New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof sees “racial injustice” in the harsh sentence given to a 13-year-old black boy who shot a white woman in the face as part of a gang initiation and robbery.
Twenty-four years later, after years of painful surgeries to rebuild her mouth, the victim is advocating for her attacker’s release.
A white 13-year-old probably wouldn’t have been given such a long sentence, Kristof believes.
Would a white 13-year-old be seen as troubled, a candidate for rehabilitation, rather than dangerous? Maybe. I think many people would care about the crime rather than the skin color.
Ian Manuel was raised — badly — by a single mother addicted to drugs. Arrested 16 times, “he desperately needed help, but instead the authorities kept returning him to a dysfunctional home,” writes Kristof.
“We as a society failed Manuel early on, and he, in turn, failed us,” argues Kristof. “When you can predict that an infant boy of color in a particular ZIP code is more likely to go to prison than to college, it’s our fault more than his.”
Most black boys born in bad neighborhoods don’t commit brutal, senseless crimes. And most kids removed from their dysfunctional homes — typically placed with relatives or in foster care — do very, very poorly as adults. “Society” doesn’t know how to save boys like Manuel.