How many times have you scrolled down your Twitter or Facebook timeline and seen that someone has been sentenced to a lengthy amount of prison time for selling marijuana?
How often has this person been black?
Now how many times have you turned on the news and seen a murderer given a light sentence due to an insanity plea?
How often has this person been white?
Now, if you’ve been paying attention to current events, I’m sure your response to both of these questions is, ‘often, if not, always.’
As much as people like to reject this statistical fact, black men in America are more likely to receive harsh sentences for minor crimes, while white men get off with little more than a slap on the wrist for even worse crimes.
This has become such a widespread, consistent trend that I am no longer surprised when I turn on the television or read the news.
If we can agree that a crime is a crime, no matter what, then shouldn’t we also hold every person equally accountable?
Now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the two young black women who were brutally assaulted by a white man on the BART train in Oakland. This attack resulted in the death of 19-year-old Nia Wilson, who was stabbed in the neck by the assailant.
Initial reactions were as expected.
The media touted the idea that the attack was “random,” that there was no motive behind it. Ignoring the historical component to white violence against black bodies, especially white male violence against black women.
This is something the black community is all too familiar with.
Her death is one of the many that hit a historical nerve for us.
It wasn’t just a random crime. It was a racial, violent one. Now, months after her death, the question still remains — will there be real justice for Nia Wilson?
Wilson’s murderer, 27-year-old John Lee Cowell, has a prior criminal record, but like we’ve seen with other white criminals, claiming insanity often leads to reduced sentencing.
We see this with many of the white male mass shooters who claim that their battle with mental illness is to blame.
It’s impractical to expect change overnight, especially considering the political climate we’re in now — an administration that is doing absolutely nothing to make our criminal justice system equitable. But it’s not impractical to ask for judges to begin sentencing people according to the severity of their crimes.
If we are going to punish black criminals to the full extent of the law, then why can’t we do the same to white criminals?
I believe all groups of people should be held accountable for the crimes that they commit. But, let’s not pick and choose who we decide to prosecute harshly.
I hope there is justice for Nia Wilson.
Her life was brutally taken from her and it is only right that her murderer pays the full price for her death.
But much deeper than this one specific instance, is the larger issue with the ways in which our justice system punishes white violence versus black violence.