Saturday, June 04, 2016

Here We Go Again

Sometimes the differences just slap you in the face. Not that you're looking for them. They just appear, and go, "Whap! Now have a nice day!" I never even heard of Brock Allen Turner before today. In case you haven't either, the short version is that he was convicted of rape and sentenced to only six months in county jail and probation because, judge Aaron Persky said, "“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him" (to which the logical response is, "It's supposed to!"). But even before I read the one story that I read, the presentation threw me off. The picture of Turner that accompanied the story - the picture of a convicted rapist - was practically an icon of innocence. I didn't know immediately where it came from (Stanford University, where Turner has been a student), but I immediately knew this: it wasn't a mugshot.

That's what I expect when reading about someone arrested for a crime, you know (let alone convicted of one) - a mugshot. The visual disconnect between the image of this smiling, innocent-looking young man and the crime for which he was arrested and prosecuted, and of which he was convicted, was so jarring that I went to Google in search of a different image - an image of a criminal, or at least someone who had been arrested for a crime - a mugshot.

And I didn't find a single one. (As of 8:25 p.m., 6/4/2016 - perhaps by the time you read this, that will have changed.)

Whap! Now have a nice day!

Now, when even Google doesn't present a mugshot of someone arrested and convicted of a crime - and not some slight misdemeanor, but one of the most heinous and despicable crimes - it makes me ask, "Why is that?"

Was no mugshot taken when Turner was arrested? If there was one taken, has no media outlet anywhere had access to it? Or has every editor who chose to run a story about Turner also deliberately chosen to NOT use a mugshot, although they could? And if editors are making that choice - WHY?

It all leads to the question, "Would there be a mugshot if Turner had been black?' Or to put it in perhaps a more interesting way, have you ever seen a story about a black man arrested for/convicted of a crime that was accompanied by such a benign-looking photo of that person?

Or maybe the distinction at work here is not one merely of race, but of class. Lord knows I've seen plenty of mugshots of non-rich white people.

In any case, I'm not the only one who has noticed:

I expect a hashtag to emerge: #showthemugshot or something similar. Meanwhile, I just wanted to point out, for anyone willing to see: "See this? Here we go again." With all the weariness that that implies. Because it is more tiresome than I know how to say.

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