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Committing Crime When You're Not A White Woman

The internet is a wonderful place for those searching for funny videos, cute baby pictures, and videos of white women verbally assaulting people of color. Karens everywhere have claimed social persecution whenever their racist and xenophobic actions are recorded and posted on the world wide web for everyone to see. However, what happens to these women after the cameras stop recording? More importantly, what would happen if Karen was not a white woman from the suburbs and instead a woman of color?

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the American public has slowly become more aware of the disparities between Black and white people's treatment within the criminal legal system. However, many of these conversations highlight men's experiences rather than women's. While women are statistically less like to be offenders, this does not mean that women do not assault other people. For example, in Texas, there were two similar cases where two women harassed people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. The primary difference between these two stories is that one woman is white and the other Mexican American.

In early 2019, a young Houston interracial couple was having a birthday photoshoot for their young child. As they enjoyed their time in this public space, Franci Neely approached the family demanding that they remove themselves from the property. The situation quickly escalated when Neely swung at the couple, striking the phone that filmed her behavior. Despite the fact that the video showcased verbal and physical harassment, Houston prosecutors chose not to charge Neely.

Originally, the state considered pursuing a class A or class C assault but "after evaluating evidence and applying the law, a prosecutor determined the incident couldn't be prosecuted." Coincidentally, Neely is the ex-wife of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane. In response to the potential lawsuits, Neely said "I will not be terrorized or harassed into paying people who appear determined to pursue a spiteful agenda." Despite the dropping of charges, Neely continues to inflict emotional trauma on the young family, utilizing her privilege as a white woman in the criminal justice system.

Only a few hours north of Houston in Plano, Texas, a Mexican American woman was arrested and charged with assault bodily injury, and terroristic threats when she harassed a group of Indian women in a public parking lot. In the viral video, viewers see 58-year-old Esmeralda Upton shout racial slurs, claiming that she "hated Indians," and became physical with the victims. After this confrontation, Upton was swiftly arrested and held on a $10,000 bond. The Plano police are continuing their investigation and considering adding hate crime charges to Upton's rap sheet.

While both women chose to verbally and physically assault members of a marginalized community, only one faced terroristic threat charges. Only one was detained. Only one inhabits a marginalized body.

Gender and race intersect in unique ways all the time, however, within the criminal legal system the differential treatment cannot be ignored. Although both perpetrators are women, one has the racial and social standing to avoid being prosecuted. Neither woman acted in accordance with the law, but the consequences of their actions were not equivalent. Esmeralda Upton will forever be known as a Mexican American terrorist while Franci Neely continues to live her life, harassing people of color.

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