Tag: Racism

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Were James Brisette & Ronald Madison?

A legal journey that was set off more than a decade ago with the shooting of unarmed citizens by police officers in the desperate days after Hurricane Katrina wound toward a close on Wednesday when five former officers pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil rights charges.

The plea agreements drew prison terms from three to 12 years. Those sentences were significantly shorter than those handed down when the men were convicted five years ago in verdicts that were later thrown out.

But the agreements were supported by the families of the victims and brought some degree of conclusion to a nearly 11-year endeavor that in ways presaged the current struggles over police and accountability in places like Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo.

“Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” Sherrel Johnson, the mother of 17-year-old James Brisette, one of the two people who were killed in the shootings, told reporters after the hearing. “Someone confessed ‘I did it. I did it.’ And that did my heart all the good in the world.”

The officers — Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso and Officer Robert Faulcon, as well as a detective, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting — were initially indicted on state charges in 2007. But from there the case would be undergo years of troubles and reversals, eventually becoming drawn into a scandal in the federal prosecutors’ office here that took down the local United States attorney.

The Danziger case was one of several federal prosecutions of police officers for killings in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with 18 current and former officers facing charges at one point. These cases did not find an easy path in the courts; the prosecution of another high-profile police shooting, that of Henry Glover, ended mostly in acquittals.

But the cases did prompt the United States Justice Department to examine the city’s police force as a whole, and in 2012, the force was brought under a federally mandated consent decree, a court-administered blueprint for an overhaul of the department’s practices. That consent decree remains in place.

“Serving as an officer is one of the most complex and difficult jobs in our society,” Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the current United States attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said at a news conference after the hearing. “At the same time, when individuals ignore their oath of office, and instead violate the civil rights of the public they are sworn to serve, they will be held accountable.”

The case began on Sept. 4, 2005, in a city still without order and drowning in floodwaters. Two groups of families and friends, all of them black, were crossing the Danziger bridge in search of food and relatives when police officers rushed to the scene in a Budget rental truck. The officers, responding to a distress call, opened fire with shotguns and AK-47s, sending those on the bridge, all of whom were unarmed, diving and running for cover.

Four people were severely injured — one woman lost part of her arm — and two were killed: James Brisette, and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old developmentally disabled man who took a shotgun blast in the back.

The state indicted seven officers, but that indictment was dismissed for improprieties involving the grand jury. Six were then charged by federal prosecutors in 2010, and the next year five of them went to trial together. (The case of a retired sergeant, Gerard Dugue, was severed from the others. He is still waiting for a new trial after an earlier mistrial.)

At the federal trial of the five officers, defense lawyers emphasized that the men were rushing to the bridge under the belief — mistaken, as it turned out — that a policeman had been shot, and that under the extreme circumstances of the time, they should not be harshly judged. But prosecution witnesses, including other officers at the scene who had pleaded guilty, said officers had fired without warning and immediately after the shootings began to construct what would become an elaborate cover-up.

All of the men were found guilty and faced sentences of six to 65 years. At their sentencing, however, Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt of Federal District Court delivered a lengthy speech condemning the prosecution for its plea deals and its use of problematic witnesses, and deploring the mandatory minimum sentences he was forced to impose.

Two years later, he threw out the convictions, citing a scandal that had been unfolding in the local United States attorney’s office, involving senior prosecutors who had anonymously commented under online articles in the local media about cases on trial. Describing his own investigation into the scandal and his frustration with the Justice Department’s internal investigation, Judge Engelhardt insisted that the Danziger case be retried.

His disdain for the Justice Department at the 2011 trial that was still on stark display on Wednesday, when the judge said that the Danziger case “might most be remembered by the jiggery-pokery” of the prosecutors.

A panel of appeals court judges upheld Judge Engelhardt’s order for a new trial last year. In recent weeks, the lawyers from the Justice Department withdrew, which Judge Engelhardt deemed necessary for the case to move forward.

Under the terms of Wednesday’s deal, the four officers involved in the shooting received sentences ranging from seven to 12 years, with credit for time served. The fifth man, Mr. Kaufman, who was accused in the cover-up, got three years.

“This has been a terrible ordeal for our family, our friends and our community,” said Lance Madison, who was arrested — under false pretenses — by officers on the bridge just minutes after one of them shot and killed his younger brother Ronald., “I’m thankful that our mother is still with us and is able to see justice being served, and for these officers to finally be held accountable for their crimes. I hope and pray that no other family ever has to go through what we have gone through.”

*Originally published on New York Times.

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Raymond Allen, Jr.?

Texas Rangers are investigating the death of a Raymond Luther Allen, Jr., Galveston man who died in the hospital two days after being tased by a Galveston sheriff’s deputy and a Galveston police officer this week, a ranger said Thursday.

“We don’t do it because we think the police are criminally culpable,” Haralson said. “We do it because it needs to be done and it goes where it goes.”

Allen’s father, Raymond Allen Sr., blames the police for his son’s death.

“I think it was pretty low down,” he said. He said two witnesses told him that his son was hogtied, but he declined to disclose further details for fear of harming the investigation.

Police and sheriff’s deputies received a report of a man jumping repeatedly from the second floor of the Beachcomber Inn on 61st Street about a half block from the seawall shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, Haralson said. Officers encountered Allen Jr. in the parking lot of the Happy Buddha Restaurant next door to the motel, he said.

Motel manager Peter Wolbach said there was no record of Allen Jr. being registered, although an employee saw him leaving the property.

Police at first were concerned about Allen Jr.’s welfare, Haralson said.

“Initially it was concern for his erratic behavior,” he said. “The first thing they asked was, ‘Man, do I need to call you an ambulance?'”

A deputy and officer each Tased Allen Jr. while trying to restrain him and reported he stopped breathing, Haralson said. An ambulance took Allen Jr. to the University of Texas Medical Branch’s John Sealy Hospital where he died Wednesday, Haralson said.

Department of Public Safety records show that Allen Jr. was arrested 20 times by the Galveston police and once by DPS between 1994 and 2010 on charges that included unlawfully carrying a weapon, assault, evading arrest and drug possession.

Allen Jr. was the father of three children, ages 4, 10 and 13, said sister-in-law Lenora Amy. Amy said his police record did not reflect the way he was seen by his family and his neighbors.

“We’re not going to let them take away his memory,” she said.

A week before his death, Allen Jr. placed flowers on the grave of his grandmother, Sammie Allen, as he has done every year on her birthday since she died 15 years ago, said his aunt, Jeanette Dotson.

“He was loved by all,” Allen Sr. said. “He had compassion for people’s lives and tried to bring joy to others.”

*Originally published on Chron.

 

Discrimination Doesn’t Discriminate Against African Americans

 

I’ve never heard anyone say, well, the LGBT community is not being discriminated against because Ellen DeGeneres has her own show and is making millions. They only say that about African Americans.” – Shannon Sharpe

 

What are your thoughts on Mr. Sharpe’s comments?

 

Use That Voice!

Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ Colin!

In the immediate aftermath of Colin Kaepernick’s first protest of the national anthem, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believed in the right to free speech, but also wanted to make sure everyone knew he was a genuine star-spangled patriot (if not a Patriot).

But in discussing the continued displays over the weeks since, Goodell said he appreciates the social conscience of players who choose to speak out, hoping they can use their voices in a way to solve some problems.

“As I’ve said before, I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change the community,” Goodell said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. “We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use that voice. They’re moving from protests to progress and trying to make things happen in the communities, and I admire that about our players [being] willing to do that.”

The phrase “from protests to progress” sounds Frank Luntz-style focus-group approved, but it’s at least a recognition that protests are happening. Goodell said he has not spoke with Kaepernick since the 49ers quarterback began sitting, then kneeling for the national anthem to bring attention to racism and police brutality.

“Obviously, we want to respect people,” Goodell said. “We want to respect our differences. We want to reflect our flag and our country, and our players understand that. So I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving there is very productive, and we’re going to encourage that.”

While it’s not exactly a stirring call to arms, it’s at least a recognition that enough players are willing to say something that it’s going to be hard to keep them all from doing so.

colin

*Originally published on NBC Sports.

28, No 29 Reasons Why We Still Need A Black History Month

With everything going on, many question the need for Black History Month 150 years after slavery. Well here are 29 GOOD reasons why this country needs to continue to celebrate Black History Month every February. Click on the picture to read more:

  1. Oscars
  2. ALM 2
  3. Starwars boycott
  4. Rancic
  5. nshirt
  6. Charleston9
  7. CEO
  8. SandraBland
  9. FGray
  10. Mizzou
  11. blackface
  12. Cam Newton
  13. cornrows
  14. Connecticut
  15. classroom dragged
  16. Harvard
  17. Miami
  18. Flint
  19. SCOTUS
  20. Racist cop
  21. TX pool party
  22. Wine train
  23. MLynch
  24. Loretta Lynch
  25. Oklahoma
  26. Hospital
  27. wealth gap
  28. Dolezal

 

Yep, all of these events took place in 2015. Remember to click on the picture to read more about it. Which of them do you remember?

Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism…

I am white. I have spent years studying what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race. This is what I have learned: Any white person living in the United States will develop opinions about race simply by swimming in the water of our culture. But mainstream sources — schools, textbooks, media — don’t provide us with the multiple perspectives we need. Yes, we will develop strong emotionally laden opinions, but they will not be informed opinions. Our socialization renders us racially illiterate. When you add a lack of humility to that illiteracy (because we don’t know what we don’t know), you get the break-down we so often see when trying to engage white people in meaningful conversations about race.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. But this definition does little to explain how racial hierarchies are consistently reproduced.

Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. This distinction — between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power — is fundamental. One cannot understand how racism functions in the U.S. today if one ignores group power relations.

This systemic and institutional control allows those of us who are white in North America to live in a social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress. We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good. Thus, we move through a wholly racialized world with an unracialized identity (e.g. white people can represent all of humanity, people of color can only represent their racial selves). Challenges to this identity become highly stressful and even intolerable. The following are examples of the kinds of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people:

  • Suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference (challenge to objectivity);
  • People of color talking directly about their own racial perspectives (challenge to white taboos on talking openly about race);
  • People of color choosing not to protect the racial feelings of white people in regards to race (challenge to white racial expectations and need/entitlement to racial comfort);
  • People of color not being willing to tell their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences (challenge to the expectation that people of color will serve us);
  • A fellow white not providing agreement with one’s racial perspective (challenge to white solidarity);
  • Receiving feedback that one’s behavior had a racist impact (challenge to white racial innocence);
  • Suggesting that group membership is significant (challenge to individualism);
  • An acknowledgment that access is unequal between racial groups (challenge to meritocracy);
  • Being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority);
  • Being presented with information about other racial groups through, for example, movies in which people of color drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles, or multicultural education (challenge to white centrality).

Not often encountering these challenges, we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. I term that push back white fragility.

This concept came out of my on-going experience leading discussions on race, racism, white privilege and white supremacy with primarily white audiences. It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews. We can manage the first round of challenge by ending the discussion through platitudes — usually something that starts with “People just need to,” or “Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,” or “Everybody’s racist.” Scratch any further on that surface, however, and we fall apart.

Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either not consciously aware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We experience a challenge to our racial worldview as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. It also challenges our sense of rightful place in the hierarchy. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as a very unsettling and unfair moral offense.

The following patterns make it difficult for white people to understand racism as a system and lead to the dynamics of white fragility. While they do not apply to every white person, they are well-documented overall:

Segregation: Most whites live, grow, play, learn, love, work and die primarily in social and geographic racial segregation. Yet, our society does not teach us to see this as a loss. Pause for a moment and consider the magnitude of this message: We lose nothing of value by having no cross-racial relationships. In fact, the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as “good.” The implicit message is that there is no inherent value in the presence or perspectives of people of Color. This is an example of the relentless messages of white superiority that circulate all around us, shaping our identities and worldviews.

The Good/Bad Binary: The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people. If we are not aware of having negative thoughts about people of color, don’t tell racist jokes, are nice people, and even have friends of color, then we cannot be racist. Thus, a person is either racist or not racist; if a person is racist, that person is bad; if a person is not racist, that person is good. Although racism does of course occur in individual acts, these acts are part of a larger system that we all participate in. The focus on individual incidences prevents the analysis that is necessary in order to challenge this larger system. The good/bad binary is the fundamental misunderstanding driving white defensiveness about being connected to racism. We simply do not understand how socialization and implicit bias work.

Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.

Entitlement to racial comfort: In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and thus have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so. We have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color). This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of responses towards the perceived source of the discomfort, including: penalization; retaliation; isolation and refusal to continue engagement. Since racism is necessarily uncomfortable in that it is oppressive, white insistence on racial comfort guarantees racism will not be faced except in the most superficial of ways.

Racial Arrogance: Most whites have a very limited understanding of racism because we have not been trained to think in complex ways about it and because it benefits white dominance not to do so. Yet, we have no compunction about debating the knowledge of people who have thought complexly about race. Whites generally feel free to dismiss these informed perspectives rather than have the humility to acknowledge that they are unfamiliar, reflect on them further, or seek more information.

Racial Belonging: White people enjoy a deeply internalized, largely unconscious sense of racial belonging in U.S. society. In virtually any situation or image deemed valuable in dominant society, whites belong. The interruption of racial belonging is rare and thus destabilizing and frightening to whites and usually avoided.

Psychic freedom: Because race is constructed as residing in people of color, whites don’t bear the social burden of race. We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized. Race is for people of color to think about — it is what happens to “them” — they can bring it up if it is an issue for them (although if they do, we can dismiss it as a personal problem, the race card, or the reason for their problems). This allows whites much more psychological energy to devote to other issues and prevents us from developing the stamina to sustain attention on an issue as charged and uncomfortable as race.

Constant messages that we are more valuable: Living in a white dominant context, we receive constant messages that we are better and more important than people of color. For example: our centrality in history textbooks, historical representations and perspectives; our centrality in media and advertising; our teachers, role-models, heroes and heroines; everyday discourse on “good” neighborhoods and schools and who is in them; popular TV shows centered around friendship circles that are all white; religious iconography that depicts God, Adam and Eve, and other key figures as white. While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture.

These privileges and the white fragility that results prevent us from listening to or comprehending the perspectives of people of color and bridging cross-racial divides. The antidote to white fragility is on-going and life-long, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education. We can begin by:

  • Being willing to tolerate the discomfort associated with an honest appraisal and discussion of our internalized superiority and racial privilege.
  • Challenging our own racial reality by acknowledging ourselves as racial beings with a particular and limited perspective on race.
  • Attempting to understand the racial realities of people of color through authentic interaction rather than through the media or unequal relationships.
  • Taking action to address our own racism, the racism of other whites, and the racism embedded in our institutions — e.g., get educated and act.

“Getting it” when it comes to race and racism challenges our very identities as good white people. It’s an ongoing and often painful process of seeking to uncover our socialization at its very roots. It asks us to rebuild this identity in new and often uncomfortable ways. But I can testify that it is also the most exciting, powerful, intellectually stimulating and emotionally fulfilling journey I have ever undertaken. It has impacted every aspect of my life — personal and professional.

I have a much deeper and more complex understanding of how society works. I can challenge much more racism in my daily life, and I have developed cherished and fulfilling cross-racial friendships I did not have before.

I do not expect racism to end in my lifetime, and I know that I continue to have problematic racist patterns and perspectives. Yet, I am also confident that I do less harm to people of color than I used to. This is not a minor point of growth, for it impacts my lived experience and that of the people of color who interact with me. If you are white I urge you to take the first step — let go of your racial certitude and reach for humility.

racism2

*Originally published on Huffington Post.

Backhanded Compliments African American Women Hear All The Time

Compliments are supposed to be praises about some of your best attributes. Who doesn’t like being complimented? Unless, of course, the other side of the compliment is a glaring insult. There are many different kinds of reprehensible perspectives (i.e. ageism, sexism) but today we will focus on backhanded comments that are loaded with racism. In the words of Kanye West, “Racism’s still alive, they just be concealing it.”

The saddest part about these kinds of backhanded compliments that are submerged in racial bias and prejudice is that the people offering the “compliments” are often unaware of how offensive their words can be. Their intent is to point out a seemingly positive attribute, when in actuality they are being terribly disparaging.

1. “You’re beautiful for a dark-skinned girl…”

… As if typically the darker your complexion, the more unattractive you become. Thank you for identifying me as an exception to that rule. Really, I’m humbled.

Psych.

First of all, as soon as you insert the preposition “for” you should know that you are about to go off the charts on the obnoxious scale. It’s like my favorite saying, “I don’t want to be racist or anything, but…” The universe should have sounded a buzzer and hologrammed a gigantic “X” into your peripherals to warn you to stop. Since it didn’t, here’s some advice — telling a girl that you aren’t usually into black women but that you’re into her is NEVER a compliment. It’s colorism at it’s finest.

2. “Your hair’s amazing. Can I touch it?”

I didn’t realize I was an exhibit on display, but sure. Afterwards, can I touch your belly button? I’ve never seen such a penetrating and complex midriff opening.

I get it, I really do. Our society has a fixation with all things “exotic” and “foreign.” You don’t mean to be offensive and you’re even asking permission! But here’s the truth. Asking a woman if you can touch her hair like it’s some kind of pet dog is racist. Staring at her hair like it’s the eighth world wonder is uncomfortable. If you like it, tell her it’s pretty and MOVE ON.

3. “Wow … You’re so articulate!”

Ummm … thanks? I’m overjoyed that you find my ability to form complete sentences so impressive. Just wait until I actually start discussing my views on Donald Trump. You’re going to think I’m a genius!

This is a tough one because you might be saying this with sincerity; however, it’s essential that you ask yourself why you’re making this comment. Are you truly moved by the way she speaks or are you really impressed because you believe that other people that look like her are usually aren’t eloquent and are uneducated?

Unless she just finished summarizing her doctoral thesis for you, you may come off as condescending. The connotation behind this compliment is that you are surprised that she is well-spoken and well-informed because she is a woman of color.

There is a misguided perception in America that most blacks speak slang and are  “ghetto.” Whether or not you agree with this perception, it’s one that exists.

Don’t sound so surprised when she speaks sensibly and just enjoy the conversation.

4. “You’re beautiful. What are you?”

I was once approached by a woman who stepped away from a group that was apparently debating my possible mixed race combinations. Despite being prefaced by how striking I was, it felt a little weird that they were taking bets on “what I was.”

Approaching someone and asking them what they are as if they are some kind of science experiment is just rude – that’s it. Don’t do it. That’s all there is to say about that.

5. “You look just like (insert celebrity minority that looks nothing like you)”

Unless someone is a doppelganger for a celebrity, in which case they hear the comparison all the time, you’re better off staying away from this comment. The best example I can think of is when a news anchor interviewing Samuel L. Jackson confused him for Laurence Fishburne. It’s that same attitude that caused the news anchor to generalize and not take the time to research the celebrity he was interviewing that can be offensive when you compare people to black or mixed celebrities.

At the end of the day, not everyone will be offended by the same thing or in the same way, but in most situations it’s better to air on the side of caution. If your intent is truly to give a compliment, steer clear of these inadvertent insults that camouflage as admiration. And ladies — if you receive said “compliments” you can and you should say how you feel. People will continue to make ignorant mistakes if no one ever calls them out on it.

ign

*Originally published on Blavity.

Your Honor, Please Excuse Dante, He Suffers From “Povertenza”

Dear Judge,

I know that Dante actions caused the deaths of four people. But please don’t give him life in prison. He suffers from ‘Povertenza’. You may not know about this condition but Povertenza is an illness that people from impoverished socioeconomic backgrounds have.

Due to the inability to access quality education and employment, Dante’s development has been stifled. This leads to poor decision making and I would further argue that since his neighborhood sees so much death and destruction, that he may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in addition to Povertenza.

Judge, it is clear that Dante can not be held responsible for his actions. He needs rehabilitation, not prison. Prison would only worsen his mental condition.

Sincerely,

J.A.M.

This defense obviously doesn’t work for black and poor youth. Yet, news outlets are spiraling about 16-year-old Ethan Couch who caused the deaths of four people by drunk driving. His defense was that he suffered from “Affluenza” — a disorder that only the affluent have. According to his lawyers, Couch was shielded from personal responsibility his entire life. Discipline is not a word in his vocabulary.

Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him Tuesday to 10 years of probation but no jail time, saying she would work to find him a long-term treatment facility.

But Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” “There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day. The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.” –CNN

Basically, Couch was coddled his entire life and now his punishment is more coddling.

On the flip side, there are millions of under-privileged youth across America, that have lived under the worst conditions imaginable. They’ve witnessed murders, endured hunger, and survived sexual abuse. However, upon committing a crime, they are handed down the harshest prison sentences imaginable. As I’ve pointed out before, many youth spend years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit because they didn’t have enough money to sway the justice system or get proper legal counsel. It’s a non-laughable joke.

If “Affluenza” is real, then I posit that my newly coined “Povertenza” be considered. Instead of jumping to fill up prisons, let’s start putting youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in treatment facilities. This would be ideal, but it won’t happen because there is too much money to be made. This is one of the reasons why Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr. was able to sell 5,000 children to prisons.

Disgraced Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr. has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for conspiring with private prisons to sentence juvenile offenders to maximum sentences for bribes and kickbacks which totaled millions of dollars. He was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution.

In the private prison industry the more time an inmate spends in a facility, the more of a profit is reaped from the state. Ciavearella was a figurehead in a conspiracy in the state of Pennsylvania which saw thousands of young men and women unjustly punished and penalized in the name of corporate profit. –Examiner

Most of the children he sentenced are likely to be from backgrounds that are far less privileged than anything Ethan Couch has experienced. His sentencing tells us a lot about the American justice system and how deeply embedded economic disparities are when it comes to accountability. Essentially, the poor are expected to be more accountable for their actions while the wealthy are viewed as inherently respectable (especially if they’re white). Being from what people view as a “good” family can go a long way. This opens the door for more opportunities and the right to be viewed as non-threatening even when your actions prove otherwise. This is exactly why racial and economic inequalities are an on-going battle.

The next time someone tells you that there is no such thing as “White” privilege or elitism, ask them why Affluenza is a viable defense but Povertenza isn’t.

rich

* Originally published on Huffington Post.