Time for serious talk about race

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ Columnist

Complaints are kind of like fruitcake. Everybody seems to give them, but I’ve never met anybody who likes to receive them.

I especially hated the complaint I saw from the NAACP online this morning, because I see no chance of it eliciting any change.

Cue the “Barbie Bandits,” who became a media sensation in February 2007 when they robbed a bank and got caught pretty quickly because everybody was on the lookout for two attractive blonde teenagers with money.

Heather Lyn Johnston, 20, and Ashley Nicole Miller, 19, both pleaded guilty to theft-by-taking charges. Miller received two years in jail, followed by eight years probation. Johnston got 10 years probation.

That would be the end of it, except two others were sentenced in the fallout. Benny Allen, the 23-year-old bank teller who helped the girls, and 28-year-old Michael Chastang, who introduced the girls to Allen to put the plan in motion, were also sentenced.

Allen received five years, Chastang 10. It’s these sentences that have Georgia NAACP head Allen DuBose up in arms. You see, Johnston and Miller are white, and Chastang and Allen are black.

“When four people are involved in the same crime and those who happen to be Caucasian receive much less time than those who are African American,” DuBose said Tuesday, “this reflects a problem in the justice system that must be addressed.”

This fallout to me reflects things I’ve already known. First, we need an honest discussion on race relations in this country. Second, Americans rarely recognize any scenario that lets us be honest about race.

The rationale in this case is to look with a blind eye toward race. OK, so now you have four people involved in the same crime, and we’ll just refer to them by letters.

Defendant A has been an adult for a little more than a year, has a reasonably clean record and admitted involvement in the robbery. Defendant B, an adult for two years admitted involvement and has a DUI conviction. Defendant C, an adult for five years, did not cooperate with authorities, and was on probation for a drug conviction. Defendant D, an adult for a decade, has a 15-year drug sentence hanging over his head.

Punishment A (Johnston) was 10 years probation, Punishment B (Miller) was two years in jail with eight more on probation, Punishment C (Allen) was five years in jail and Punishment D (Chastang) was 10 years in jail following the first sentence. Since probation is meant to give people a second chance and the latter two had blown their second chances, it sounds like justice served.

We need to be honest about racial relations in this country. We need to know why The WB dictated that “The Steve Harvey Show” demand at least one prominent white character, while “Friends” can be on NBC for years pretending black people don’t live in New York City. Or why we still hear about Natalee Holloway’s disappearance when not-as-pretty, not-as-blonde teenagers are abducted all the time without any national mention. Or why insta-pundits can get paid pretending a 45-minute speech by Barack Obama about race was simply about throwing white people under the bus.

But until we get better examples of racism than a guy with drug convictions getting more jail time than a first-time offender, it just looks like another piece of fruitcake.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 316, or by e-mail: kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com