Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Bearable Whiteness of Being

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari) 
We've heard a lot these past eight years about white supremacy since Trump descended that escalator like an overstuffed piece of lost luggage at JFK International. Since June 2015, when he inveighed against (O, projection, thy name is Donald John Trump) criminals and rapists coming from Mexico, we've seen countless white supremacy-inspired mass shootings and just as countless Trump Mini Mes running for elected office and suckling at his sagging political teats for succor.
     Several of them actually got elected to Capitol Hill because a lot of redneck voters decided, in this Glorious Age and Post-age of Trump, it was high time we gave racism a chance again, to Make America White Again. Witness the Witless in the likes of Tommy Tuberville, Markwayne Mullin and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
     White supremacy is a thing, always has been a thing and likely always will be a thing in the US of A. But what we a nation consistently fail to do is trace the origins of white supremacy and determine what the root of it is. And the answer is staring us right in the face, hidden in plain sight- It's white privilege.
     White privilege, as with accusations of racism, are always invariably snarled at by those who tend to benefit the most from it. Accusations of white privilege fly in the fat, self-satisfied face of American Exceptionalism, that myth that states if you work hard enough and still retain your American exceptionalism, you, too, can achieve the American dream.
     Of course, that cherished myth doesn't count in its calculus Jim Crow laws, glass ceilings, Chinese Exclusion Acts, Japanese internment camps and Trails of Tears. The quiet part of American Exceptionalism is that it's always been reserved for straight, Anglo Saxon, Protestant white men and still largely holds true today.
     Yet, we tend to treat white supremacy and white privilege almost as if there's no such thing as cause and effect, as if they're two distinct phenomena. As if White Supremacy forms in a vacuum. It does not. White supremacy has a father and it's white privilege. And we've seen and heard the bleatings of white privilege during countless losing Republican campaigns starting with Trump's and Kari Lake's. And, even more often, we've heard them in courtrooms across the nation in January 6th sentencing hearings.
     That brings us to Bigo Barnett. Barnett thought he was entitled to a lot of things, like the flag that had his blood on it with which he was photographed in Nancy Pelosi's office. He also thought he was entitled to a delay in his incarceration. Judge Cooper said he wasn't and sentenced him to four and a half years.
     But Bigo Barnett, who actually has his own Wikipedia page, is far from an outlier.

My Vessel
On January 6th, briefly standing next to Bigo in the Rotunda, was Pennsylvania pizza shop owner Pauline Bauer. Bauer thought she, too, was entitled to a delay in her sentencing and, outrageously. she got a 30 day continuance while she hunted for her medical records. Bauer, along with Bigo and the QAnon Shaman, became one of the most notorious rioters not so much for her conduct at the Capitol but her bizarre legal filings.
     Bauer was given 27 months in prison, minus time served, for threatening to hang Nancy Pelosi and fighting with Metro police. She became infamous for filing incomprehensible legal filings in which she claimed to be a "sovereign citizen" who was not bound by laws for mere mortals and that the courts had no authority over her "vessel."
     Bauer was pushed out of the Capitol and wasn't arrested until May 2021, over four months after the attack.
     Then there's the even more outrageous case of Jenny Cudd.
   Cudd, a business owner out of Texas, asked for, and got, permission to go to a company retreat in Mexico, of all places, just a month after the riot. The judge who'd granted it, Judge Trevor McFaddon, was also the same presiding judge in Bauer's trial. Another rioter, Jason Owens, demanded the same thing, until he was slapped down by Judge Beryl Howell.
     And we see this white entitlement that, more often than not, receives a fair hearing from judges who time and again hand down lighter sentences than those recommended by federal prosecutors. Even Stewart Rhodes, who got 18 years, more than any other January 6 rioter, could've gotten decades if prosecutors had gotten their way. And that was after a tongue lashing from Judge Amit Mehta, who called him "an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country." But, three quarters of the time, the rhetoric doesn't match the sentences.
     And let's not forget Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos founder who was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison on fraud charges and fought tooth and nail to keep from surrendering herself, a luxury that wouldn't be granted to most of us. She requested a delay and, of course, got it. And don't even get me started on convicted killer Ethan Couch, who also fled to Mexico when he, too, thought, he was too good for prison, despite killing four people.
    Last January, the "affluenza" defendant was released from jail despite killing four people when under the influence, he stole Daddy's car then fled to Mexico with his mother. So it appears, if your father is wealthy, not only can your sentence be outrageously truncated, the criminal justice system seems hell-bent on continuing the phenomenon of "affluenza". Only Jeffrey Epstein had it better.
     And yet, all we're hearing from the usual evolutionary dropouts of the Freedom Caucus is how abominably the January 6th rioters are being treated. These are people who were allowed to form a "choir" that eventually backed up Trump's rallies and are being given Apple iPads so they can continue putting their hate out on the internet and even fund raise.

A Self Perpetuating Cycle
Apparently, judges need to be reminded that these people to whom they give slaps on the wrist tried to sack the seat of our federal government, impede the business of that government, assaulted police officers and wounded 140 of them and tried to murder high-ranking elected officials like Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. And yet, despite the near constant whining from them and right wingers in Congress about how they're treated, the fact is they know they're going to be treated with kid gloves even when crunch time comes.
     These convicted rioters, traitors and seditionists know damned good and well they're going to get treated with kid gloves, better than they would've gotten if they were Blacks or Muslims. One only has to recall the nauseating restraint with which the rioters were treated, with few if any actually arrested and charged that day. The DC and Metro police, as with the DC National Guard, were given such comically restrictive rules of engagement that it effectively prevented them from even defending themselves.
    Contrast that with what happened in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2020. In the protests that broke out after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis weeks before, people were snatched from the streets and shoved into unmarked vehicles by black-clad, unidentified goons sent by Trump. And, that same summer, Trump again sent goons to clear the street, using tear gas, so he could have a ridiculous, much-memed photo op in front of St. John's.
    Granted, many of the people in DC and Portland who were brutalized that summer were white but the mere perceived proximity to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter was enough to send the government in a paranoid paroxysm of self defensive hostility. So what was so different about the January 6 rioters, who were much more of a threat to the government?
     Well, if we're to listen to right wingers, they were starting what John Lewis called "the good kind of trouble". They were Republican white people who were there to stop the theft of an election on behalf of the same asshole who cleared Lafayette Square of those damned BLM sympathizers. And, despite the fact that five police officers died as direct or indirect results of the riot, despite the fact it was the first time the Capitol had been sacked in 207 years, judges continue giving these assholes slaps on the wrist.
     White privilege has been a feature and mainstay in our political and social lives since long before we decided who would take part in the first Continental Congress in 1774. White people have come to expect it, demand it, to get what they want whether it be a more lenient sentencing even after being convicted of the most heinous violations of civil order or no punishment at all.
     And until elected officials and the criminal justice system at large stop giving slaps on the wrists and ignoring sentencing recommendations from federal prosecutors, unless it forcefully stops this ridiculous self-perpetuating cycle, this sense of white privilege will never stop rearing its pasty, sneering, arrogant head.


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