Column: Privilege does not determine worth

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The case of Brock Turner vs Chanel Miller once again put the American judicial system into question with how they handle these cases.  Photo by Teemu008 from Flickr Creative Commons.

The case of Brock Turner vs Chanel Miller once again put the American judicial system into question with how they handle these cases. Photo by Teemu008 from Flickr Creative Commons.

This past week, the person known as “Emily Doe” in the Brock Turner case made herself known. Her name is Chanel Miller, and she is a white and Chinese-American female, and she was raped by Turner, a white male. Turner was sentenced to six months in prison, of which he only served three. 

You might wonder why I specifically pointed out their races. The reason is because the U.S. legal system has a tendency to coddle people solely based on their privilege, whether that is determined by their race, social class or something else. 

Take the Brock Turner case, for example. Here we have a young, privileged white man who raped a young woman who is not 100% white. Turner was only sentenced to six months, instead of the maximum sentence of 14 years, partially because the legal system brought up his academic and athletic achievements.  

This is true in other cases as well. This past summer, there was a case in New Jersey where a 16-year-old boy raped an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. The judge determined that the boy came from a good family, had good grades and therefore should not be charged as an adult. The judge also told the girl and her family that she would be destroying his life. 

The outcomes for these cases are absurd; both Turner and the 16-year-old boy deserved to be properly punished for what they did. Both of them were said to have good grades and were attending good schools, but regardless of this, the heinous act that they committed should not have been overlooked. 

Your life’s worth should not be determined by your race or your privilege. Yes, the boy’s life would be destroyed if he was convicted of rape, but rightfully so. What about the fact that he destroyed that girl’s life by raping her?  

The legal system has often overprotected people who are more privileged, whether that is because of their race, their social class or something else entirely. While doing this, people who are not of the same social class, race or even gender often suffer. 

A famous example of this is the Central Park Jogger case. In 1989, five black teenagers were convicted for raping a woman, even though there was no substantial evidence. In 2002, it came to light that it was a serial rapist who attacked the woman. The five teenagers — commonly known as the Central Park Five — were released from prison and their records were expunged, but the state of New York never apologized for their wrongful conviction. 

At the time this occurred, President Donald Trump called for the death penalty for the convicted teenagers. Trump not only did not apologize for what he said, but in 2016, he still claimed that they were involved in the attack in some way.  

There was no substantial evidence that directly connected them to the case, and the police coerced them into confessing. The plain fact is that if they were five white teenagers, they would not have been treated this poorly, and they likely would not have been convicted. 

Here are three separate examples that all favor the people who are born with privilege rather than the people who are not. With this, one cannot possibly say that our system is not flawed in this regard.  

For people who say that privilege — especially white privilege — doesn’t exist, there are countless examples that clearly disprove this. People cannot often look past privilege when they make judgments and determinations, which leads to cases like I described above. Unfortunately, this has been happening for a very long time. 

Perhaps in the future we will implement serious changes in our mindsets to help us look past people’s privilege and be able to make decisions solely based on what they have done.  


Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.

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