If This Rich Kid Has ‘Affluenza,’ Then We’ve All Got ‘Negrobetes’

A drunk-driving teenager in Texas kills four and claims that his wealth made him do it. Try a defense like that if you’re black.

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Ethan Couch

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Ethan Couch, a wealthy teen from the state of Texas, was charged with vehicular manslaughter after he killed four people while he was driving drunk. He was found guilty, but Couch won't be serving any prison time because he suffers from an affliction called "affluenza."

Affluenza—a hybrid of the words "affluent" and "influenza"—his lawyer argued successfully, is the "disease" of being so rich that you have essentially never had to suffer the consequences of your actions.

So what were Couch's consequences for stealing beer from a Wal-Mart with his friends, driving a pickup truck intoxicated at almost three times the legal limit for an adult and killing a woman whose car was broken down, two people who came to help her and a passerby? Probation, Time.com reports.

"He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way," said psychologist Gary Miller, who was assigned to evaluate Couch. "He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle."

My colleague Keren Johnson was outraged and messaged me shortly after reading the story. "Affluenza defense?" she wrote. "Why is being too rich a defense, but being too poor is not? Not that anyone should base illegal behavior on economic status, but don't people tend to find themselves engaging in illegal activity when there's not enough money, food, shelter, etc. ... not when there's an abundance?"

If Couch has such a problem with being wealthy, then he should try being poor. With the jobless rate for African Americans still twice that of whites, Johnson and I have coined a term that we believe can cover all of the social ills plaguing the African-American community: "Negrobetes."

Negrobetes, a mashup of “Negro” and “diabetes,” is a disease that affects all African Americans. While it can be dormant in some and rampant in others, it runs in the blood, traced back to slavery, and cannot be transmitted from personal contact. Negrobetes is not airborne. While in very rare cases it can be deadly, it is a manageable progressive disease that, like its namesake, is categorized into two subclasses.

Type 1 sufferers of Negrobetes can manage their disease with a steady diet of highbrow literature and a solid education. In such cases, their exposure to the experiences of Type 2 Negrobetes sufferers (getting arrested at high-end department stores, random bouts of racial profiling, etc.) is rare and may be nonexistent.

For Type 2 sufferers, all cases are extremely debilitating and could result in severe injury or worse. They are usually negatively affected by a social justice system that doesn't care about their needs. They can be sensitive to a school system that is underfunded, and as a result they may have difficulties managing a working world that demands a proper education. Generally they are prescribed three to four shots of self-affirmation, positive belief and prayer. When left unmanaged, Negrobetes can be deadly.

I can hear the lawyers now: “This is a clear case of Type 2 Negrobetes, your honor.”