treated and charged. That’s why the world decided to pay attention to Jena, Louisiana.
Notably, Mychal Bell was the only one of the Jena Six to plead guilty and serve time for the crime, and earlier this week, after being accused of stealing from Dillards in Monroe, Mychal apparently tried to commit suicide. If you need any proof of the racist vitriol that infects Central Louisiana, visit The Town Talk forums on the subject. There were commenters who were, literally, rooting for Bell’s death.
Bell is not special; he is a statistic. Consider the following U.S. snapshot:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005:
– On average, someone attempted suicide every 40 seconds.
– The suicide rate was 11 per 100,000.
– The teen rate was 10 per 100,000.
– The South’s suicide rate was 11.8 per 100,000, and Louisiana’s was 11.2.
The paper attempted to reduce Mychal Bell to a mere statistic, completely ignoring the fact that his desperation, no doubt, was based, in large part, on the intense media scrutiny of his every action. And after being accused of stealing, the young man pulled a gun on himself. The Town Talk‘s insensitivity is remarkable, in the worst of ways.
Bell is represented in these numbers. His attempted suicide — shooting himself in the right shoulder with a .22-caliber gun — is a cry for help.
He is among the at-risk youth whose background, upbringing, experience and genetics combine to increase the chances that they will make choices that get them into trouble.
For Bell, his problems will be addressed first in court and then, we hope, through other intervention. He must take responsibility for his actions. If he has not been taught that lesson, that’s unfortunate. He needs to learn it now.
For society, the scope of the problem Bell illustrates tells us we’re in trouble. Granted, we’re talking about a comparatively small part of the total population, but it causes huge losses.
We pay for that every day — with money, heartache and lives that are less secure and futures that have been compromised.
Where do we begin to fix that?
First of all, genetics, what? What on earth is that supposed to mean? Is the paper implying that Bell’s relatives are also prone to suicide? Experience and genetics. Really?
The paper’s editorial, I believe, also looks like a cry for help– a failure to understand the specifics of Bell’s case, an insensitivity toward pathology of suicide, and an attempt to reduce Mychal Bell, despite the copious coverage The Town Talk did on the Jena Six, as nothing but a statistic.
In my humble opinion, the only person Mychal Bell has ever tried to kill is himself, and the media’s failure to fully and totally recognize this situation has resulted in a slew of undeniably hateful and racist reaction.