Brock Turner: A Reminder of White Privilege
As I begin to write this, I would like everyone to know that I’ve looked at this blank page for hours not knowing how to start. There have been many words that I’ve strung together, but I couldn’t quite encapsulate the hopelessness, anger and sheer disbelief that I was feeling.
Maybe disbelief is the wrong word…I could believe it. And it grieves me.
Rape is never an easy subject to discuss. But it wasn’t until I read the unedited words of the rape victim whose life was forever altered by Brock Turner, the 20-year old Stanford star athlete who was sentenced to just six months in county jail for his crimes against her, that I was able to muster something that is only a fraction of the emotional anguish this case has caused me.
You see, being a woman is hard. You’re constantly being told about what you’re doing wrong, and we live in a society that uses bikini-clad white women with big boobs and bigger hair to market bacon cheeseburgers. We live in a time where we are constantly reminded to be sexy, to be skinny, to cook, to clean, have long, shiny locks of hair, no stretch marks, and to be blonde. And if we are too sexy, if our shirt’s too low cut, our stomach’s too round, our skin too black than we are less than.
We are less deserving.
When it comes to rape, we are the ones who are asking for it, because we are the seductresses. Last Thursday, we were reminded of that. Lesson learned, ladies. Rape is okay if you’re a white, rich man whose whole life is ahead of you. According to your father, jail is too steep of a punishment for “20 minutes of action.”
According to the judge, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner. According to justice, being caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster affords you six months in county jail, out in three with good behavior.
Being Black is hard.
I can recall a young Black Virginia student who was arrested for stealing a carton of milk. Ryan Turks was charged with larceny because according to police, he “looked like he was trying to conceal the milk.” He was handcuffed and removed from the school. The milk cost 65 cents, but essentially was free because of his participation in the free lunch program. He was suspended from school.
The gun that was used to kill Trayvon Martin was sold for more than $100,000. People bid for a gun used to kill a 17-year old Black boy carrying Skittles and a drink because they wanted a souvenir. They wanted a prize for the death of another Black child and his killer, George Zimmerman, was free to do so because, well, he’s free and jail is hard. He was doing a civil service, despite stalking and chasing a child through his own neighborhood because Zimmerman volunteered to be a neighborhood watch captain.
Jail is hard for a white man. It was all an unfortunate misunderstanding.
There have been countless Black and brown families ravaged by a system we claim is broken, but I’m thinking that it works just fine. It’s not broken, it’s just expensive. And if you come from a well-to-do family, and happen to be an athlete with some speedy swim times, you’re not a danger to society. You were just going through a phase of finding the one inebriated woman who can barely walk, stripping off her panties and bra, and violating her behind a dumpster. Clearly that was a one-off event. Your judge thinks so. You’ll be back at home with your family by Christmas.
Little Black and brown faces, some as young as 10 years of age, are locked in prison for 20 years because they had less than an ounce of weed in their backpacks. But jail is not hard for these kids who just learned how to write in cursive, long division, and maybe beat World of Warcraft on their Xbox.
Right now, I’m tired. I’m exhausted from having to tell the little faces of my Black family members to pull up their pants, speak properly, watch how you represent us and always respect the law while the same laws find new ways to trample them. I’m tired of believing in the bootstrap stories of feigned equality. I’m tired of believing that we can live in a world that is built on our indentured service to it. I’m just done.
And I want those that argue white privilege isn’t a real thing to find their voices and speak up now. Tell me again how it doesn’t exist.
Tiffany Turner is originally from Chicago. She currently lives and works in Dallas, Texas.