The Color of Injustice: White Perpetrators Evade Criminal Sanctions
Do you ever wonder how different your life would be if you were born as somebody else? What if you were born with a different skin color, can you imagine the impact it would have on your life? Generally, most of us do not live in fear of being stereotyped by the police and brutalized. Growing up white in America, affords one certain privilege like being able to question an officer when pulled over for a traffic violation; a white person can call the police without fear of becoming the suspect. But, what would you do if you could not count on the police to protect you?
In 2016, Jacqueline Craig, a Black woman living in Texas, called 911 to report that her white neighbor had choked her 7-year-old son. The responding officer was white, and immediately became hostile with Mrs. Craig. Instead of asking the neighbor why he found it appropriate to choke a kid that was not his, the officer questioned her and asked why it was not appropriate for the neighbor to choke her son. Following this interaction, things got heated quickly and the officer tackled Mrs. Craig’s daughter to the ground, reaching for his taser. Both women were arrested and taken into custody. The encounter was all caught on video and quickly went viral, in support of the mother, denouncing the officer’s actions as racist.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, in defense of Mrs. Craig, stated it was the “officer’s responsibility to de-escalate the situation”.
Thankfully, six years later in 2022, the city of Fort Worth settled a civil suit with Mrs. Craig and her family though will admit to no wrongdoing. While this is an incomplete victory, partial justice was achieved in recognizing that a civil justice occurred and in awarding the Craig family reparations. This is just another example of how when interacting with officers, if people of color show anything less than utmost respect, the consequences can be severe.
Conversely, this past August, a White woman pulled a gun on a Black woman in a mall in Pennsylvania. Officers responded to the scene, and received witness testimony indicating the two women had gotten into a dispute; the White woman claimed she brandished the weapon because she ‘felt threatened’ by the disagreement. No shots were fired, and the White woman returned the gun to her purse and went to pay for her food, but the dispute continued. The White woman did not take out the gun again, and officers placed her under arrest and took her into custody.
Officers state no charges will be filed as she possessed the gun legally and held a concealed carry permit.
In both of these cases, injustice is displayed, albeit in different ways: in the case of the Craig family, the victim's experienced legal injustice. In the case of the White woman in Pennsylvania, the Black woman who was held at gunpoint experienced legal injustice. However, these cases illustrate the earlier point of the impact of skin color, both positively and negatively. Now, I ask again, could you imagine how different your life could be if you were born with a different skin color?