If you want to understand the events taking place in Jena, Louisiana, don't get involved in the specifics about who started what fight, etc. If you do, you won't see the forest because you will be focusing on the trees. What is happening in Jena is the boiling over of at least a decade of deep frustration on the part of African Americans. Out of this frustration a new generation of civil rights activists is finding its voice and this is most likely only the beginning.
Why the frustration? Because, over the past decade or two a growing number of government leaders have encouraged white Americans to think that racism is old news, the Civil Rights Movement has achieved its goals and it is time to put an end to affirmative action. This has gone to the point that a recent Supreme Court decision has effectively ended the Brown vs Board of Education decision of 1954. These politicians have really done a disservice to America, encouraging local civic leaders to handle small situations in such an unjust manner that it results in severe disruption of race relations. If the local prosecutor and judge in Jena had felt that it was important, they could have been more even-handed in dealing with the inter-racial unrest at the high school; they could have reached out to other civic leaders from both the black and white communities and brought healing, instead of the outcome at hand.
The U.S. Department of Justice used to have a Community Relations Service that would send experts to help communities facing situations like the incidents at Jena High School, but somewhere along the way, some of our politicians decided that peace in our own communities was a waste of money and that we had to scrape up the few million dollars involved and put it into the bloated military-industrial complex. It is a parallel decision to those that have been made to degrade our bridges and highways and to let FEMA become incapable of responding to Hurricane Katrina.
The elected officials who made these decisions over the past couple of decades should be ashamed of themselves for downgrading the quality of life in America in this way. Now they are going to have to answer to large numbers of angry activists. They have only themselves to blame, although their neglect and wrong priorities are hurting all of us.