Profiles in Bloggage, Part 4.5

Yesterday evening, I made my presentation, “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans,” to a special interest group of the AERA. I related five prominent stories that have emerged in, around, through or about the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. Even though the presentation is over, I’m still playing catch-up here on the blog.

Jena, Louisiana: Rev. Jesse Jackson

I wanted to cheat a little bit and sneak in an extra story, so I’m calling this one 4.5.

The story of the Jena Six is complex and has been recounted extensively so I won’t attempt to revisit the details here. Rather, I just wanted to make mention, briefly, of the protests in Jena, Louisiana, which took place approximately six months after the March for Survival in New Orleans.

Granted, it’s a stretch to call this a story of the post-Katrina New Orleans blogosphere. Jena is over 200 miles from New Orleans. Northern Louisiana did not feel the impact of the hurricanes in the same way as the communities nearer the coast. Nevertheless, this was the largest civil rights protest in decades, much larger than the March for Survival, and there is a blog connection.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the demonstrations in Jena were “a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America — a collective national mass action grown from a grassroots word-of-mouth movement spread via Internet blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.”

Therefore I think the protest in Jena deserves at least passing mention in any history of New Orleans’ post-Katrina blogosphere. For more discussion on this topic, please check out the audio archives at BeyondJena.com.

Jena, Louisiana: Rev. Jesse Jackson / everett taasevigen / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Black ‘Em Out Day

Many people on campus today are wearing black in support of the Jena Six.

I’m reminded of my high school days in Greenwood, Indiana. We often had “Spirit Weeks” to support the football team with different dress-up days. One time we had something called “Black ‘Em Out” day. Everybody was supposed to wear black.

One guy thought it would be funny to come in blackface, with a doo-rag, to look like a “mammy.” One of his friends got wind of this and thought it would be even funnier to come dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The amazing thing was, to get the robe, all he had to do was reach into his closet and pull it out.

Both boys were sent home. They may have been suspended. I don’t know. A picture of the boy in blackface was published in the yearbook.

I remember Greenwood as a mostly white community — almost completely white. According to the 2000 census, that’s still the case. Greenwood is 96.54% white. The African-American population is 0.44%.

Greenwood is a suburb of Indianapolis, which is 25% black. The only thing separating Greenwood from Indianapolis is County Line Road. So how to account for the disparity? How does Greenwood stay so very white?

I never heard of nooses hanging from trees there, but I do remember when the Klan handed out leaflets at the Greenwood Park Mall. That certainly sends a message. But I believe that event and “Black ‘Em Out Day” were just the tip of the iceberg, overt examples of a racial hatred that is mostly under cover.

Eyes are focused on Jena, Louisiana, today, as thousands converge in what may be the largest civil rights protest in recent memory. I think that’s a good thing. Racism must be confronted.

But I’m also given pause to think about the town where I grew up, and to reflect on the fact that racism is not limited to Jena.