We’re Sick of the Justice System Going Easy on White Criminals

If these men were black or brown, their fate would be different.

Elle Silver
Mar 19 · 5 min read
Trump supporters crowding the steps of the Capitol after displacing the police shield wall preventing access. By TapTheForwardAssist.

On March 16th, a white man named Robert Aaron Long went to three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, and killed eight people, seven of whom were women. The police apprehended Long and on the morning of March 18th gave a press statement.

Captain Jay Baker, then spokesperson for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office (who has since been removed from the case), said Long “understood the gravity of [his crime]. And he was pretty much fed up, had been kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

That was the excuse given for Long opening fire on seven women and one man in three different establishments. He was having “a really bad day.”

And thank goodness he also understands the gravity of his crime. We all feel so much better now.

Of course, this excuse has infuriated the Asian community. Besides, why are police allowing Long to state his own motives in the first place? He purposefully targeted “Asian spas” where Asian people, especially Asian women, worked. But still, he was allowed to establish his motives and claim that racism was not involved. What’s worse, the police appeared to believe him and declare this to the public.

Now, I don’t doubt Long will be charged with the murder of eight people. He will go to prison. But could you imagine if he was black or brown? Would he be receiving the same seemingly preferential treatment from the cops?

History shows us, emphatically, no.

Last May, George Floyd, a black man, was killed by police simply for being accused by a convenience store employee of buying a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.

No one gave him the benefit of the doubt. No one asked him if he was having a bad day or not.

He was accused of committing a small infraction and still was killed by police as a result. Honestly, I’m tired of watching black men die at the hands of police while white men earn special favors.

White men get to state their benign motives even when their crimes smack of racial hatred. It’s just not right. It’s unfair and, quite frankly, many of us in this country are sick of it.

I’m not just talking about black and brown people being tired. White people are tired of the inequality, too. This is why so many of us showed up to protest racial injustice this past summer.

This summer’s protests against police brutality were some of the largest in American history with an estimated 15 million to 26 million people of all colors taking to the streets to voice their discontent.

Protests happened in cities across the United States with large and sometimes mostly white crowds. And yes, there has been criticism that this support has been short-lived, simply “trendy,” or just the result of boredom while we were all locked up due to the pandemic with nothing else to do.

But then our anger is sparked again and again as we witness more examples of racial injustice and inequality.

We’re getting sick of it.

The white men who stormed the Capitol have received preferential treatment by the police and justice system.

On January 6, 2021, a majority-white, overwhelmingly male mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington D.C. The riot ended up with one police officer dead. And yet, footage shows the police actually opening the gates to let rioters through. Few police officers stood in the rioters’ way. Instead, they spoke calmly with the mob, even taking selfies with them.

The Capitol riots came after a year of watching black man after black man get shot by the police simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one took a selfie with these men.

“What we see here is that certain bodies are accorded a certain kind of treatment and other bodies are not,” Eddie Glaude, the chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American studies, said in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.

Luckily, in recent weeks, three-hundred and twenty people who participated in the attempted insurrection at the Capitol in January have been charged with federal crimes.

And yet, we’ve also watched as six of these men, all of them white, have already been released from custody, pending trial. What’s more, they’ve been released not on bail, but on personal recognizance (a promise to appear in court).

These men were charged with the attempt to overthrow our government! They engaged in direct acts of violence that led to five deaths. And these same men have been allowed to go home to their families, even to resume their jobs? All they’ve had to do was promise to show up to their court dates?

It boggles my mind. Were the same individuals black or brown, I’m sure they’d still be in jail awaiting trial. They might not be alive. The police would not have been opening the gates for them as they rushed the Capitol. The police would have been shooting.

In an essay for NBC News’ Think, Seema Ahmad, a federal public defender, wrote that the black and brown clients she represents as a federal public defender almost never get released from custody when they’ve been charged with federal crimes, even if it’s just possession of a few bags of illegal drugs.

Ahmad writes: “In 10 years of practicing criminal federal defense, I have had only one or two clients released on personal recognizance — and that was on charges of petty mail theft, not participating in a violent insurrection meant to undermine our democracy and threaten the lives of the nation’s highest elected officials.”

Are the Capitol rioters getting special treatment because they’re white? It certainly appears that way.

Does accused murderer Robert Aaron Long get to state his motives and be understood as simply having a bad day? Unfortunately, yes.

I’m sick of this. You’re sick of this. The special treatment of white men accused of grievous crimes needs to end.

Skin color should play no role in how people are treated by the police or the justice system. All people should be treated alike.

The Silver Mine

An introspective look at American culture, society and politics.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store