Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Genarlow Wilson Needs A White Co-Signer

I'm admittedly a bit late to the party on Les Internetes' newest civil rights, cause celebre, Genarlow Wilson. I'd heard a bit about this story weeks ago, and it's parallels to the Marcus Dixon case a few years back.

Marcus Dixon, if you're unaware, was a Straight-A student and football star from Rome, Georgia headed to Vanderbilt University. Born to a drug addicted mother, he was being raised by a white family, but ended up in trouble when consensual sex with a 15 year old white girl on school grounds landed him in hot water. Since Dixon was technically an adult at age 18, and despite the fact that the girl said the act was consensual, the jury voted to convict him of misdemeanor statutory rape and aggravated child molestation. The latter carried a mandatory 10-year sentence with no hope of parole. The jurors hadn't been told about the sentencing guidelines, and several later said they believed they were agreeing to a very light charge that would allow Marcus to return home that afternoon. They were shocked when they heard the judge read the sentence. No teenager in Georgia history had been given this sentence under similar circumstances.

Dixon's case became a media hailstorm, culminating in his release from jail, a subsequent appearance on Oprah, and an upcoming movie deal. Anyone with half a brain knows that while Dixon's story was undoubtedly tainted through the lens of race, the subsequent media attention and his eventual release were certainly helped by the fact that he had been raised and vindicated by a white household.

Much like the curious phenomenon of The Black Co-Signer works in the world of Hip-Hop (Eminem/Dre, Bubba Sparks/Timbaland, Whyte Dawg/Three-6 Mafia), if you're a young person of color with legal woes, you better have some melanin deficient friends in high places (cause-greedy celebrity, media, wealthy benefactors who can assist with your legal fees) or your black ass is toast. If you doubt me, just Google the cases of Jessica Hall and Shaquanda Cotton, two black women who would still be in jail if not for critical media scrutiny.

Just this past weekend, the folks from Dateline NBC took a break from their outlandishly sensational To Catch a Predator series to do some actual journalism for a change. Their two hour primetime special Sunday night about Sterling Spann, a black man in South Carolina wrongly jailed was good enough to make me miss the first part of that Lebron/Spurs ass whipping (Sopranos, who?). Spann, a resident of tiny Clover, SC, spent 20 years in jail for the murder and raping of three elderly white women, we released, retried, tricked into taking a plea that would grant him immediate release, re jailed, and served another 3 years. After his story appeared on Dateline was evidence found that could eventually free him, but then his appeals were denied. This "cluster" goes on for years, until a rich couple of white-guilty New Englanders volunteered legal and financial support. After 3 more appeals, the guy finally got released. This was like 25 years of this guy's life erased for absolutely no reason. It was compelling TV, even if they part about the benefactors was merely presented as a footnote. Still, it proved my point: unless you've got Kobe Bryant lawyers, you better watch where you walk, guilt is presumed in this country if you're my complexion.

The thought of young Genarlow Wilson, sitting in a jail cell for nothing other than very bad judgement (videotaping) is scary. Even scarier is the thousands of other Genarlow's in prisons nationwide who don't have the benefit of a sympathetic journalist or a White Co-Signer.

May God be with him. MLK is crying, and praying, inside.

Genarlow Wilson waits in prison as his release is challenged [AJC]

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