Friday, June 10, 2016

Being Uncomfortable is Necessary

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that a lot of guys like me don’t like to think about.  We like to think that we’re good guys, that we do the right things, that we support the right people and that we are helping our communities.  We’re often right – we are all of those things. We stand up for what is right.  We support those who need our help.  We give to charity, or help out with our time. We’re doing the best we can, right?  So why do we need to think about that thing that the “crazy feminists” and #BlackLivesMatter advocates want to force us into considering, that wacky thing they call “privilege”?

Until just a few years ago, I hadn’t really given it much thought.  I mean, intellectually I knew that I had won the genetic/citizenship/orientation/education lottery.  I’m an able bodied, cis-gendered, straight, educated white male.  If people were choosing the characteristics that would make their lives easier, they couldn’t have chosen a better combination.  And I got it all just by being me. I’m one lucky son of a bitch.

Then along comes rapist Brock Turner.  Convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in an alley.  And he gets a sentence of six months in a county jail because, in the words of the judge, prison might have “a severe impact on him.” The media outcry in response to this has been astronomical and heartwarming.  People are coming out of the woodwork to protest that this slap on the wrist is not appropriate, and that it underlines the white mans’ privilege that so deeply underscores our mindset.  I was upset too, until I did some digging today at the suggestion of my partner.  And then I lost my mind.  See, I was just upset because this seemed to be yet another example of sexual assault against women not being taken seriously enough by the judicial systems that are supposed to protect us all equally.  But it is even worse than that. 

Let me introduce you to Brian Banks. At only 16 he was accused of rape, and ultimately convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.  And he didn’t do it.  But he was black.

Then there is Corey Batey. Unlike Mr. Banks, Batey did do it.  He was accused, convicted and sentenced.  Just like Turner.  And just like Turner Batey was a star athlete at a major US university and his victim was intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness.  Unlike Turner, Batey was sentenced to 15-25 years in prison.  Same crime, same circumstances.  Turner is white.  Batey is black.

Let’s not even get into how long you can get away with being a serial rapist if you are a police officer and you chose poor black women as your targets. Sure, when you finally get caught you go to prison for life, but how long did it take for someone to come forward?  Why were these poor black women afraid to seek help?

The answer is in the question.