Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trent Benefield, Mychal Bell, and The Problem With New Era Martyrdom

[Warning: Excessive rambling and disconnected thoughts follow. Do not look for a cohesive point. This is merely food for thought.]

As I've stated here several times, I'm always very deliberate about choosing my battles. Sometimes, things aren't always what they seem initially, and sometimes, you have to be very careful who you're getting behind when you choose sides on an issue.

Case in point: The Jena Six.

When the story broke in the blogsphere, most of the opinions stated were naively one-sided. It painted a picture of black kids intimidated by a racist post-Antebellum South (as if such stuff doesn't pop off up North on the regular). These innocent youngsters would find themselves on the wrong side of the law and unjustly charged for what amounted to little more than a fight amongst boys. There was little detail given about why the central character, Mychal Bell, was being held in jail. Still, the story eventually caught fire, every two bit civil rights "leader" fueled up the private jet he used corporate shakedowns to purchase, and before you know it, a media spectacle was born.

To me, this story smelled like a rat for some reason, and I just couldn't get with it. The confluence of the Old South, Michael Baisden, Rebb'n Al, Jesse, UGK (yes), and 50,000 black people of various levels of awareness of the issue rallied around a kid whose entire story was unknown just reeked. Not because I don't like black people mobilizing for a cause, I clearly am for this since that's pretty much what I try to push here everyday. But sometimes we as a people pick the wrong battles. The judicial system is a huge problem for us, but reality is, if Negroes didn't sell crack, there would be no prison industrial complex. Yes, a police shooting is bad, but what about the 8,000 or so other incidents of black on black murder that occur annually? Where's the march for that?

The very things (focus on family, good parenting, and a stronger emphasis on education) that can get us out of the massive hole we're in are never, and will never be addressed because black people as a whole seem to be totally allergic to self-examination and critical thought.

So when Bell was hauled back to prison last week, I knew there wouldn't be another March on Jena. This involved charges pending from another case before the fight occured, on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property. The very "leaders" who organized the first one were off to bigger and better things. The "Free Jena 6" buttons I saw local college students wearing are stashed in a drawer somewhere. And poor Mychal Bell, who never asked for any of this attention in the first place, is about to do a hard 18 months.

So, my question is, did the march accomplish anything other than a feel-good Thursday off work and a spike in book sales for Michael Baisden?

This rambling dissertation brings me to one particularly irksome issue: the "victims" of these causes always somehow seem to find a way to undermine the cause itself.

Exhibit A: Trent Benefield (pictured above). You probably have no idea who this cat is, but he happened to be in the car with Sean Bell the night he met his demise at the hands of the NYPD. Bell died of course, and Benefield caught a few bullets in the process. This was certainly a tragedy, but you wouldn't know it from looking at Benefield now. Donations were provided from the community and several benefits to give Benefield a financial boost to get himself back on his feet. But what does this Negro do? He takes the money, balls out of control, and documents the whole thing on his MySpace page.

"They should have never gave you niggas money!" - Dave Chappelle as Rick James

I'm not saying Benefield should have turned into some sort of televangelist or patron saint, but damn! If you're gonna trick on strippers with the money people donated to you in the face of tragedy, don't post photos of it on your MySpace page.

Exhibit B: Two of the Jena Six kids, Bryant Purvis and Carwin Jones are presenters for the BET Awards, airing sometime this week on The Channel Everybody Hates But Nobody (Allegedly) Watches. I don't even know how to take that one, but reports that the two kids were seen ballin' out in after parties just smells like a page from the Trent Benefield Book of No-Longer-Sympathetic Victims to me. Let's not forget, despite provocation, these kids did indeed commit an assault. Spin it however you want, but should they be upheld as 07' Civil Rights Heroes? Sorry, it just stinks.

Exhibit C: Rodney King. No further explanation necessary.

I guess this diatribe didn't really have any point. It's not like the victims of wrongdoings should live the rest of their lives in misery, but something about seeing the Jena 1/3 dressed like Rich Boy, Trent Benefield Makin' It Rain from his wheelchair, and Rodney King burning through money with his Stay-Soft-Fro, beating his wife, and landing in jail (again!) just make me nauseous.

Were these people worthy of your prayers and sympathy? Sure. But maybe, just maybe we should be more careful who we're making the face of certain causes.

Or maybe, just maybe, we should pick better causes in the first place.

Make It Rain For Sean Bell [Courtesy of StartSnitching]

Trent Benefield's MySpace Page

Sean Bell Case [Wiki]

The Jena 1/3 Ballin' at BET Awards [YBF]

'Jena Six' Teen Mychal Bell Back in Jail [AP]

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