The Non-Murder Of The Mac And Cheese Kid
Recently, there was a viral video I watched of a drunk, white, UConn student, Luke Gatti who really wanted mac and cheese at the school cafeteria. It’s funny (tragic) because it depicts a belligerent, drunken 19 year old being a juvenile asshole. Of course, the schadenfreude enjoyed by the internet is what made the video go viral. What interested me more than that cursory observation, was how people in positions of authority reacted to him. Despite the amount of verbal and physical abuse Gatti laid on the manager of the cafeteria, calling him a “fag” and a “retard”, pushing him repeatedly, the manager attempts to calm him down and tells him, “you’re drunk, go home.” It’s only after he pushes the manager for the third time, that he’s wrestled to the ground by another cafeteria worker, and the university police show up put him in cuffs and take him to jail. The officer asks him if the cuffs are too tight on the way out. Despite the totally obnoxious behavior by young Gatti, the people in positions of power react in a way to diffuse the situation and show concern for his well being . The video is an all too perfect example of what white privilege is.
Being white and 19 means that you are allowed to be abusive, you are allowed to break the laws, that the people you aggravate will try to give you a break and care about your well being. If you’re just too much of an asshole to take the hint, the cops will eventually show up and take you away, still being concerned for your welfare. You are, essentially, allowed to be young, make mistakes, and recover and move on. At no point, will the conversation of his actions discuss his upbringing, his race, his skin color, the music he listened too, how low he wears his sweatpants, his black hoodie, or his criminal record (he had been arrested twice before). In our cultural discourse, he is a singular anomaly and will never be a representative of all people that look like him. We, in America, will cut this kid slack and therein lies the fundamental hypocrisy of our culture.
Compare how we make excuses for kids like Gatti, to how an overwhelming number of Americans instantly labelling Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as “thugs”. With white kids like Gatti, the onus is on the authority figures to respond appropriately, while we blame black kids for their own murders and find every irrelevant excuse possible to justify their deaths at the hands of people in power. Luke Gatti is the obverse of Trayvon Martin. He is the obverse of Michael Brown. He is a kid when confronted with an authority figure runs his mouth, gets physically aggressive and does not get killed for his actions. I’m sure there will be many that say, “he’s a good kid” and everyone will believe that Gatti is a “good kid who just got a bit drunk” and that he is at the core a child who is deserving of indulgence of his actions. This matured reasoning does not apply to young black kids and this is the core of the idea of “white privilege”. I think many people take offense at this term because it implies that white people have a higher social standing when they believe that we are all equal in a country that promises freedom, liberty, and all of the other platitudes we are force-fed by our schools, politicians, and media. Acknowledging this would mean that doesn’t fall in line with their lived experiences and these convenient buzzwords does not hold true. What a depressing prospect.
People like Luke Gatti have gotten many breaks. When he got kicked out of his last school, he went to UConn, should he get expelled from UConn, he’ll go to another school and he will graduate and be an excellent member of the financial industry or something. When he calls a black cop a “nigger” during an arrest, he doesn’t get beaten to a pulp for it. If you compare the breaks he gets, and will always get, with the disproportionate number of young black people who fill our prisons for minor offenses. The people whose lives will be ruined because of a criminal record for petty theft or minor drug offenses after their sentence. That is, if they are lucky enough not to get shot by cops for not having tags on their car or eating Skittles in a black hoodie, or sitting in front of their house, or walking on a street, or waiting for a tow truck, or breathing in the presence of a cop.
To this end, the response of our society is, well, “if they (black people) would just not be (by their nature) violent (or poor, or wear hoodies, or play loud music, etc.) and play the “race card”, these tragic occurrences would not happen.” While young 19 year olds who are white, are given lenience, the onus is upon black people and other people of color to be twice as good. This is essentially another way of saying that we should accept half as much. Those that accept half as much by being twice as good is an attempt to just to survive in America, and often times, even that’s not enough. All of the Honor roles, high school graduations, and Ivy league degrees, won’t change the color of someone’s skin or the target that it carries.
I can think of no solution which would stop the state sanctioned murders of young black people, or overturn the over 400 years of institutional oppression in America against black people overnight. I wish I could. I so think that, acknowledging that we do not permit the same allowances to young black people as we do young white people, is coming to an understanding of the society we live in and maybe that would be a starting point to address this inequity that has plagued us as a nation.