Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What if

The boys, both 13, and their parents say their actions were inappropriate, but not criminal, behavior. If convicted, the boys face the possibility of jail time. The judge in the case has barred the boys from returning to school.

Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, were arrested in February after they were caught in the halls of Patton Middle School, in McMinnville, Ore., slapping girls on the rear end. Mashburn told ABC News in a phone interview that this was a common way of saying hello practiced by lots of kids at the school, akin to a secret handshake.The boys spent five days in a juvenile detention facility and were charged with several counts of felony sex abuse for what they and their parents said was merely inappropriate but not criminal behavior.The local district attorney has since backed off -- the felony charges have been dropped and the district attorney said probation would be an appropriate punishment. The Mashburns' lawyer said prosecutors offered Cory a plea bargain that would not require him to register as a sex offender, which the family plans to reject.But the boys, if convicted at an Aug. 20 trial, still face the possibility of some jail time or registering for life as sex offenders.The boys' families and lawyers said even sentencing them to probation would turn admittedly inappropriate but not uncommon juvenile rowdiness into a crime. If they are convicted of any of the misdemeanor charges against them, they would have to register as sex offenders.

"It's devastating," said Mark Lawrence, Cory Mashburn's lawyer. "To be a registered sex offender is to be designated as the most loathed in our society. These are young boys with bright futures, and the brightness of those futures would be over."Cory Mashburn said he and Ryan Cornelison slapped each others' and other kids' bottoms every Friday. "Lots of kids at school do that," he said.Cory and Ryan were brought to the principal's office Feb. 22, where they were questioned by school officials and a police officer. They were arrested that day and taken in handcuffs to a juvenile detention facility.Court papers said the boys touched the buttocks of several girls, some of whom said this made them uncomfortable. The papers also said Cory touched a girl's breasts. But police reports filed with the court said other students, both boys and girls, slapped each other on the bottom."It's like a handshake we do," one girl said, according to the police report.The boys were initially charged with five counts of felony sexual abuse. At a court hearing, two of the girls recanted, saying they never felt threatened or inappropriately touched by the boys. The judge released the boys but barred them from returning to school and required that they be under constant adult supervision.District Attorney Bradley Berry has since dismissed the felony counts. The boys face 10 misdemeanor charges of harassment and sexual abuse. They face a maximum of up to one year in a juvenile jail on each count, though Berry said there was no way the boys would ever serve that much time."An appropriate sentence would be probation," he said. "These are minor misdemeanor charges that reflect repeated contact against multiple victims. We never intended for them to get a long time in detention.""We're not seeking major penalties," he said. "We're seeking change in conduct."'We Just Want This to Be Over' Tracie Mashburn, Cory's mother, said they will not accept plea and plan to fight the charges.The arrests, critics said, reflect a trend toward criminalizing adolescent sexual behavior. Between 1998 and 2002, juvenile arrests for sex offenses other than rape or prostitution rose 9 percent -- the only kind of juvenile arrests that rose during that time, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics."More and more, they are criminalizing normal adolescent or preadolescent behavior," said Chuck Aron, co-chairman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers juvenile justice committee.Even probation, the Mashburns and their attorney said, would be too severe a punishment.Julie McFarlane, a supervising attorney at the Juvenile Rights Project in Portland, Ore., said, "Probation for a sex offense is very difficult thing, and there's a pretty high failure rate." Failing to meet the terms of probation could mean the boys would be sent to jail.Depending on the terms of probation, it's likely that the boys would not be allowed to have sexual contact with anyone or any contact with younger children, McFarlane said. For Cory Mashburn, that would mean he couldn't be left alone with his younger siblings.

"It's been awful," said Cory's mother. "We just want this to all be over. But it will never go away. We'll always remember it."Berry, the district attorney, said the victims -- the girls who were touched -- were being overlooked. "What's been lost in this whole thing are the victims, who have been pressured enormously by these boys' friends," he said.Cory, who said he now realizes what he did was inappropriate, spends his days playing video games and basketball. He said he's scared. "I could go to jail. I could be registered as a sex offender," he said. "I think it's all crazy."

~~~Credits to Chris Raguskey, ABC News~~

Alright so you read that story with me, and I know what you are thinking: "Field, you know damn good and well that if these were little black boys you would be all over it." You would be screaming Jena 6 all over again, and bemoaning the state of out of control prosecutors.

Well guess what; you would probably be right. When a white co-worker, familiar with my blog, e-mailed me this story today, that's exactly what he was saying. I fired off a response to him about getting over it and welcome to our world, something to that effect and went on with my day. But now.... I don't know. I mean am I a hypocrite for not calling out an out of control prosecutor just because the individuals being unjustly accused are white? It's just one of those soul searching moments I guess. I asked myself tonight; what if these kids were black, would I, along with the Afrosphere and Afrospear, be taking up the cause like we did the Jena 6? I don't know, would I? I would like to think it wouldn't make a difference. I mean injustice is injustice no matter who it is against, Right?

But then again, the more I think about it, the more I realize that these kids don't need me to advocate for them. They have an entire race of people. People like the ones who came out for the Duke lacrosse players, and like my colleague who e-mailed me the story. They have the power of the press: Talk radio, FOX NEWS, opinion pieces, guest commentators, CNN, the nightly news on every major network, and on and on. Folks like the Jena 6, and Genarlow Wilson, only have a few outlets: Black bloggers, a benevolent white T.V. producer, or one of the camera loving Reverends. So you will excuse me if I want to tell those stories over say the story of these poor boys up in Oregon.

"But come on field what if they were black; wouldn't you be all over the story even more than you are now?" OK let me answer that for you; yes I would!


rikyrah said...

Sadly, I agree with you, Field. These boys have a lot of people in their corner. I can ' feel' for their predicament, but they'll be just fine without folks like me fighting for them.

Jose said...

The biggest issue I find with this is that even if we wanted to have sympathy for these boys, people like you and me just shrug our shoulders and say "That's life." if people from all across the country and colors came out in full force about the Jena 6 or Wilson, then we could reciprocate that argument for these boys, but they're already going to get saved. They already "got it made." It's unfortunate, but true. They'll go through their tribulations now, but it'll all get swept under the rug.

Anyways, this was good. Keep em coming ...

Hathor said...

It is bothering me that more of these type of prosecutions are taking place and that the sex offender laws have been written so they cover this kind of behavior and that of Genarlow Wilson. I think it is possible to know when another child is being sexually abusive to another. The problem for every prosecution like this, it makes it so much easier to prosecute black children and treat them as if they are adults. I remember the 14 year old child who shot and killed his teacher in Florida. Until that moment, this black kid had no problems in school and was an honor student. Immediately he was charge as an adult and the media treated him as if he were Public Enemy no. 1. Not to long before that a 13 year white child had beaten to death a four year old. (I can't remember enough to give more detail, but I remember his red hair.)The media swarm all wanted to understand this child. They even went back five year later to interview him to see how he was doing. I want us to acknowledge the injustice of this case, so that we can easily point out the differences in treatment and speak out about unjust laws because we are the first to suffer.

Angie said...

This story bothers me for a few reasons.

1. If this is happening to white boys in America, we should shutter at the very thought of what the criminal justice system does to our young men. Yeah, we know about the Wilson case. But just imagine all of the black boys that have been locked up for basically nothing, whose stories haven't hit the media/blogs.

2. I love black children. But I happen to have a big heart for all the children of the world. It sickens me to see children excessively punished, which is in my opinion abuse. I think this is a classic case of abuse carried out by the ones that should be protecting children.

Yes, what the boys did was inappropriate. But I firmly believe that the punishment should match the intensity of the crime. Slapping girls on the rear and grabbing their breast is rude, offensive, and out of line. But should these boys be registered for life as a sex offender?

In that case, I got plenty of boys and men that I need to see get registered right away. My memory can't hold the times that the ignant boys I went to school with tried to steal a feel. Shoot, the men that I come in contact with now, sometimes try to get slick and rub and lean up against you all inappropriate and thangs.

(For the record: I ain't got no love for those Duke boys. They were grown men (not children like these boys in Oregon) that should have made better choices. And they shouldn't have treated those girls like that. Then maybe they wouldn't have been in their predicument.)

3. Since I've been working as a counselor, the one thing that I've gotten a chance to see is how many people, not just black people, are suffering. Yes, we got the patent on suffering. But that doesn't mean that we can't have compassion and a heart for other people that may look differently from us, who are going through something terrible, unjust, and/or utterly ridiculous.

Field, am I saying you should take up this cause and speak out for these boys? Nope... My advice is that you continue to speak loudly about what convicts your heart and what you feel passion for. However, it is always good not to turn a blind eye to any kind of injustice, no matter what color the target is.

Have a good one.

Angie said...

Field: And in your own special way, you did speak out about this injustice. Although, you don't feel like these boys need to have "us" fighting for them in the backdrop, you still sounded the alarm about the case on your blog. And that was cool.

Perhaps, your white critics will see that you are not only a field negro, but a fair negro. But probably not. You just can't satisfy some of them.

Holla atcha next week.

field negro said...

"Perhaps, your white critics will see that you are not only a field negro, but a fair negro.."

"fair negro" angie, I like that!
I hope the original e-mailer saw that I at least blogged the story,and maybe he will see me more as a "fair negro" for that.

hathor, you are right, as someone who should know, I can testify to the fact that an out of control prosecutor can be a scary thing.

Nate Perkins said...

Action Center For Justice: Anti-Racist Videos March

Anonymous said...

I look at it in a slightly different way: the mechanisms of white supremacy are slowly being turned upon lower class white people. You know how folks talk about classes of european immigrants gradually gaining "whiteness" in America (e.g., the Irish). In effect, we have a reverse phenomenon going on in some quarters, where poorer white people are loosing their "whiteness".

I do feel a sorry for whites when this happens, but not much, because white apathy about injustices has caused them to proliferate and affect the more vulnerable white populations.

Police brutality/murder is another example. Oregon has had many instances of blacks being killed unjustly by cops, like any other place. And similar white apathy and victim-blaming. But the last few years have witnessed a peculiar trend. Many whites are starting to be unjustly killed by cops. And when the whites protest and complain about it, you have the same idiots come out and lay the blame on the victims, just like they do with blacks. Amazingly the mechanisms of justification are already in place, honed by their application on black victims. I don't think alot of the cop supporters will understand what is going on until they find themselves at the wrong end of a police baton/gun. Yes, Mr. Charlie, it can happen to you.

They don't realize that illusion of individualism requires "whiteness". Otherwise, you get guilt by association. Of course, they don't see their "whiteness".

(A little more background about Oregon is necessary. High unemployment rate, pervasive welfare systems, and a large "underclass" of whites living here.

So when people say that this is happening to black folks; yes, I assume it is. Black folks in Oregon (2-3% of the population, mostly living in Portland) have been catching hell in Oregon for years, and continue to do so. Black students who are unlucky enough to live in all white enclaves (lot of white adoption of black kids), catch a special kind of hell.

This state was a bastion of the klan, and is filled with former sundown towns that excluded a range of non-whites, and remain nearly all white today. I call it the "white flight" state, because white californians (among others) are fleeing here for a taste of exclusive white neighborhoods, what they see as "low crime", and a low cost of living. I also call it "white man's heaven" because of the sighs of delight I often get from white folks about "how good it is here".)

-Caged Lion

Anonymous said...

oops, I mean "LOSING their whiteness".


The Angry Independent said...

That's why I like you... you are not afraid to rewind and self reflect. Good post.


Sidenote: You mentioned yesterday that you were getting upset with Mayor Street because a murder had occurred right under a Philly surveillance camera that was not working. ...Ooops!

Perhaps Mayor Street captured the incident on his IPhone...
Just a thought.

Maybe someone could ask him.

jameil1922 said...

i was thinking the same thing. PLENTY of advocates on their behalf. this is an ongoing case. cases like these for black children never make it mainstream until the kids have already been convincted, locked up and had the key thrown away.

Kahnee said...

Caged Lion, thanks for the brain food and setting up a different perspective.

Field, as always, good post.

Homeland Colors said...

I feel where you’re coming from, if they were African Americans it wouldn't even be a story, but injustice is injustice. You gotta call them how u see em for two reasons. One, its just the right thing to do, if u see and injustice we should say something period, which i think u did do in your own way. Also, it is important to say something out of self interest, if laws are reformed so that young white children are protected from excessive prosecution, it can expand to young African American children. If the majority population won't be motivated by young African American children being misused by the system, perhaps they will be by young white ones being harmed and we can use that to change the laws. Just my two cents.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Yeah, Field, your co-worker wants you to expend the same amount of energy advocating for white kids being placed under allegedly unfair punishment, but what is his attitude towards Genarlow Wilson and the Jena 6?

If he has the same amount of outrage, then his point would be for consideration, but since it appears it's not, tell him to go blow it out of his you-know-what.

Yeah, I think the punishment is outrageous, but maybe these kids will learn a lesson early about respecting young women, and keeping your hands to yourself. When I was in school, dudes used to "pop that ass" especially if you had a big one.

The sista that the ass belonged to usually retaliated with a well-placed right hook to brotha-man's jaw. So, even today, it's not okay for these guys to swat a girl on the ass as a "Hello".

Either open your mouth to speak, or drink your can of STHU.

Genarlow Wilson and the Jena 6 are actually members of the damned penal system, and until that atrocity is corrected, I can't expend the energy to defend the punishment Ryan and Cory are getting from something they chose to do - swatting girls on the ass.

I'm more outraged about the House Negroes assisting in keeping Genarlow and the Jena 6 on lockdown.

fairlane said...

I'm a white type dude, and here's what I say about this incident.

Field, et al, there's no need to come to their defense because they don't need it.

I am the father of a 3 1/2 daughter. If some boy be he black, white or striped like a Barber Pole did that to my daughter there would be no need to worry about the Justice System overreacting. Why?

Well, because I'd have one of my Sicilian friends remove the little punk's hands.

Personally, I don't think it's overreacting. Little girls, and big girls, go through enough shit in life as it is being objectified by males and society in general. Slapping their asses may appear to be "innocent", but it's not. Do these boys slap the asses of their male friends who walk down the halls? I mean they claim it's just another way of saying, "hello."

And of course the girls are going to say, "It's no big deal." They don't want to be ostracized or picked on even more, and let's be honest a strong female is not going to let the boys slap her butt as she walks down the hall. She's going to be smacking someone's head if that happens.

Working as a counselor, I dealt with many young girls who suffered from low self-esteem, and a distorted image of themselves, and in part it's because of crap like this. Such "harmless" acts can hurt someone for life, and I don't think they need to be defended.

Should they go to the Big House, no, but they need to be punished, and this kind of behavior needs to stop.

I wrote a post yesterday related to this issue in an abstract way, and I was wondering if you, meaning Field, would check it out and tell me what you think. Any one else who wants can obviously read it as well, and I'd love to hear the "black" take on what I wrote.

I don't normally do this, and if it's not cool let me know Field. It's just that in the past few days I've written a couple of posts that have apparently upset my "white" audience, and I say they can kiss my black arse. (Let me say, I like to curse, and if that upsets you this post may not be for you).
Police abuse and brutality.

Latimer Williams said...

There in lies the difference Field, these kids come born with advocates that fight there cause and always try to right the wrongs that are thrown their children's way.

African-American kids on the other hand don't always have the voice that fights for them. How long did it take for the Shaquanda Cotton case to be in mainstream? It was because bloggers like you and I have been grinding it out letting everyone know what was up with her.

Though I do feel sympathy for these kids and yes this is overkill. That is the main difference, with all the cases that happen to our kids we don't always get that same sympathy back, we mostly get , "we should get over it" or " there they go throwing the race card again".On an offbeat note, where the hell is this deck of race cards and why have I never seen them?

rikyrah said...

I thought ALL INJUSTICE was the same....

But, WHEN have you heard about a wrongly imprisoned BLACK MAN getting anywheres NEAR THIS:

U.S. must pay $101M to wrongly imprisoned men

Jen said...

"But come on field what if they were black; wouldn't you be all over the story even more than you are now?" OK let me answer that for you; yes I would!

And that's why I'll no longer read you.

Anonymous said...

Field, I love you man!!!!

LongdeShizi said...


And these guys were mobbed up, apparently!

I guess white privilege hasn't rubbed off of everyone!

-Caged Lion

Woozie said...

Don't play like that man. You know good and damn well that whether or not it was a handshake and whether or not they were white it's a damn shame that not only are they facing permanent ostracization but jail time for a little ass slapping at thir-fucking-teen. They're not sex offenders, they're stupid kids.

You know good and damn well that these prosecutors should be spending their time on vastly more important issues like the reason cities like Killadelphia earn their flattering nicknames.

And you know good and damn well that this is your opportunity to take the high road. You say the white community is eager to help their own, but not others. Here is your chance to be better than them, to step across racial lines and support all people being unjustly persecuted. Dr. King said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", you know this and you understand the wisdom behind the man's words. And until you are willing to look past the color of these boys and support them in their struggle, you are being just as bad as the white people you rant and rave against every day.

west coast story said...

Call me an idealist but wrong is just wrong. What's that saying about how you didn't help when they came for this group or that group and when they came for you, there was no one left to save you?

I'm a femnist and yet this case stinks. Even if these boys were the worst bullies at the school, labeling a 13-year old a sex offender for what they did is just wrong. You know, we have to live with the consequences of society's excesses whether it's white or black youth who are wronged. Suspension and kicking them off whatever extra curricular activities they are on might be more appropriate. One kid was on TV this morning with his lawyer and it was clear the lawyer thought he needed some attitude adjustment but the school's response was over the edge.

The criminal justice does not work for anyone without resources, white, black, latino, whatever. The one thing most prisoners have in common is that they are probably poor. Occasionally some middle class people end up in there but it's people who cannot afford decent representation. After all, OJ got away with murder and last time I checked, he was black. The wronfully convicted include people of all colors.

Poor white people are not just now catching hell. Been catching hell but the haves do a great job of keeping all the have-nots of all stripes divided along racial and any other lines they can. Sadly, black people are only too willing to reinfore that thinking. MLK was trying to bring poor people together when he died, which leads to a lot of speculation of that's why he was killed. He was trying to bring the have nots together.

The truth is that the revolution will come when poor folks bury their differences and move forward together through the ballot box or whatever.

I don't know that these kids are poor or not but this is just wrong. This is like the stupid school up in Marin that decided a girl couldn't wear Tigger socks becauuse it violated the dress codes to contain gang conflicts. Adults are really stupid when they want to be.

field negro said...

" 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere', you know this and you understand the wisdom behind the man's words. And until you are willing to look past the color of these boys and support them in their struggle, you are being just as bad as the white people you rant and rave against every day."

In "their struggle?" Woozie surely you jest! Yes the prosecutor in this case is out of control, and yes the prosecutor's office should be called on their bullshit. But "their struggle?" I must have been reading a different story, but I don't think these poor boys have served any jail time yet, and the more serious felony charges have already been dropped..."their struggle?" OK angry independent, this is where my self reflection comes in.....nope, I don't see a struggle. In fact the last time a white person in this country was involved in a struggle; the fucking Indians were roaming the prairie. Please!

This post is the extent of my support for these boys.

BTW, I don't rant against "white people" every day...every other day maybe.

Woozie said...

Their struggle in not being unfairly labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Dramatic bullshit aside, Cory's lawyer has it right.

Sex offenders are treated like shit in this country, worse than black people. And it doesn't even matter whether they raped a little girl or if they shouted "nice tits" after having too much to drink, the specific offense doesn't matter. Americans hate to hear the full story, which is why they don't pay attention to the news. "Sex offender"=Dreg of society, case closed.

You yourself said in this very post

""But come on field what if they were black; wouldn't you be all over the story even more than you are now?" OK let me answer that for you; yes I would!"

So your reasons for supporting these boys so half-heartedly is because they're white meaning they have all the help they need, and whites have treated blacks far worse and cared not at all. Right?

Wrong. That's racism. You can't lump all of white America into one ambiguous person, just like you said people can't lump all of black America into one person - you. Sure, some white people are raging racists just looking to lynch anyone who's not copy-paper-white. But some white people are civil minded, decent human who aren't racist assholes. Or if they have racist beliefs at least they have the decency to not act on them. All of white America is not united against black people, it's simple fact.

And these boys do not have all the support they "need". You can never have too much support when some prosecutor is looking to screw your life up as much as possible "in the pursuit of justice".

field negro said...

Woozie, I appreciate and respect your passion, but sorry, as I stated in a previous comment, had the boyz been black my reaction WOULD have been different. See woozie, that's the difference between yours truly and others in this debate in America on matters of race; I am HONEST.

Those poor boyz up in Oregon don't look like me, and sorry, they have not been in my struggle- nor will they ever be, and thus I can't totally empathize with them.

If this seems hypocritical I suppose it is. But you know what;I can't sit here and lie to you about looking at these boyz in a color blind manner.(I guess I ain't Martin) There is just too much bullshit in America for me to go that route.

I am not Star Jones said...

an aside: what does your white co-worker (and maybe others like him/her) do when he reads about injustices confronting black people in America?

Do they write letters to judges?
Blog about it?
Why does this person feel you should take the burden of highlighting injustices but not him/her?

Just curious.

Also Caged Lion, amen to your post. Maybe if more white Americans stood up in the face of legal injustice regardless of the color of the victim, they wouldn't have to learn these unfortunate hard lessons of what America is like when you aren't rich, famous and/or connected.

Woozie said...

Field, you do realize that is close to the definition of racism. You're justifying your racism with others' racism towards you.

LongdeShizi said...

Our struggle is not so much about "racism" as it is about black empowerment. Let's keep the eye on the prize, people.

If black people have the same opportunities as any other people, I could give a damn about how whites feel about me, or how we feel about them.

Woozie, you are so caught up with how Field 'feels', you fail to realize that it has no effect on white folks, materially. The problem of white racism is that it manefests in actions that affect the material status of blacks.

West coast story, you are indeed an idealist. That story about being the last people taken away has already happened to black americans; we were the first people to be drug away! Now the white are last people standing, and the "man" is coming for them!

Awkward Silence said...

I think that some people, like Woozie, are making the critical mistake of confusing individual injustice with a social injustice.

One of my favorite people in the world, Yehuda Bauer, often notes that "All victims suffer the same." The point of this is to say that on a person to person level, injustice is injustice regardless of who you are. Bauer's point then, is that in order to truly understand injustice you have to look at its perpetrators, not its victims.

These boys aren't being prosecuted because they are white. Even if they were, there's no national, historical phenomenon of whites suffering due to the fact that they're white. If the kids were black, the historical and social context of the situation would AUTOMATICALLY make it an issue. Thus making it worthy for Field Negro to post about.

I think Field Negro's post makes complete sense and mad props to him for having such mature introspection and self analysis.

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