Beyond Jena: Is the Civil Rights Movement Dead? : News & Views Farai wants to know: Have the protests in Jena, La., sparked a revival of the Civil Rights Movement?
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Beyond Jena: Is the Civil Rights Movement Dead?

Farai Chideya

Today we had a great conversation with Mary Frances Berry and James Rucker (who helped plan the Jena protests) about whether the mobilization around the Jena 6 would translate into a revival of the Civil Rights Movement.I won't spoil it for you, but the two of them had a vigorous debate. Among the questions:

-- Are black folks (and other folks) really ready to make a commitment to long-term social justice?
-- Does today's civil rights activism translate across class lines, or is it limited to the comfortable who can spare the money and time?
-- What is civil rights anyway?
-- Is the older generation of activists ready to give up power...or are younger ones willing to snatch it?

That's just the beginning of our month-long series on Civil Rights...is it dead, or just moving to the next level?

One of the things I asked James Rucker about was a provocative article by author Debra Dickerson titled "The Jena 6: Right Problem, Wrong Protest. Here's a little taste of her article:

I'm as happy as the next Negro to stick it to the man (I'm on record as saying I'd have thrown a rock, just one and into a bush---more of a tossing if you will?---after the Rodney King verdict had I been an Angeleno), but this wasn't exactly Selma and these brothers weren't exactly the Scottsboro Boys. Folks should go to jail for stomping a random (and lone) person into the ER, white or not, nooses or not. Not for attempted murder, of course not, but aggravated battery sounds about right, especially when you factor in that the stompee was not, as far as we know, one of the noose hangers. And when we have it on good authority that Jena High also boasts "black bleachers" where honkies fear not tread. Racism, and its effects on the ground, is rarely simple.

So, what do you think? Was Jena misguided? Is it part of a movement? What's next? And what are you willing to do next?