Now that the cuffs have been put on R. Kelly, Jussie Smollett and Bill Cosby, three prominent, celebrity black men, now it’s time to put the cuffs on a few others.
When I say put the cuffs on, I mean a swift serious, and vigorous prosecution, and, if convicted, real jail time.
Let’s go through the list. Carolyn Bryant Donham. She’s the white woman in Mississippi whose infamous lie in 1955 about Emmett Till raping a white woman ended in his brutal lynching. Donham is still very much alive. She kind of sort of admitted that she lied. This makes her an accessory to murder. There’s no statue of limitation on murder.
Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and a legion of other wealthy and celebrated white males have been accused of, and in some cases indicted for, sexual assault and victimization. Yet they are still free. They are entitled to the presumption of innocence.
In some of the cases, the accusations against them are just accusations. But the fact that they are not relentlessly held out to hard-edged public standard as the fount of all sexual criminal abuse, while Kelly and Cosby are, make the public, legal and, most importantly, racial optics look horrible.
Then there are the so-called Barbecue Becky’s. This laughable appellation was slapped on white women who file false police reports on innocent blacks. There has been a wave of false filing of these reports.
The point has been repeatedly made that these racially driven, malicious reports have resulted in harassment, embarrassment and danger for blacks. Yet, there has been absolutely no legal consequence for the racist filer of the false report.
Smollett proved that the filing of a false police report is a felony and can, and should, be prosecuted. Yet, with Barbecue Becky’s, nothing.
This glaring racial double standard in how white men, white women, and those who racially victimize blacks with false police reports doesn’t let Cosby, Kelly or Smollett off the legal and public rage hook. However, what does outrage some is this seeming double standard. This reinforces several notions.
One is that the jails in America aren’t meant for the rich, the famous or white women. Another is that making Kelly, Smollett and Cosby the poster boys for criminal misbehavior is yet another in the endless textbook examples of the well-encoded grossly different legal standard for the rich and famous lawbreakers.
This is hardly an example of no harm, no foul light frivolity. America’s prisons and jails are filled with men and women who are serving stretches for driving under the influence or probation violation convictions, some long stretches.
The same double standard has repeatedly been applied to other celebrity-accused lawbreakers. Their offenses were hardly schoolyard pranks.
Winona Ryder was charged with grand theft shoplifting. Roman Polanski was charged with having sex with a minor. Zsa Zsa Gabor was charged with assaulting a police officer. Sean Combs was charged with bribery and illegal weapons possession. Robert Downey Jr. was charged with countless numbers of drug possession offenses.
It’s not just the ability of well to do white men and women, and even not so well-to-do white women such as Donham, and the false police report filers to cast their spell over a fawning public that gives them a colossal edge over blacks when they are hauled into court. It’s also their deep pockets.
They can afford to hire the top legal guns, crack private investigators and publicists. This more than levels the legal playing field for them and enables them to go toe-to-toe with prosecutors.
Prosecutors know that every legal move they make against celebrities will be intensely scrutinized and more often than not criticized and second-guessed by the media and the public. More likely, they will see a celebrity as a victim of a vengeful and jealous legal system bent not on prosecuting their heroes for alleged crimes committed, but on persecuting them because of who they are.
This sentiment partially shielded Kelly and Cosby for many years from the wrath of the courts. But there was never any shield over their name and reputation. They were widely seen as sexual miscreants and had an odious taint whenever their name was mentioned.
There was also never any doubt that when they were eventually hauled into a legal docket that they would bear the full brunt of the law. This will also be the case with Smollett.
The same sense of righteous public indignation and outrage that Cosby, Kelly and Smollett stir are simply not there with the other white, wealthy and celebrated sexual or criminal offenders. That includes Donham.
Again, Cosby, Kelly and Smollett fully deserved to have the cuffs slapped on them. But so do the others. And until that happens then the double standard within and without the courts will remain alive and well, and always open to question.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of “The Russia Probe: What Did Trump Know, And When Did He Know It?” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.