Obama on the Jena 6

14 09 2007

(h/t sagereader)

Finally, Obama has released a statement on the Jena 6

“When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem.”

“There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some students for fighting, but not others. It’s a problem when a public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a prosecutor decides to try teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely.”

“Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena 6 or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair. We must ensure that both victims and defendants can receive equal justice under the law, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances.”

Interestingly, enough Sen. Obama framed this issue as instance reflecting the crisis within the American justice system, particularly in how it fails people of color not just just something unique to Jena, LA. That’s an important point because much of the causal punditry and reporting on this issue constantly implies it being something rather unique to the American South, which it is not. Unfair treatment within the Justice system for people of color still remains all too intolerably common today.

Before the primary season gets underway, I hope Sen. Obama  articulates a reformist vision of the American Justice that reduces or eliminated police misconduct, unethical investigations, racial profiling, and reign in the burgeoning prison industry.

Free the Jena 6.

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