Tag: White people

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.



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.


* Originally published on Huffington Post.

Study Shows Most White Americans Don’t Have Close African American Friends

Despite all the talk about our supposedly post-racial society, friend groups among Americans remain starkly segregated.

A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 91 percent of the average white American’s closest friends and family members are white, and just 1 percent are black. While black Americans tend to have a more diverse social network, they don’t fare much better. The average African American has 83 percent black confidants, 8 percent white confidants, 2 percent Latino confidants, zero Asian confidants, and 3 percent mixed-race confidants. One of the most glaring statistics from the study showed that when asked to name their closest friends and family members, 75 percent of white Americans didn’t name even one person who was not white.

In a recent HuffPost Live conversation, Jezebel staff writer Hillary Crosley said she’s “not surprised” by the findings.

“What I think is clear is as Americans, or as people in general, you look to people who are similar to you, have similar interests, live in the same area [and] maybe work at the same place,” she said.

Crosley, who wrote a piece about the report urging white people to diversify their social networks, explained the benefits of befriending those who come from another racial background.

“The whole point is, if you have friends of different ethnicities, you won’t be so surprised when things like a Mike Brown happen,” she said. “It’s about communication through different cultures so that you actually know what’s happening, not necessarily just something that you saw from the Internet. ”

Crosley also discussed how race affects her own life perspective and why it is so important when cultivating one’s friend group.

“For me, there’s never a separation between my existence and race. As a black woman, it’s always there,” she said. “It’s the lens through which I see things and the lens through which people see me.”

Author Rob Smith added his own interpretation of the statistics, emphasizing the way that they reflect white privilege in America.

“It’s literally sometimes about sheer numbers. Here’s the thing: Black people are going to have more non-black friends because most of us have to exist in a world that is very, very white,” he said. “But when you’re a white person you can literally surround yourself with all other white people because that’s what’s comfortable. That’s a privilege that white people have, and it’s something that black people don’t have.”

*Article originally posted on Huffington Post.