Earl Ofari Hutchinson
True, there was the national fury, outcry, and indignation over the Trump egged Capitol terrorist insurrection. True, there is loud demand from nearly all quarters of the general public for nabbing, jailing and tough punishment of the insurrectionists. True, more than a few including President-elect Joe Biden angrily pointed out the glaring double standard of the Capitol police in their gentle, accommodating, even tacit complicit handling of the mostly white insurrectionists versus their knock heads, take no prisoners handling of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more to the racial double standard story than just the embarrassing optics of selfie posing Capitol cops and insurrectionists and bare-knuckle treatment of police abuse protesters.
Jake Angeli is a good starting point to underscore that. He’s the bare-chested guy, self-anointed shaman with the weird, horned headdress seen in countless shots of the insurrectionists. He was quickly ided (how could he not be), charged and jailed. He then launches a hunger strike until his demand for organic food is met. Marshalls and jailers scramble quickly and accommodate him even as prisoner rights advocates tweet furiously that the demands of Muslim prisoners and other prisoners of color with special dietary needs are rejected or get their requests for special foods only after public protests and lawsuits.
Similar stories abound of the white insurrectionists arrested that have prior multiple arrests, including felony convictions. Or who were caught throwing punches with no charges. Or who were slapped with mild reprimands by their employers after brazenly posting pictures on social media of themselves.
Despite the public anger, there have been no hysterical screeches branding them thugs, gangsters, animals, and vermin. There have been no relentless calls from the press, citizenry, and elected officials for a swift, harsh, and massive crackdown, sweeps, and toss the book demands at them. The kind that we instantly hear leap from many mouths, drum the airwaves, and the subject of angry editorials on when It’s young Blacks on the hot seat.
This tired, double standard script is so well-worn we can mail it in. Young whites tear up streets, overturn cars, and battle police after a championship hockey or basketball victory or loss. It’s simply tagged as boys will be boys, acting out, or a young white male shoots up a school or theater. And there’s the endless string of psycho-babble pronouncements about his troubled childhood, drug and meds addiction and dependence, and psychological traumas.
Or, how about, when young whites are popped for drug use? The pipeline for them is not to courts and jails, but to counseling and treatment, therapy, and prayers. Their drug abuse is chalked up to escape, frustration, or restless youthful experimenting.
They get heart wringing indulgent sympathy, compassion, and a never-ending soul search for rational explanations, or should I say justification for their criminal, violent and yes, thug behavior.
The dual racial standard rests squarely on the pantheon of stereotypes and negative typecasting of Blacks that continue to have deadly consequences in the assaults on and the gunning down of unarmed young black males under questionable circumstances. Numerous studies repeatedly find that many of the old stereotypes about crime and Blacks remain just as frozen in time. The studies find that much of the public still perceives those most likely to commit crimes are poor, jobless, and Black. They show that once the stereotype is planted, it’s virtually impossible to root out.
The arrest of Angeli and other whites who terrorized the Capitol also raise another question. What happens when whites such as him are arrested? What charges are filed against them? What’s their bail? How vigorously are they prosecuted? Are some or all the charges subsequently dropped when the public furor and media spotlight die down?
Then, what happens when or even if they are convicted or plead guilty to a crime? Will they get serious or, even any, jail time. Or, if convicted and get probation, will they get a glowing probation report and released early from supervised probation.
This raises still more questions. While African Americans are more likely to be jailed when convicted of crimes, how many whites can plea bargain lesser sentences, receive probation, community service, are fined and make restitution, are referred to diversion or rehabilitation programs, or are placed under house monitoring when they commit crimes, even violent felonies?
Angeli gave a strong hint that he won’t be treated like any ordinary criminal. He got his organic food. He got his rights protected. He got lots of press attention that included lengthy quotes from his mother telling what a patriotic, true blue American son he is. He even got his chance to wrap himself in the mantle of Gandhi and Dr. King and claim his was a lawful protest against injustice.
The Capitol insurrectionists proved if proof of proof be needed of one thing. That when it comes to lawbreaking, even terrorist lawbreaking, no one should really be surprised that the kid glove double standard treatment is rolled out for them.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network