What's the buzz on ... Jena 6?

Each week, CNN.com takes a look at trends in the blogosphere by tracking one topic across gender and generation with the help of analysis tools from Umbria Inc. This week, we focus on the six Jena, Louisiana, students dubbed the "Jena 6." Jena High School has been the site of ongoing racial tension, including an incident in which the six students, who are all black, were accused in the December 2006 beating of white student Justin Barker. During a previous incident, nooses were found hanging from a "white tree" on campus after black students sat under the tree. The tree was typically a gathering place for white students.

Prosecutors originally charged all six black students accused of being involved in beating Barker with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy. Charges were reduced against at least four of them -- to battery and conspiracy.

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton organized a September 20 rally to coincide with student Mychal Bell's sentencing, which saw thousands of protesters marching through the small town of Jena. Bell, the last of the six defendants to remain in jail, was released September 27 on bond. As a group of students were waiting for charter buses in Alexandria, Louisiana, after the march, some of them spotted a truck with two nooses hanging from the back. Following the rally, a white supremacist Web site published the names and addresses of the Jena 6.

Overall opinion (September 19-25)

So what does this mean?
Bloggers spoke mostly positively about the Jena 6 and the marchers, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the analyzed comments. The majority spoke out against racism or favored justice being colorblind. Some thought the students were treated unfairly, but said they should not go completely unpunished. Bloggers with positive comments argued that these kinds of things shouldn't be taking place nowadays. They weren't convinced the students intended to commit murder, and they couldn't believe some people argued that the case wasn't a racial issue. Many felt the students who hung the nooses in the tree committed a hate crime and received unequal treatment by being suspended without criminal charges. They also came out against white supremacist groups' responses. Some participated in rallies, wore symbolic black clothing or hosted virtual marches on their Web pages.

On the negative side of the blogging spectrum, some expressed a belief that the Jena 6 were guilty and should be viewed as criminals rather than civil rights pioneers. They wanted to see them punished, although not for attempted murder. Some wrote that the case is not a racial case and hanging nooses from a tree is not a hate crime. Others said the students who hung the nooses in the tree should have been punished from the start to stop the Jena 6 from becoming a national story.

In their own words
Alex on The Seminal
The Jena 6 story is one that brightly outlines racism in this country. Although whites and those in the dominant group are very quick to say that racism doesn't exist in the U.S., it does in fact touch lives in very real and very concrete ways. Nowadays, we're so concerned with personal behaviors and experiences that it's difficult to sit back and construct a real analysis of racial tensions in this country. This means trying to find out the objective situation of racism, which, if you're in a powerful majority, may be a difficult investigation. Being objective about racism is difficult because the bulk of racism that's still around isn't in individual prejudices or behaviors. The bulk of American racism is institutional, born and bred in the very structures with which we participate.

MissLaura on Daily Kos
It is not ... about violence between teenagers. It's about justice unequally applied, about a school system and a legal system (run by a district attorney who told students "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With a stroke of my pen, I can make your lives disappear.") in which white students could provoke and threaten and beat black students and expect little formal sanction, while black students would face disproportionate punishment. Nor should those of us not from Jena feel satisfied with the justice applied where we live.

Dan Morgan in a comment thread on NoSpeedBumps.com
The Jena 6 should be charged with battery. They attacked another student, knocked him out, and then continued to beat on him. If 6 whites had attacked a black student in this manner, it would be obvious that the students should be prosecuted. The initial charges of attempted murder probably should not have occurred, even if this was only meant to make the kids think hard about what they had done. Anyway, the DA quickly reduced the charges. The Jena 6 never went to court charged with attempted murder. So I don't see the tremendous injustice here.

Bruce in a comment thread on dream awakener
At first, I must admit, when I heard rumor of the story, I thought, if they did the crime - why is this a race issue? I later learned that the victim was at a school function that night [after the incident] - I then thought - now if they were trying to kill that kid, they undoubtedly could have done a lot more damage than that!

CNN works with Umbria, a company that collects and analyzes millions of online opinions and review postings every day.

More about Umbria's analysis


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