A Weak Offering In Mississippi

So Deryl Dedmon will be going to prison for the rest of his life. This is a good thing overall, justice is served, more or less. I hope Mr. Dedmond really does regret his actions as much as he says. I hope he spends his time in prison learning how wrong-headed he has been and eventually teaching others not to be as he was. The odds are not good, however. My biggest problem with all this though, is not the sentence itself, well not entirely, but the coverage of it.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder the discussion of Dedmon’s sentencing feels like his life sentence should be viewed as some sort of sacrificial offering to the angry gods of equality. “See folks, we really sure are sorry that there is racism in this country. Look we’ll put this white boy in jail for you.” Never mind that had Deryl been black and James Craig Anderson been white you can guarantee that a death sentence would be handed down.

Add to that Judge Weill’s assertion that “this craven act is not who we are” and you have the perfect circle of white privilege hand wringing over race. Yes, Judge Weill, this is unfortunately who we are. Black Americans are still far more likely to go to prison for crimes that whites commit just as often. They are still more likely to be pulled over than whites, they still have to “watch themselves” in white company. It is still very dangerous to be any color other than white in America.

The article speaks of the KKK like they are no longer a factor, as if the organization is peopled by some wraith like creatures that don’t actually exist in the real world. The members of the KKK, apparently, are not fathers,husbands, brothers, sons and uncles and they are not supported at all by wives, sisters, mothers daughters and aunts. They don’t own businesses in which they can enforce their hate on others, and they don’t vote. Of course they don’t vote. That would be ridiculous, why would the GOP be able to still successfully use their “southern strategy” if the KKK voted? Why would it work if that isn’t “who we are?”

I am glad that Deryl Dedmon won’t be executed. Had he been sentenced to death, I might be writing about the horror that is the death penalty, along with  caveats about the horror of his crime. Instead I have to write about the unfairness that he was not given the sentence he would have been had he been a different color, and how white people continue to keep their heads in the sand over the issue of race. I have to do this because white Americans still refuse to sit down and discuss their individual culpability in the brutally unequal system we live in.


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