Why the surprise when a jailed white terrorist gets kid-glove treatment?
True, there was the national fury, outcry and indignation over the Trump-inspired Capitol terrorist insurrection. True, there is loud demand from nearly all quarters of the general public for nabbing, jailing and tough punishment of the insurrectionists. True, more than a few, including President-elect Joe Biden, angrily pointed out the glaring double standard of the Capitol police in their gentle, accommodating, even tacitly complicit handling of the mostly white insurrectionists compared to their knock-heads, take-no-prisoners handling of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more to the racial double standard story than just the embarrassing optics of selfie-posing Capitol cops and insurrectionists and bare-knuckle treatment of police abuse protesters.
Jake Angeli is a good starting point to underscore that. He’s the bare-chested guy, the self-anointed shaman with the weird, horned headdress seen in countless shots of the insurrectionists. He was quickly id’d (how could he not be), charged and jailed. He then launched a hunger strike until his demand for organic food was met. Marshalls and jailers scrambled quickly and accommodated him even as prisoner rights advocates tweeted furiously that the demands of Muslim prisoners and other prisoners of color with special dietary needs are rejected or get their requests for special foods only after public protests and lawsuits.
Similar stories abound of the white insurrectionists arrested that have prior multiple arrests, including felony convictions. Or who were caught throwing punches with no charges. Or who were slapped with mild reprimands by their employers after brazenly posting pictures on social media of themselves.
This tired double-standard script is so well-worn we can mail it in. Young whites tear up streets, overturn cars, and battle police after a championship hockey or basketball victory or loss. It’s simply tagged as boys will be boys, acting out, or a young white male shoots up a school or theater and there’s the endless string of psycho-babble pronouncements about his troubled childhood, drug and meds addiction and dependence, and psychological traumas.
The dual racial standard rests squarely on the pantheon of stereotypes and negative typecasting of Blacks that continue to have deadly consequences in the assaults on and the gunning down of unarmed young black males under questionable circumstances. Numerous studies repeatedly find that many of the old stereotypes about crime and Blacks remain just as frozen in time. The studies find that much of the public still perceives those most likely to commit crimes are poor, jobless and Black. They show that once the stereotype is planted, it’s virtually impossible to root out.
While African Americans are more likely to be jailed when convicted of crimes, how many whites can plea-bargain lesser sentences, receive probation or community service, are fined and make restitution, are referred to diversion or rehabilitation programs, or are placed under house monitoring when they commit crimes, even violent felonies?
Angeli gave a strong hint that he won’t be treated like any ordinary criminal. He got his organic food. He got his rights protected. He got lots of press attention that included lengthy quotes from his mother telling what a patriotic, true-blue American son he is. He even got his chance to wrap himself in the mantle of Gandhi and Dr. King and claim his was a lawful protest against injustice.
The Capitol insurrectionists proved, if proof be needed, one thing. That when it comes to lawbreaking, even terrorist lawbreaking, no one should really be surprised that the kid-glove double standard treatment is rolled out for them.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.