Georgina Guedes

Is it less of a crime if the accused is white?

2015-04-30 13:01

Georgina Guedes

This week, in Baltimore, a black mother caught her son on his merry way to engage in a spot of rioting, and she klapped him on the head. A lot. And made him go home.

And America went wild. “Mother of the Year” they cried. And the media shared and social media reshared the video of a mom slapping her son silly.

The thing is, there’s an inherent hypocrisy in the enthusiasm with which so many outlets and individuals congratulated this mother. If the same video were to emerge of a white mother beating the crap out of her son in public, she would be criticised and publicly lambasted.

But because there’s an inherent assumption that black kids must be disciplined to prevent them from participating in violent and inappropriate behaviour, the world is delighted that this mom kicked his ass.

Meanwhile back in SA

We’ve seen an interesting parallel play out in South Africa this week with the murder of school teacher Jayde Panayiotou. My Facebook timeline was full of demands from many of my friends (usually moderate folk) to bring back the death penalty for her awful black abductees and killers.

But today it has emerged that a close family member, who is very white, has been arrested for her murder. It is very early in the process – the person has not yet even appeared in court, which is why News24 is not naming him or her – but I’m not seeing the same people calling for the death penalty now.

Apparently murder isn’t quite as bad if it’s orchestrated by a white person.

Time will tell how this story will play out – and even if the charges stick – so I’m not commenting at this point on whether or not the family member did it.

I’m simply pointing out that there’s a knee-jerk judgement that we should all acknowledge when we respond to and share stories of the crime and punishment of black people that’s completely different to how we respond when the perpetrators or suspects are white.

It’s exactly that kind of assumption that the kid in Baltimore wanted to riot in protest of – that black people can be assumed to be guilty by the police, so that any act of violence against them that results in disability or death is pardoned by the justice system.

And in South Africa, we write off a nation and its people on the actions of two black criminals, but shrug and move on when the perpetrator turns out to (possibly) be white.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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