Jail the Jena 6

By Megan McArdle

Instapundit and Orin Kerr have been posting about the problem with building a coherent story about what happened in Jena. But this strikes me as the deeper problem.

I got a few emails urging me to wear black yesterday to "Free the Jena 6". But they shouldn't be freed. Six guys assaulted one, and after he was lying on the ground unconscious, kicked him repeatedly in the head. They should go to jail for this.

I am very sympathetic to the point that there has been a systematic tendency to treat the black kids involved as thugs, while treating the white kids as just adolescent pranksters horsing around. This cries out for some form of justice. However, given that the white people involved have already had their cases adjudicated, and been given excessively light punishments, I'm not sure how to administer that justice. Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure that it should not involve releasing kids who perpetrated a six-on-one assault. It seems pretty clear that the charges are too harsh, and should be reduced. But "Free the Jena 6" is nonsense.

Advocating for racial equality in the justice system need not entail pretending that every defendant is Nelson Mandela. And assuming that sort of rhetoric in a case where it is glaringly inappropriate makes it easier for the people you want to reach to dodge the deep questions about why poor and minority kids are generally assumed to be bad kids, while middle class white kids are seen as basically nice people going through a phase.

Personally, I'm pretty sure that none of the people involved here are very nice. And though I do understand why the justice system punishes the two crimes differently, I'm not sure which would horrify me more as a parent: having given birth to a kid who ganged up on a loudmouth and kicked him in the head; or having raised a kid who thought that lynching threats made a witty and appropriate practical joke.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/09/jail-the-jena-6/1965/