So I don’t even know why this is a debate. I am referring to the defense that Ethan Couch’s lawyers used to describe why he should not be charged for murder. For once attorneys actually got it right. Now the question is, can they have that same ecological viewpoint with people of color?
Affluenza is real, rich folks are socialized differently and that socialization does have real impacts on their ability to perceive that their actions have cosequences. Let me break that down, we live in a capitalist society, money is our God and King period. Capitalism tells us that the ability to buy and consume products is an high indicator of social well being. Capitalisms supercedes all faiths, religions, etc. (Hence why you praying for more dollars in your bank account and financial breakthrough and donating money to your religious institution for a little return of God’s favor) Not to bash religion, but there is a financial system that truly has an invisible hand in all things in our lives.
I’m not saying that money is everything, but those who are privileged enough to have intergeneraltional wealth, especially the type of wealth the Couch’s had clearly, had a different type of life, and the same rules, experiences and expectations do not apply to them. Regardless of what the legal law says, the denominator of wealth always plays the role of the invisible hand, in most cases.
Money provides access (better schools, entry into certain social circles, the best attoirneys, etc.) and that access affords you more control over your life circumstances/outcomes aka Affluenza. That teenager had a history of living above the law and against the rules, and yes I will state that a lot of his behavior was typical teenage behavior (i.e. smoking pot drinking, etc.) However, people can’t deny that his status as a wealthy white person, evaded him from some of the same consequences that teens of of color often encounter for those same offenses ( i.e. suspension, jail time, etc.).
HOWEVER, where he went wrong that night was that he ran over and killed a bunch of white, church going, wealthy folks as opposed to black and brown folks in a poor and urban neighborhood. That’s where he fucked up. If he would have killed poor brown and black folks we most likely would have never heard about this case. He killed the wrong people, the people he killed, very much like himself, had the social capital and fiscal capital to get a defense attorney and garner favorable media attention. Their attorney was not a random public defender (shout out to all my public defenders in the struggle), there was no struggle to get Couch indicted, the wealth and opportunity of these victims allowed for them to exigently push their interests/case without intense social backlash.
But I digress, the use of the term Affluenza is one of the first times I have seen the legal system really acknowledge a more systems/environmental/ecological perspective for how ones upbringing, social standing, enculturation, financial opportunities, and overall their environment really does have an impact on folks decision making skills and perception of what are appropriate consequences to their actions. That shit is real. Imagine growing up poor in an impoverished community and experiencing violence, constant financial struggle, social stigma, etc. That will have an impact on your upbringing, perception, decision making, and the actions you take. in the same way Couch’s upbringing made it impossible for both him and his mother to believe he should face the full legal ramifications for his actions he took. Environment matters. And although the Couch case is enervating and sensationalized, it is a perfect case example for why it is important to examine folks as a smaller part of their environment.
By the way–Happy New Year and welcome to Love and -Isms.