Column: Zimmerman, affluenza and white male privilege
Race helps three prominent men beat the social system.
Feb. 14, 2014
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
On the surface, George Zimmerman and Ethan Couch have nothing in common.
George Zimmerman is a 30-year-old white-Hispanic man from Sanford, Fl., while Couch is a 17-year-old boy from Fort Worth, Texas. If you saw the two walking down the street one day, you would assume they don’t have anything in common.
You would be wrong.
Both Zimmerman and Couch benefit from white male privilege in America. Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, recently decided to compete in a “celebrity” boxing match against rapper DMX just seven months after a jury acquitted him. Couch was sentenced to only 10 years’ probation for causing a car accident that killed four people back in June. The teen, who was drunk at the time of the crash, was ordered by a judge last week to a lock-down residential treatment facility.
Due to public backlash, the promoter of Zimmerman’s fight with DMX, Damon Feldman, canceled the match on Saturday evening.
Dr. Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, wrote in 1988 that white privilege is an “invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in one day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious.” Men, according to McIntosh, rarely “go beyond acknowledging that men have an unearned advantage, or that unearned privilege has not been good for men’s development as human beings.” She described this as male privilege.
Zimmerman, Couch and Feldman, as white men, have repeatedly pulled from their knapsacks of privilege since entering the public spotlight.
Zimmerman, back in February 2012, was given the benefit of the doubt when he admitted to shooting and killing Martin. When the police arrived in his Sanford neighborhood, Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense was sufficient enough to not be arrested since he was the only witness. The controversial Stand Your Ground law gave Zimmerman this benefit of the doubt, something many black men – including Martin – will never obtain.
Couch was pseudo-diagnosed with “affluenza” by a witness during his trial last summer. According to Dr. G. Dick Miller, a Texas psychologist, Couch was too coddled and spoiled by his wealthy parents to understand the difference between right and wrong.
Miller has since spoken out that his use of “affluenza” was not a diagnosis and was taken out of context but, at the core, he believes that being too wealthy takes the weight of fault off the shoulders of those who do wrong.
Imagine that defense being used for the 46.5 million people living in poverty in the U.S. If that was the case, maybe the war on poverty would be more beneficial.
Feldman, the least important figure of the three, best exemplified white male privilege through a string of tweets he sent out over the weekend.
“Done with George Zimmerman if you had a major payday sitting in front of you, I know no one else would walk away like I did ***Next!!,” Feldman said from his @hollywoodbox11 Twitter handle on Saturday night.
Early Sunday morning, Feldman added, “I made the right decision I could of made big $$$ but I would rather be happy.”
Instead of admitting that he was wrong for even considering making money off the death of Martin, Feldman presented himself as a patron saint. Not understanding how it is perceived for a white man to make money to the detriment of a black male body — i.e. slavery — is the privilege Feldman holds.
Being white has earned these three men advantages in America that women and people of color will never obtain in the near future. Zimmerman has beaten the system on multiple occasions even after proving to not be a decent human being. Couch’s family wealth has earned him a “get out of jail free” card that poor people could only dream of. Feldman is a modern day slave owner who shows zero remorse for the death of a black body.
Until people like Zimmerman, Couch and Feldman realize and accept the privilege they have, those on the other side — minorities and women — will continue to be beat by a system that was never built for them.