Warning: This post describes violence.
When I first saw the image of the Covington Catholic boy at the March for Life smirking, inches away from the face of Native elder, Nathan Phillips, I felt like I knew him.
And, in a sense, I do.
We all do.
A white face speckled with youthful acne. A MAGA hat sitting proudly atop a tuft of sandy brown hair. A facial expression depicting a blissful unawareness of the ways in which white privilege is working for him.
It all feels a little familiar. That’s why when a third party investigation found Nick Sandmann innocent of wrongdoing following controversy over the viral image, I wasn’t surprised.
Sandmann’s name is cleared. Though Phillips asserted that the boy and his friends mocked him and made racist gestures, he’s given the benefit of the doubt that we so willingly afford white boys.
There’s simply not enough evidence investigators said.
And, after all, he’s just a kid.
I can’t help but find this ironic.
A lack of evidence exonerates this boy, but Black teens, specifically Black teen boys, are consistently convicted of far worse with far less.
They’ve been shot. They’ve been murdered.
And every time they are, the reaction from white America is the same.
We ask, “Did he resist arrest? Was he doing something illegal?”
Black teen boys are hardly ever given the benefit of the doubt.
Not when they’ve been shot 6 times in the chest, and not when they wielded nothing but an iced tea and a pack of skittles.
When Black teen boys are victims of violence and police brutality, their morality is always questioned.
We speculate about their performance in school, who they hung out with, and what neighborhood they lived in.
There are no third party investigations.
Online I’ve seen comparisons between Sandmann and Brett Kavanaugh, the newest supreme court justice who was confirmed despite sexual assault allegations. One grows up to be the other.
There wasn’t enough evidence against Kavanaugh either.
But what is it about these men that makes them so believed? Why don’t we hold them accountable?
Whiteness and an unflinching tendency by American society to ignore the voices of women and people of color.
We ignored Nathan Phillips and we ignored Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
White male privilege is a powerful thing. Not only does it lift up those that hold it, but it tells the rest of us that anything other than white and male is not worthy of credibility, empathy, or consideration.
Sandmann was invited to tell his side of the story the Today Show. Kavanaugh got a congressional hearing. They were not just welcome, but encouraged to defend their teenage behavior.
Nick Sandmann is 16, about the same age as Kavanaugh was when Dr. Ford says he assaulted her.
Trayvon Martin’s birthday passed recently on February 5. He would have been 24 this year but he was 17 when we was murdered. Michael Brown? 18.
So why do we allow for such stratified standards?
After all, they were just kids too.
Covington Catholic Photo: https://www.advocate.com/youth/2019/2/13/covington-catholic-students-cleared-racism-new-investigation
Trayvon Martin Photo: https://www.biography.com/people/trayvon-martin-21283721
Michael Brown Photo: http://zeteojournal.com/2014/12/17/ferguson-journalism-twitter/