Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nooses and swastikas and other such nasty things

My blog is not influential and I only have a few readers. However, I am going to do my part in decrying the latest hateful actions by a few in our nation. My ire went sky high when I heard on the news that one city official stated that the nooses two white punks from Alexandria, Louisiana had hung from the back of their truck, was probably just a prank gone awry. This in the face of the 18 year old proclaiming that he had a KKK tattoo and that his parents were members of the KKK (according to CNN). Never mind that he drove his truck through a crowd that was returning from the Civil Rights March on Jena. Additionally, the two youths had a rifle and brass knuckles in the truck. Again, the Police Chief of Alexandria, Darren Coutee was heard saying the two white youths didn’t intend to use them and that it was probably a prank. Of course, the Police Chief was white. So my question to the police chief is: “what are one 18 year old and one 16 year old doing driving a truck while drunk with two guns in the truck?” From my stint working as a psychologist in the Reception Center for Youthful Offenders in the State of Michigan, I reply to Chief Coutee with assurance, “they were up to nothing good” and only the swift action of a nearby police officer prevented them from acting out their hateful feelings.

Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune states in his article of September 22: “The Jena case has drawn national protests because of the perception of many African-Americans that blacks are treated more harshly than whites in the town's justice system.”

Perception? Personally, I believe the incident is more than perception. Particularly in light that the black youth is still in County Jail and has been for months even though his conviction as an adult has been overturned. Yet, the local prosecutor wants to continue the prosecution of the youth. All we can hope is that this youth won’t come out of County Jail embittered to the extent that he will really lash out against society. There is a reason why the majority of prisoners in the State prison systems are black. Time and time again, I saw that by the time a white youth came to prison, he was much more behaviorally and psychologically disturbed than his black counterpart. Why? Because black youths came to prison earlier while white youths were given many more chances. All this kid is going to learn in County Jail is how to be a better criminal. Instead of continuing to prosecute this youth, why not make school attendance mandatory for him.

The smartest sentencing I ever saw was in a white young adult. He had gotten himself into some sort of trouble. If I remember correctly he had been in a fight. The Judge involved sentenced him to probation and college with regular reports to him and a B average. The local Prosecutor’s office wasn’t satisfied and appealed the sentence. So the Judge gave him a sentence of 1 day with time served. Didn’t you know, the County Jail brought him to our Reception Center, just to spite him. We made the poor kid sit on a bunk bed and told him not to move until his parents came to get him. Luckily the Reception Center Officer listened to the kid, called the Judge and verified his sentence. What if our staff had not listened? I would hope that if it had been a black youth we would have done the same. But the point is, such sentencing would most likely not have happened for a black youth.

Let me put it into another perspective. I am white, German born and raised. What if I as an 18 year old would have taken a Swastika and hung it up in a local Synagogue. Wouldn’t that be a hate crime? After all, I knew exactly what the Swastika stood for: the extermination of six million Jews. You cannot tell me that these two youths and others who have recently hung nooses from trees aren’t aware of the symbolism and the terror it causes in the affected population.

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