There is nothing scarier than a white man losing his power. Good thing Brock Turner won’t have to face the full weight of what that really means. If you haven’t already heard, Turner is the young white ex-Stanford University swimmer whose dreams are more precious than the woman he raped.
On Jan. 17, 2015, Turner sexually assaulted a 23-year-old unconscious woman behind a dumpster after they both left a campus party. Turner stopped assaulting the woman only after he was spotted by two students, who chased him off of the victim and held him until the cops came. Turner cried only after learning that the cops had been called. Maybe then he realized what his actions meant to his dreams.
During his trial, it was revealed what a toll the rape had taken on Turner. He doesn’t have the appetite he once had for rib-eye steaks. His dream of swimming in the Olympics has been dashed. He used to have a welcoming smile, and now, that has faded. All of which his father made sure to point out in his letter asking for clemency for his son.
That’s what Turner’s father said in his statement, comparing what his son lost for “20 minutes of action.”
Poor white man.
That’s what the judge said when he decided that, even after a jury had found Turner guilty of rape and he faced a maximum sentence of 14 years, he would serve only six months in a county jail. He wouldn’t even be sentenced to prison because the judge said that he felt it would have “a severe impact on him.” A columnist for the San Jose Mercury News wrote that Turner’s sentencing was correct.
Hell, you can’t even find a photo of Turner’s mug shot because the Santa Clara, Calif., Police Department won’t release it.
This country, historically, has a keen sense of the white man’s feelings. The white man is to be excused, and deplorable behavior, criminal behavior, continually goes largely unpunished. History shows that white men are categorically issued lighter sentences than those of any other race for committing the same crimes, if they are even convicted. Not to mention the number of black and brown kids serving long prison sentences for victimless crimes.
Point is, Turner’s slap on the wrist is not an exception to the rule; it is the rule.
A friend of Turner’s asked that the judge not be “politically correct,” and blamed everyone—including the school, campus drinking culture, the party and the victim—for the assault.
“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10[-plus] years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges,” wrote Turner’s friend Leslie Rasmussen to the judge.
This country is built around protecting the white man’s fragile ego, and the saddest part of this crime is that the criminal has been propped up to look sympathetic.
If you can bring yourself to read the victim’s statement, you can find it here.
It’s beautifully written by a strong woman who I hope can find comfort in knowing that there are millions of us out here who sympathize with her, the actual victim. But she has to carry the weight of two crimes that were committed against her person: the first, an unspeakable act of aggression; and the second, a vocalized horror of apologist behavior, a devastating injustice that black people know all too well.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.