It's less than a week into the New Year and already we're seeing the same issues of unequal treatment and harsher punishment of P.O.C. when it comes to the American justice systems. On January 5 the news story began circulating of four Chicago youths who Facebook live streamed themselves attacking and tormenting a special needs teenager. Undoubtedly this is a terrible act, and all individuals involved should be punished for their actions. However, examining the case one can't help but notice a stark contrast to a similar case from last year involving similar circumstances with the only difference initially being the race of the attackers.
On October 23, 2015, an Idaho mentally disabled teenager was attacked by three of his peers – R.K. Howard (18), Tanner Ward (17), and an unnamed juvenile- following the team's football practice. Not only did the three teens physically assault the young man, but also sexually violated him with a coat hanger. Ward initiated the attack while Howard (pictured above) kicked the coat hanger several times while it was inserted into the victim’s rectum. It was an equally horrible and aggressive act, with stark unexpected results. Just last December, Howard reached a plea deal to avoid jail time despite his heinous crime. While initially charged with sexual penetration by use of a foreign object, Howard (miraculously) was able to plead to felony injury to a child and will receive only two to three years of probation and community service.
As swiftly as the story circulated, the four Chicago teens have been detained and each charged with a hate crime, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Their arrest took less than a day. The investigation involving Howard and company lasted several months before any charges were officially filed. In case you haven’t concluded, Howard is white while the four teens are African American.
The contrast between Howard's charges and that of the four Chicago individuals is alarming but not surprising when examining the recent string of charges reduced or dismissed against individuals who commit crimes against African American. Howard (and likely Ward) will be released back into society having learned nothing from his actions and likely to enact his hateful views and thoughts on others in the near future. The four Chicago teens, however, are highly likely to be processed and sent to prison without any type of rehabilitation, despite the chances that each were/are special needs students.
I want to remain hopeful that 2017 will be the year that equality will be incorporated into the notion of American justice for all but it is undoubtedly past due time to reconstruct our American justice system, because until we do it fails us all.