Thursday, February 7, 2013

White, Rich, Yale Students Such as Brendan Ross Do Got It Good: Race and Class Privilege is the Ability to Run People Over With a U-Haul Van and to Get Off Relatively Scott Free

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- The Yale student who drove a U-Haul into a crowd and killed a woman will not go to jail. 22-year-old Brandon Ross pled guilty to reduced charges this morning in New Haven court.  
All Brendan Ross had to do was say "guilty" two times and he walked out of court with no jail time. 
In November of 2011, Ross was behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck loaded with beer kegs. He pulled into the parking lot of the Yale Bowl for some tailgating. Police determined he was sober but accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake and drove into 3 women, injuring two and killing one.
As a resident of New Haven, CT I could not resist commenting on the above story.

We are all born between urine and feces--to steal a term from a prominent black public intellectual who likely stole the phrase from someone else. Homages are real and powerful. They should not be retreated from.

In the case of Brendan Ross, it would appear that some of us are born between feces that do not smell too bad. The urine for said class of folks is also apparently very sweet.

Race privilege is real in America. A person of color who ran over a bunch of people at a tailgate party while driving a truck full of liquor would be in jail.

Class privilege is real. A working class, middle class, or poor person, of any color, who runs over people in a fit of impatience in the same scenario would also be in jail.
In November of 2011, Ross was behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck loaded with beer kegs. He pulled into the parking lot of the Yale Bowl for some tailgating. Police determined he was sober but accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake and drove into 3 women, injuring two and killing one. 
In May of 2012, Ross was arrested for negligent homicide. Since then, his lawyer Willie Dow put together a deal to get that dropped down to the level of a couple traffic infractions.
"He's grateful for that. Part of that came about as a result of the compassion and understanding of the family of the young woman who died," said Dow. 
30-year-old Nancy Barry of Salem Massachusetts died in that crash. Court records say her family supported the plead deal. Dow says both families agreed putting Brendan behind bars would only ruin another life. 
"From the very beginning, Brendan and his family have expressed their compassion to the Barry family. His parents went to the wake for Ms. Barry. She remains in his prayers. He's a very spiritual, religious kid," said Dow.
Must be nice to be such a good kid? 

You can teach me something here: how does gender play into Brendan Ross's sentence? If he was female would the sentence be greater? If he were a rich person of color would the sentence be different?

I often struggle with how to distill abstract concepts about social inequality down into accessible examples and ideas for students. For example, when I talk about wealth, I frame it as the thing which keeps you off the street when you lose a job, and/or that bundle of opportunities which you can hand down to your kids and/or other heirs.

Income is more temporary and ephemeral: as such, it comes and goes. I may now add the following example wherein a person like Brendan Ross can run over innocent people and kill them, as a demonstration of the power of old money, and its ability to determine life outcomes.

There are two legal systems in America. Regular folks have to suffer under the law; the elites and their children live knowing that they operate under a separate set of rules. What better example is there than how a thief who robs Best Buy of a TV goes to jail for many years, while a bankster that destroys the economy walks free and is reimbursed for his or her "loss?"

U-Haul murder can easily be added to the list of abuses allowed the rich because of their ability to take a "guilty" plea and then pay off the victims. Isn't the United States a great country?


Wavenstein said...

White privilege reveals it's ugly face again. There's not even any mention of the driver being remorseful for his recklessness behind the wheel. All that is mentioned is that he's "grateful" for the plea deal. I guess white privilege is definitely something to be "grateful" for. I'm wondering is the victim a person of color? What about the two survivors race? If this guy were black or latino, he'd be sitting injail right now after being admonished and talked down to like a child in the court room. Regardless of his social or financial standing.

Invisible Man said...

Yea, had he been Black his name might as well have been Bigger Thomas

chauncey devega said...

Heck if he was poor and white he would be under the jail to. He is so smug and entitled in the photo.

chauncey devega said...

But he is going to China to do his community service. Very difficult I imagine. The burden must be unbearable.

hcaparoso said...

This pisses me off so f*****g much.

hcaparoso said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to post just that one sentence. This is very disturbing, but about what I would expect. It kills me to hear the teabaggers rag on about how everyone is racist against white men, w/out even realizing how dumb they sound. They own most of everything, and then when they KILL someone, they get off! You don't even have to ask what would have happened had he been black, latino, or something like Filipino. Drive in the wrong neighborhood and you get harassed, forget it if you hit somebody w/your car. Course then the driver would probably be shot by the cops, so there wouldn't even BE a trial!

Fred Ceely said...

It may be worth mentioning that negligence is overwhelmingly a civil matter, and protecting the cross-over to criminal is probably a good idea, I mean in general. If charging negligent drivers criminally became too easy, guess who's shoulders would bear most of that burden?

Of course the cross-over here would be much more easily accomplished if the perpetrator had less stellar life possibilities (sarcasm alert). I do think that the real problem has always been greater in purely criminal matters. The comparison of a Yale student and an "urban youth" in first time drug arrests would be much more glaring, and has done more damage.

chauncey devega said...

I hear you. They family took the blood money. I wonder what the payoff was. What is your estimate good counselor?

Fred Ceely said...

They got the policy, usually that's all you can get. The policy limit. I'm sure that U-Haul's lawyer was happy to see it end too. That whole negligence litigation world is a zoo, for sure. Sometimes you just make the sign of the cross and move on.

Edward McCain said...

>both families agreed putting Brendan behind bars would only ruin another life.

What a wonderful, reasonable attitude. I wonder how different the results would have been if the families had been of a different race?

Would a set of Black-Black families display the same civility?

What about the educational situation? Would a set of uneducated whites (instead of college educated Yale pinky-raisers) display the same reasonable attitude?

And while we're on the subject, at what point does Justice become Revenge?

"Your kid, your *sober* kid, accidentally killed my precious snowflake by running over her with a truck full of puppies. Both our kids were in a prestigious university, but I **demand** that your accident-prone Hell spawn be given 4 years in jail for manslaughter, 2 years of probation, and 250 hours of community service IN ADDITION TO paying $8.75 million dollars for my mental anguish."

chauncey devega said...

"Would a set of Black-Black families display the same civility?"

For the sake of curiosity I will leave this up. What in god's name do you mean? There is actually research which demonstrates that people of color are actually more empathetic than whites in this country as measured by cognitive psyche tests.

"A poor white or minority family would most certainly demand financial restitution and incarceration for someone accidentally killing their child."

Huh twice. The family in this case got paid off, I do hope you understand that.

Are you serious or just trolling and/or being a performance artist?