Lydia Bean’s post today, Jena is America, is a strong statement — and a truthful one. I’m always fascinated by frequent comments that racism is now much more subtle in America today. Well, one place racism is definitely not subtle is in the criminal justice system. Overt and very stark racial disparities are a matter of daily occurrence when it comes to law enforcement, the judicial process, and the prison system. And almost anyone who actually works with those systems is acutely aware of that fact. Lydia Bean knows that firsthand from her experience in Texas, and her organization had a key role on bringing the Jena situation to national attention. We should thank Friends of Justice for that.
One last thing: The biblical bias toward the poor suggests that the truth about any society is better seen at the bottom of the social order than at the top. How the most weak and vulnerable are treated is the best measure of a society’s righteousness according to the prophets. And most of those involved with the criminal justice system are, indeed, at the bottom of the society. So yes, Jena is America.