The uneven hand of justice - 3.3.2007.1
I’m sure most have heard of the two 19 year-old girls that walked in and robbed a bank Thursday. It’s made the national news, and had lots of local coverage from what I gather. No weapons were used, and it now seems that it was at least in part an inside job as an employee of the bank has been arrested as well as the 2 girls.
What you may not have heard, and is not making major news is that the robbery is now being called a theft. You may say so what, but it makes a big difference. If it’s robbery of a bank then it’s a felon and that’s major time. If it’s theft then it’s a much lesser charge. I believe the difference is 10 – 15 years in jail time and having a record of a felony following you for the rest of your life. In essence the road is being paved to let these 2 girls walk away from this now high-profile crime with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
Now imagine if I made this robbery. I doubt whether or not I had an inside accomplice that the charge would be lessened to theft. I seriously doubt that the news media would regard my actions in the light-hearted manner in which these girls have been. There would have been an immediate man-hunt. Rumors of a hidden weapon used in the crime would be rampant. The community would be in arms about violence and the undisciplined youth of today. Allegations of drug use would pop up. And several media sources would call for my incarceration at the most extreme penalty of the law to make an example of me.
What is the difference? I’m not a teenage, white, woman. Does that change the crime? No. Does it affect what has happened? No. Does it affect how the legal system will be applied? Apparently it does.
This kind of unbalanced application of the law and penalties is something that every minority in the nation is aware of intimately. If it were 2 Latina/Hispanics, or Asians, or Black women nothing about this case would be similar. Stand back if it were 2 young girls that were Arab, Muslim, or looked like either of those. There would have been cries of terrorist connections and probably crowds of vigilantes roving the streets in pursuit of them.
I mentioned this story to two friends, a Black woman and her husband who is White. In telling them the story I left out the color of the 2 girls. When I asked what the charges should be they thought it was obvious that it was a felony. They were amazed when I said the charge was theft. The amount of money taken qualified for Grand Theft, which is a felony and it’s a bank even with an insider involved. The husband noted because of the insider it can be considered embezzlement. As they were bedazzled by this I told them the race of the women, and their reaction was swift and sharp. The whole thing was being washed away they stated. The fact that it was unbalanced application of the law made sense, once the race was known. Considering it was the Atlanta area they had assumed that the girls were Black.
Many may question why race is such an issue in America. Some argue that we have grown beyond the need to continue to fight racism. But events like this highlight the fact that the problems are persistent. We cannot expect anyone to believe that there isn’t a problem when the punishment for crimes are handed down on a sliding scale of justice.
This is what I think, What do you think?