June 25th, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to twenty-two and a half years in prison for the killing of George Floyd. It was originally anticipated that he would only serve twelve years, but an additional ten years was added to “honor the pain of the Floyd family.” May it be my opinion when I say no amount of time is worth the life of another person. But the criminal system operates more than on judgement of character and evaluation of crime, it operates on money.
Over sixty-five percent of life sentences from nonviolent charges such as theft or marijuana possession for instance, are faced by Black people. Particularly Black men. Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars to keep inmates behind bars. It is my opinion that the system does not benefit from paying lump sums of money to confine white bodies, which is why there is a huge disparity in standards when it comes to responding to the crime of a Black person versus a white person. Incarceration can cost anything between $30,000 and $60,000 a year in the U.S. per inmate, depending on the state. To keep an inmate for life if their life sentence is capped at 40 years, for example, is well over a million dollars. When people use the term “modern day slavery” in reference to the prison system, it is not inaccurate. Bodies are captured, or in modern terms arrested, and are bought into confinement, or in modern terms, are incarcerated.
It is my opinion that the system does not have the intention of paying millions of dollars to confine white bodies. Black bodies are worth the investment for various reasons, but I presume all reasons boil down to control and hierarchical interest. The millions of dollars invested in the confinement of Black and Brown bodies supports the hierarchy of white supremacy, figuring white people, particularly white men, are racially dominant in positions of authority; positions such as the police, the judicial branch, and political and corporate systems. With a great portion of Black people, Black men specifically, out of the public and in confinement, white men face less tension operating as the patriarchal dominant. Aside from opinion, the fact is that the criminal system is far from fair. There are layers to why that is, and why Chauvin’s sentencing, likely to the Black community and allies, doesn’t feel like justice.
There have been disparities in the standards of evaluating white crime, in comparison to Black crime, since slavery was abolished. Statistics claim white inmates have a higher percentage of mental health issues compared to Black inmates, which can be used as a justification of compassion towards white counterparts when determining primary factors in a criminal act. Take Dylann Roof for instance, who blatantly shot up a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He killed 9 people in that church, admitted to being a neo-nazi white supremacist, admittied he wanted to kill Black people, and law enforcement responded peacefully, patiently interviewing him on why he did it, and even him bought him Burger King after his arrest because he was hungry. Not only that, but Dylann was able to wiggle himself out of a death sentence and serve life instead–despite giggling in the court hearing and refusing to acknowledge the families of those he murdered. He, like many other white criminals, was publicly justified by his “mental health” issues. I can’t imagine the message this could send someone who acted on a hate crime, and potentially to someone who wants to act on a hate crime–especially if you are white. This sense of compassion is given to white criminals in situations Black people are shown no mercy–even if they are innocent.
Dale Wayne Green, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in November, 1999, for his third strike after playing middle man in selling a $20 bag of weed to an undercover deputy. His first two strikes were an attempted possession of cocaine, and a simple robbery. Terrence L. Mosley, a Black man, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for two pounds of marijuana in his car in 2008, as his 3rd strike. Fate Vincent Winslow, a Black man, was sentenced to life as a homeless man, acting as the middleman in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana. He had ten white jurors find him guilty, and two Black jurors find him not guilty. It was his fourth strike, and his other three were also minuscule. You can find an entire list of people sentenced to life on nonviolent charges here. You will see representation of both Black and white life sentences, but the standards for the charges are quite drastic, whereas for example, a white man on this same list was sentenced to life for a marijuana possession of around 2200 pounds. A white criminal must reach drastic measures to even reach the sentencing of an insignificant Black crime. Whether a third strike or not, 2200 pounds of marijuana possession versus a $10 bag of weed should not equate to the same sentence. The statistics are there. The statistics support how corrupt the criminal justice system is. White people are dominant in mass shootings, posing the highest for terrorism and serial killing to date, yet Black people dominate incarceration. White men are dominant in sex offender charges, making up for more than two-thirds of those charged, yet the dominant for those publicly registered as sex offenders are Black men.
To me, this seems more like a race war (I am about to contradict myself to get my point across) rather than an innocent lack of character judgment. It feels intentional. And actually, white supremacists would agree with me, according to this ABC news article addressing how the Chauvin trial may be used to further white-supremacist agendas. Race war is a hot topic right now. It’s not a coincidence that so many articles on the topic have resurfaced in the last two years. Anytime white-supremacy is threatened, as it was during the uprising in response to the death of George Floyd for example, you can expect evidence of this “tightly wrapped” race war to present itself. Even white-liberal allies are fighting with their conservative family members and friends in 2021, as they did at the time slavery was being abolished. Though I feel to even call that conflicting white-supremacy a race war is white-supremacist thinking, because I don’t believe this fight was ever Black versus white. May I speak for myself as a Black woman, when I say I never saw myself at “war” with white people. I am at war with the obstacles I am subjected to face in light of white-supremacy… Those who believe Black people are fighting only to be superior or be recognized as some sort of ultimate are struggling with an inferiority complex. That’s what White-supremacy is in simple terms, an inferiority complex. This fight is white-supremacy versus everyone else. Black people just, unfortunately, happen to be most affected, creating pressure that this is only our fight to fight.
As far as the Chauvin sentence, I can assume I’m not alone when I say the lack of justice served was anticipated. As long as we rely on the same systems, we will get the same outcomes. I do believe in changes of heart, and I do believe there are individuals with power within these systems that have or will come to terms with their ability to make change, but they are vulnerable to a great battle ahead of them as well. As a Black woman, I understand the obstacles I face. I understand the systems out of my favor. And I can recognize the people thriving off my oppression. My duty isn’t to fight the things out of my control. My duty is to recognize my power, recognize the areas in which I do control, and then leverage.