Intoxication: One man’s crime is another man’s innocence
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford claimed that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was heavily intoxicated when he allegedly sexually assaulted her. According to former classmates and friends of Kavanaugh, his alcohol consumption during high school and college was falsely understated by Kavanaugh during his hearing. Underage drinking at parties is so common that when we hear about a young white boy participating, more often than not, it is considered to be a very minor infraction.
In early September, twenty-six-year-old Harding University graduate Botham Jean was shot and killed in his apartment by local police officer and resident Amber Guyger. Mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own, Guyger alleges that she believed him to be an intruder in her apartment and shot him. Though she has altered her story more than once, Guyger has alleged that this was an unintentional mistake.
Regardless of the clear confession and undeniable injustice of his murder, the local police department searched Jean’s home and car rather than those of his murderer. This same department publicly released the discovery of a small amount of marijuana in Jean’s possession, as is so often done to justify the unwarranted death or assault of black men.
Kavanaugh has been accused of attempted rape while intoxicated, though his actions and behavior were repeatedly excused by the same senators who voted him into the highest court in the United States. Jean was not under any kind of substance influence when he was shot, nor was he ever arrested or accused of a crime except his mere possession of marijuana, unknown to the officer who killed him, has been used to justify his senseless death and smear his character.
It is normalized for high school and college boys to break the law and drink to the point of blackout on multiple occasions, but finding marijuana on the property of a non-violent man with no criminal record is so reprehensible that we can excuse the brutality of his murderer.
In mid-August, prior to the death of Jean, Mohamed Sayem was allegedly assaulted by police officers for sleeping while intoxicated in his car, according to Sayem’s attorney Scott Sanders. While he was not driving under the influence, this was reason enough for a California police officer to drag him out of the car and beat him, claiming that Sayem was violent and belligerent. This behavior is not apparent in the dash-cam footage recording of the altercation and it is refuted by Sayem and his lawyers. In the dash-cam footage it does appear as though an officer repeatedly punches Sayem in the face and at the end of the altercation after Sayem asked if the officers were going to shoot him, one of them can be heard replying “I’d like to.”
The cushioned sentence of the Brock Turner case in 2016 was based on the “severe impact” the judge in question believed a harsh sentence would have on Turner’s life. Though several witnesses saw the attempted rape, the judge claimed that alcohol “is a factor that, when trying to assess moral culpability in this situation, is mitigating.”
White men are repeatedly excused for drunken behavior. Harmless party fun that “everyone does” in college is expected behavior. This narrative, however, is only ever used to defend the actions of one privileged demographic while villainizing any others who partake. Had Blasey Ford been heavily intoxicated on this alleged night, there would likely have been talk about how she was irresponsible and was “asking for it.” Non-violent Black men who are approached by law enforcement while intoxicated are, in our society, asking to be killed or violently persecuted by police officers.
Our media and our justice system constantly seeks to exonerate young white boys for their bad behavior and criminalize the mere existence of black people.