He has a point


My support for the Jena 6 should not be interpreted as support for any violence they or others engaged in. Now, it may or may not have been justified. The decisions that individuals make are always going to need to be studied in context, and I'm simply not in that context. I've been blessed to have a very shallow experience with racial prejudice.

What should matter far more to us is not that humans are sometimes bigoted or violent - we already know that - but that institutions like the public schools, the prosecutor's office, and the courts use positions of authority to promote privilege and injustice - whether it's economic, racial, religious, or otherwise. Without their claim to power, authority, and the resources of the community, the poisonous environment that now exists in Jena would have been contained, and its costs borne by the individuals instead of being subsidized by public office. The actions of some individuals have dramatized what is a persistent problem throughout the world - that people cannot be trusted to exercise authority on behalf of others.

There is no doubt that the system in Jena has had it out for blacks. And there's no question that individuals often don't make optimal decisions under such oppression. But that is no reason to excuse the system for its destabilizing, outsized role in this circus. Human individuals will always make mistakes, and no alternative social arrangment, anarchic or otherwise, will change that. However, it is the human institutions that turn an individual's mistakes into the greater, society-wide tragedies.

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Written on Monday, October 08, 2007