Cultural Mesh: The Jena 3

This post is a different twist on why ignorance does not mesh and an opportunity to foster the kind of dialog that leads to solutions. As with the Darfur Crisis, tools like Second Life and Google Earth can contribute to helping Sim Citizens address one of the 21st century’s greatest problems.

Much of the media coverage of the Jena Rally is focused on the treatment of the six black youth accused of beating a white student. There is much disagreement about this incident that should have never happened. However no matter how you view the situation, it is deeply intertwined with a bigger problem whose resolution would benefit all. That problem is the ongoing denial of the impact the horrific, systemic and recent history of lynchings in America. To talk about the nooses white students hung at Jena High School as merely symbolic not only masks the horror, but ignores the glaring fact that lynchings were common long after slavery was abolished. Google has a very large number of 20th century pictures where people with their children are smiling and posing in front of tortured black boys and men hanging from a noose. In general, people who see these images won’t associate them with the word prank. For most people in the U.S. reading this, lynchings happened in your part of the country, during your lifetime or that of your parents.

From 1882 to 1968, there were 4,743 documented cases. They occurred in nearly every state.

USA Today

The above link which is over 2 years old covers Senator George Allen’s resolution apologizing for not acting to stop lynching earlier.

… Allen called the lynchings “a stain on the history of the United States Senate.”

“We had to say we’re sorry and we’ll do better in the future,” he said.

It’s hard to “do better” if people don’t know the history of lynching in post-slavery America and therefore can’t understand the impact of the government’s failure to take swift and strong action about a very ugly threat of ultimate violence to black students at Jena. Such action might have prevented the beating.

With the speed of information flow in the meshverse we sometimes lose perspective on what a long time ago is so it’s worth noting that

… James Cameron, 91, the only known survivor of a lynching, also witnessed the Senate’s apology.

Cameron was a 16-year-old shoeshine boy in Marion, Ind., in 1930 when he was dragged from a county jail by a mob that hung two of his teenage friends. The trio was suspected of murdering a white man and raping his white girlfriend. The girlfriend later denied in court that she had been harmed.

Cameron, who exited this mesh last year, by definition makes lynching a contemporary event of the 21st century. Hopefully this entry will give people something to think about and share.

Although as one columnist noted Your race doesn’t matter in this. Your voice is what counts. one good thing to come out of this already is the emergence of the blogging voice of African-Americans who kept the Jena story alive and spread actionable information. Much more is needed. The education, government and politics categories here have some examples of how virtual world technologies can be leveraged for social action. Beyond leveraging technology, having more African-American creators of technology would go a long way towards doing away with ignorance and solving problems.

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