Tactically speaking, there's a lot to be said for this approach. But of course, it ends up abandoning the vast majority of people who aren't perfect, who do bad things on occasion, and sometimes deserve (reasonable) punishment. The question in the Jena Six isn't whether the Black kids deserve punishment for attacking their White classmate. Nobody disputes that they do. The question is whether they should be sent away to prison for multi-decade sentences. That, they most certainly don't. As Ifill puts it:
I don’t regard Mychal Bell or the other teens that comprise the Jena 6 as “heroes.” For me, they needn’t be mythic figures. The fact that they are ordinary black, southern high school students who acted inappropriately (seriously beating down a white student who they claim boasted about engaging in racist activity) makes them more powerful symbols. They didn’t respond to what they saw as provocation like “heroes.” Instead, they responded like thousands of 16 and 17-year old black boys would. That’s why the prosecutor’s response – overcharging the case — merits our scrutiny and condemnation. Because black teenagers, like white teenagers, should not be held to “heroic” standards. They should be punished for wrongdoing – in this case seriously assaulting a schoolmate — but the punishment should be proportionate to the crime, to the context, and to the age of the perpetrator and the victim.
The point is that heroes aren’t always or even most often, the victims of injustice. Mostly it’s just ordinary folks, making ordinary, (often) bad decisions. In 2007 we ought to be able to hold two thoughts in our head at the same time: that Wilson and the Jena 6 made mistakes for which they deserved some punishment, and that the prosecutors in Georgia and Louisiana used the law in a way that treated the lives of these black teenagers as entirely expendable.
To paraphrase a remark someone once made about women's rights, the goal now isn't to get a Black Albert Einstein admitted to a local state college. The goal is for a Black schmuck to be treated just the same as a White schmuck.