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August 3, 2007 | Page 6

Justice for the Jena Six
Who benefits from sexism?
The real failure in New Orleans

Justice for the Jena Six

I RECENTLY heard an interview with Marcus Jones, the father of Mychal Bell--one of the "Jena Six," a group of young Black men being railroaded on assault charges after they were the victims of a series of racist incidents in Jena, La.--on Madison's "Radio of the Free," and saw him interviewed on Democracy Now!

I am severely outraged by the case of the Jena Six. It's like the civil rights movement just completely passed over this small town in Louisiana. The "n word" still seems to be nonchalantly used by whites. Nooses were hung in a tree at the local high school, and there were few repercussions--in fact, Black students that complained were told basically to shut up about it.

From the initial charges of attempted murder--for using a shoe during a fight!--to the charging of Black students with $500 fines for "theft" because they took a shotgun from a white man for fear of being shot by him, every turn that the story around this case takes is more disturbing and ludicrous than the next.

We need to fight this injustice. This is only one particularly horrid case of racist injustice today, but we need to seriously do something to save the Jena Six. We can't keep letting these cases blow over after a short period of outrage.

We need a new civil rights movement that connects Hurricane Katrina, the case of Gary Tyler and every case of this nature. May the Jena Six case be the lighting rod for a new generation that refuses to sit down and shut their mouths.

In the 1930s, the American Communist Party fought to defend the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama through a grassroots campaign (and they won!). We should do the same today for the Jena Six in Louisiana.
Julie Southerland, Greensboro, N.C.

Sign a petition to demand justice for the Jena Six at the NAACP Web site.

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Who benefits from sexism?

THANKS TO John D. for raising a very important question about women's oppression ("Are men to blame for sexism?" June 8).

Sexist behavior by working-class men should never be excused by socialists just because, as John points out, socialists understand the root of women's oppression to be in the rise of class society. Surely no socialist would argue that a man who rapes a woman or a husband who assaults "his" wife isn't oppressing women unless he's a member of the bourgeoisie!

Moreover, such acts of abuse should be strongly condemned by socialists--as Socialist Worker has done with the botched Duke lacrosse rape case (while the mainstream media has portrayed the frat boys as the "victims"). Socialists also stood alongside the Rutgers women's basketball team as they toppled Don Imus for his sexism and racism.

There is a link between the racist, sexist assault by the Duke lacrosse players and the racist, sexist climate reinforced by the likes of Imus. It doesn't take a socialist perspective for anyone to realize that demeaning women in the media contributes to violence against women.

What is unique about the socialist critique of the origins of sexism is socialists believe that most men--namely, working-class men--do not benefit in the oppression of women, even while some participate in that oppression.

In Elizabeth Schulte's article last year, "How will women be liberated?" (March 24, 2006), she reports, "According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, from 2003 to 2004, women's median annual earnings fell by 1 percent, for the second consecutive year-to-year decline. Yet the gender-wage ratio rose slightly, because men's earnings dropped even more, by 2.3 percent."

At the same time, some women do also benefit from, or at least pander to, sexist notions. Playboy CEO Christie Hefner makes her salary off the sexual exploitation and objectification of other women. Anti-abortion talk show host Laura Ingraham keeps her radio markets hare by preaching sexism. Overcoming sexism would threaten their livelihoods.

The point is that the capitalist class has an interest not only in the economic exploitation of workers but also in the social oppression of women. The two are connected. We cannot limit the fight against sexism to challenging individual acts of violence and harassment by men against women; we also must change the whole social system built on sexism.
John Osmand, Ventura, Calif.

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The real failure in New Orleans

I WOULD just like to put a dent in the Hurricane Katrina myth: It was Lake Pontchartrain that drowned New Orleans, because of levees that the Army Corps of Engineers were responsible for, and the city didn't even sound the claxon when they broke.

It wasn't the hurricane. Giving nature all the credit is just wrong. The drowning of New Orleans was a failure of infrastructure--of people.
Tina, from the Internet

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