By Scotty Reid, 2/14/2012, news, opinion
After the school busing policy changed in Bastrop, Louisiana, the changes resulted in more black children being included in the Morehouse Paris School District and therefore able to attend Beekman Junior High School. Today the school has a 6 out of 10 ratingfrom the organization Great Schools. Great Schools is a nonprofit whose says its mission is to help parents become effective champions of their children's education. Not everyone in the newly formed school district was happy about the changes. Two brothers, James Lee Wallis and Brian Wallis, both in their accompanied by a then 23 yr-old Tony L. Johnson when the three decided to hang a dead raccoon with the noose around its neck, from the flagpole of Beekman Junior High School on Nov. 6, 2007.
Some may have written off the incident as a harmless prank committed by kids just fooling around. Perhaps they are not noticing the ethnic relevance of a raccoon in the south. Raccoons are known as "coons” in the south which is also used as racist codified language meaning black people. Therefore, for others, the effect of lynching a coon on the school grounds was equivalent of saying you will lynch a black child from the school’s flagpole. According to Professor Jana Evans Braziel, “There are "2,805 [documented] victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten southern states” and “The scale of this carnage means that, on the average, a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week” and this went on for nearly a half century.
While the entire community of Bastrop, Louisiana cannot be blamed for the acts of three individuals, there are questions for both the county and state on why the three would-be terrorist were not charged with any crimes. It took seven years for the men to be brought to justice when they plead guilty to federal charges brought by the Justice Department.
James and Brian Wallis along with Tony Johnson were indicted on hate crimes charges last summer and pled guilty to reduced charges. The three received a total of 19 months in prison with James Wallis receiving the longer sentence of the three, which was eight months. U.S. Magistrate Karen Hayes sentenced the men in court today in Monroe, Louisiana. Stephanie A. Finley who is an U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, said, “Every child has the right to an education and to feel safe in school. I hope this case sends a message that this type of activity will not be taken lightly.”