The American justice system’s leniency with non-blacks in the event of a committed crime or misdeed has surfaced once again with the Felicity Huffman case.
Huffman’s 14-day jail term, in many eyes, is lenient given a severe precedent involving a Black woman.
Huffman, a white, paid $15,000 to a ‘Scholastic Aptitude Test’ (SAT) test administrator to cheat on her daughter’s test, so her daughter could get into a better college.
When her deed got exposed, she was sentenced to 14 days in jail, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a year’s probation.
That would have been justice in many eyes except a similar misdeed received a sterner punishment.
In 2011, Tanya McDowell, a black woman, lied about the school district she lived in so her 6-year-old boy could go to a better school, even though she was homeless.
The quest for her son to get a conducive environment to study in resulted in she being slapped with a 5-year jail term which she served.
What was more worrying about the Bridgeport, Connecticut woman’s case was that she was homeless.
Tanya’s crime was that she enrolled her son, Andrew, in an elementary school in the neighbouring town of Norwalk — using her son’s babysitter’s address for registration papers.
At the time, she and her son were living out of her van and homeless shelters, and spending nights at an apartment in Bridgeport, the Connecticut Post reported.
She was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny and served five years behind bars for the “stolen” education.
A stunned Tanya said in court: “Who would have thought that wanting a good education for my son would put me in this predicament? I have no regrets seeking a better education for him, I do regret my participation in this drug case,” referring to drug charges she faced as well.
For actress Felicity Huffman, who is a role model for some, she partook of the college admissions scandal when she paid $15,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF).
Singer then facilitated cheating on Huffman’s daughter’s SAT test by having a proctor correct the teen’s answers.
Critics say the disparity in her sentence shows white privilege benefits are well and alive.
Another Black mom, Kelley Williams-Bolar, was sentenced to 10 days in a county jail in 2011. The Ohio mom was convicted of lying about her home address to get her daughters into a different school district.
Williams-Bolar refused when officials asked her to pay $30,000 in back tuition and was convicted of falsifying residency records.
But why do mums from disadvantaged segments from society use different addresses to enrol their wards?
The answer may lie in a Washington Post report which held that white school districts received $23 billion more in government funding than nonwhite school districts in 2016, regardless of the fact that they had the same number of students.
With the system stuck against them, many parents, including Tanya and Williams-Bolar, find themselves using the addresses of friends and family to get their children into better school districts.
Singer John Legend shed light on Tanya’s case in his reaction to Huffman’s sentencing.
“It’s insane we locked a woman up for 5 years for sending her kid to the wrong school district,” the father of two wrote, referencing Tanya. “Literally everyone involved in that decision should be ashamed of themselves.”
It’s insane we locked a woman up for 5 years for sending her kid to the wrong school district. Literally everyone involved in that decision should be ashamed of themselves— John Legend (@johnlegend) September 14, 2019
“It’s unconscionable that we locked a woman up for voting when, unbeknownst to her, she was ineligible,” Legend continued, referring to Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years in prison for voting in the 2016 election even though she said she was unaware that she was ineligible to vote, according to the Huffington Post.
“And no one in our nation will benefit from the 14 days an actress will serve for cheating in college admissions. We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff,” the ‘All of Me’ singer concluded.