It's important to note what they defenders of the Jena 6 are not arguing. They're not proclaiming actual innocence. They're not saying the attack didn't happen, or that it's a case of mistaken identity, or even that Justin Barker attacked them and they were trying to subdue him. Nope -- they do claim he "taunted" Robert Bailey, but that's no excuse.
The defenders of the Jena 6 consistently try to minimize the victim's injuries. Justin Barker had a concussion, and his eye was swollen shut from the beating. A concussion is a head injury, and any head injury can be life threatening. And yet, the word "concussion" is often left out when describing Barker's injuries. For example, this YouTube video -- endorsed by Radley Balko -- fails to mention the word concussion, and it bends over backwards to minimize Barker's injuries. It's true, by the way, that Barker attended a "ring ceremony" at his high school the night after the beating, but I don't think it is fair to characterize it as a mere social event, or to use that fact against him.
This USA Today report waxes eloquent about the grassroots movement to free the Jena 6, but it barely mentions the victim, Justin Barker, and it never uses the word "concussion." Radley Balko over at The Agitator -- whose work I have praised in the past -- has mentioned the Jena 6 case several times, but a search on his site for the name "Justin Barker" turns up -- nothing. To Balko and the other defenders of the Jena 6, the actual victim of the attack becomes invisible. Even worse, one blogger, Laura at "Pursuing Holiness," went so far as to list the more serious injuries that could have been inflicted:
Stomped on badly? Where are the broken ribs, bodywide contusions and abrasions, renal injuries? Stepped on face? Where’s the broken nose, loose and missing teeth?
What's Laura trying to say, that they should have stomped on him harder? They didn't bust his nose and cause renal injuries, so it's OK? In a later post, Laura went so far as to post a picture of the beaten Justin Barker and opine that his injuries weren't really that bad. I wonder how Laura would feel if somebody posted a picture of a female victim of domestic violence and said "he didn't beat her up so badly. What's the big deal?"
Words cannot express how despicable this is.
Which leads me to the most despicable part of all. SIX students -- Robert Bailey, Mychal Bell, Corwin Jones, Bryant Pervis, The Shaw, and an unnamed minor attacked ONE guy. Some of the Jena defenders want to characterize this as a fight -- Laura casually asserts that "Kids in school fight on a regular basis." Garden State Subversive calls the attack a "school yard fight."
It wasn't a fight -- it was a beating. A fight is when two relatively equally matched individuals square off, one-on-one. If Mychal Bell or any single one of his accomplices had fought Barker one-on-one it might still be a crime, but there are those who argue that manly fisticuffs should be tolerated. But a group attack on a single victim violates the code of manly combat. As does stomping on a guy when he's already down and semi-conscious.
Robert Bailey, Mychal Bell, Corwin Jones, Bryant Pervis, The Shaw, and that one unnamed minor are cowards. Six star football players attack one guy and kick him on the ground -- and nobody even mentions that it was a despicable, cowardly act? If you want to argue that they were overcharged, fine, make your argument. I disagree, but that's OK. But at least acknowledge that what they did was wrong, and wrong in a way that shows that there is something rotten to the core about those six. If I could talk to Mychal Bell's parents right now, I'd ask them if they are ashamed to have raised a son who has to fight his fights at six-to-one odds. Maybe if he's released he will beat up a dwarf for an encore. Maybe he can get a couple of his friends to back him up, in case the dwarf is particularly fit.
And let me add just this one final point. If we reverse the races, I very much doubt that people would be posting pictures of a black victim and callously proclaiming he didn't look that badly hurt. I doubt they'd be quibbling about whether shoes can be deadly weapons, when worn by high school football players. (Answer: of course they can.) I suspect that they would at least take note of the fact that the attack wasn't a fair fight, but was instead a six-on-one affair. I suspect that when the attempted murder charge was reduced, there would have been howls of outrage -- not because the remaining charges would be too severe, but because I think that the defenders of the Jena 6 would be more than willing to see six white football players stomping on a lone black victim as attempted murder.
Or, better yet, attempted lynching.
[Update: More thoughts here and here.]