Arab Americans Support the Jena 6

In May of this year, news from Jena, Lousiana spread throughout the African American and "of color" blogospheres. After black high school students enjoyed the shade of a typically "whites-only" tree on campus (on the permission of school authority figures), white students hung nooses from the tree and were given the sort of punishment that, at least when I was in school, is considered more of a vacation than a reprimand.

In this context, those nooses speak very clearly. They say: We will kill you.

Yet in the ensuing series of fights between black and white students, the white students received little to no repercussions, while six black students were charged with attempted second degree murder.

Last week the blog-based activism around this case culminated in a huge grassroots protest in Jena, attended by mainstream black activists and performers, which garnered significant mainstream media attention. I was searching for the Arab American response.

As Arab Americans, we recognize and have first hand experience receiving unfair legal punishment. We have experiential knowledge of a racist American legal system. What obligation do we have to speak out in support of the Jena 6? The ADC provided me with this statement (emphasis mine) when I inquired:

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) supports our colleagues and friends in the civil rights movement to ensure that justice and the rule of law is uniformly applied in the Jena 6 case. Arab Americans owe a debt of gratitude to minority communities that have been in the spotlight of discrimination and racism for much longer and today we stand together with our friends in the African-American community to ensure that the Jena 6 receive the due process rights and the fair application of laws due to all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, or gender.

Arab American bloggers spoke out:

Al-Falasteenyia blogs in solidarity with the Jena 6.

Will at KABOBfest: What Does Justice Mean in Jena?

Unfortunately I've had difficulty finding a concrete Arab American statement of support for the Jena 6. This support, by extension, would include support for legions of black men locked up on unfair or trumped up charges, support for the families affected by this modern day enslavement, support for youth whose very existence is criminalized, and support for the seven black lesbian women sentenced to prison by an all-white jury after defending themselves against homophobic violence.

Let's publicly make these statements of support, en masse, using all media outlets available to us. Why don't we?

So here is my concrete statement, which I make in hopes that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: We as Arab Americans support the Jena 6. We support the Newark 7. We advocate for their freedom. We advocate for rights and freedom for all communities. We seek to abolish white supremacy, not act as it's supporters or "middle men." We start from the basic belief that we (and this "we" stretches far further than our Arab American community) are represented unfairly as inherently threatening and violent, and this representation has real-world repercussions for us.

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UPDATE: I wanted to come back to this to clarify myself. I wrote this post because when I did a google search for "Do Arab Americans support the Jena 6?" I didn't find much. And when I say "concrete statement," I don't mean a sweeping statement made by a "leader" to represent us all; I mean representing ourselves through statements we make in our media.

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About Nadia Abou-Karr

Nadia is a Palestinian-American writer based in Detroit. She recently received a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Wayne State University and plans to pursue graduate studies in Visual Culture/Criticism. She is an artist, writer, media maker and activist. Currently Nadia is working with the Allied Media Conference, TheCulturalConnect, and writing for Detroit's Metro Times. She has written and contributed to numerous different zines and independent publications, and blogs at NoSnowHere.com. Her interests include printmaking, fiber arts, Palestinian liberation, women of color feminism and art theory.

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