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College Cheating Scam and White Privilege

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Felicity Huffman – Creative Commons

The largest college cheating admissions scam was announced today by the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts with over 50 persons being charged including actress Felicity Huffman, college coaches, SAT administrators, exam proctors and 33 parents.  Parents involved paid upwards of over $6.5 million for their children to be admitted to various elite schools including Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest and others.  It was the ultimate example of wealth and privilege being used to secure the futures of the teens involved.  The end result is what many minorities and persons of color expected for a long time.  The system is rigged in  terms of wealth and privilege.

Every parent should teach their children to refrain from lying, cheating and stealing. When the parents lie, cheat and steal for their children to gain admission to prestigious U.S. schools with or without the child’s knowledge, it shows what many persons of color have already suspected all along—that some white privileged children gain an undue and undeserved advantage in college admissions.

Many African American students who have attended/graduated from a prestigious college or university, from President Obama down to myself are often faced with the obvious question/sneer or look from many whites that they took the seat of a qualified white student—due to lower admission standards or grades—or through affirmative action. Trump even demanded that Pres. Obama provide his college transcript and test scores to show his worthiness to attend Harvard.  Meanwhile, Trump, a likely mediocre student himself allowed his fixer Michael Cohen to threaten universities from releasing Trump’s grades or scores. The hypocrisy of white privilege often astounds me.

While many minorities have often suspected that some white students with inferior grades or test scores could somehow gain entrance to many prestigious colleges, it was not exactly understood how the process worked—before today’s case.  It is suspected that the rigged system has been going on for at least a decade. That is likely an understatement. Actress Felicity Huffman and these white parents of privilege, access and money had every available means and income to hire the very  best tutors, best study materials and courses and best private middle schools for their children but chose to take the easy way out and buy their child’s way into college—up to $6.5 million a pop.

From the President lying every day for his own advantage to these wealthy white parents lying to advance their child’s education cause, we have to wonder if we as a society have lost our moral compass  and sense of decency. The fact that college personnel, SAT administrators, proctors and college coaches contributed to the scheme is all the more telling that wealth and white privilege works—until you get caught. Everyone was in on the deal at all levels.

No matter what, the hypocrisy of the situation is not lost on minority students and people of color—blaming children of color for taking a white child’s seat due to inferior grades/scores when in this case, it was the mediocre white students who took the seat of a well-deserving student—and perhaps many students of color over a period of years. Those students who knew of the scheme and participated must be charged as well – to right the wrong.  A student who has someone else take  a test on his or her behalf knows they are cheating. A student with no athletic skills knows when a fake profile is used to show his athletic skills.

I suspect this case is just the tipping of the iceberg with others to come and be charged.  Lives have forever been changed in the process. I speak of those deserving students who were denied admission at the colleges of their choice because their parents had no money to pay to play.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor. She often appears in the media as a legal analyst.

 

 

 

 

Baltimore and D.C. – A Tale of Two Violent Cities

Monday, August 24th, 2015

 

police-chase_mediumI lived in West Baltimore until age 7 in the same block  on North Ave where unrest and rioting occurred after Freddie Gray was fatally wounded in a police van. During my time there, my parents warned me to stay away from the front windows for fear of stray bullets. After attending law school in Washington, D.C.,  I eventually moved to the District of Columbia where I currently reside. Despite being less than 40 miles apart, the two cities are as different as night and day except when it comes to the recent spike in violent crime.

 

Baltimore is mostly a blue collar city with almost one fourth of its residents living below the standard of living.  Washington with its federal government presence and large influx of millennials residing there bears little to no resemblance to Baltimore. Both cities like many others are experiencing increased spikes in crime not seen in many years—for reasons not clearly known. In Baltimore, the spike was thought to be due to several factors.  Former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts believed it was due to stolen drugs taken from a pharmacy raided during the unrest after Gray’s death. Batts was fired by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake citing his lack of knowledge of the city.

 

Community leaders and many residents living in areas affected by the outbreak in violence following Gray’s death determined the lack of police on the streets caused the increase in crime. Many residents believed police retaliated following the arrest of six officers for the death of Freddie Gray. Changing police chiefs did little to combat the violence. Baltimore’s violent crime rate in 2015 so far exceeds that of New York despite New York having 7 million more people.

 

In Washington, DC, no unrest or riots occurred.  D. C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, like Baltimore’s former police commissioner, stated the increase in crime was due to drugs—new synthetic ones on the street.  Others state no data exists to support her theory.  Unlike Baltimore’s former and present police chiefs, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier rose through the police ranks and has served under three mayors. She is no novice to crime in the city.  Lanier blames illegal guns for the rise in violent crime. Rank and file police members state a change in deployment of police and disbanding of vice units by Lanier are to blame. Most criminologists are at a loss for the reasons.  D.C.’s 102 killings in 2015 almost equal all of those occurring last year. Baltimore logged in more than 200- so far this year.

 

 

Reported violent crime in the District of Columbia does not exclusively occur in lower income areas of the city.  In May, Daron Witt allegedly held captive three members of a prominent family plus their house keeper in a more affluent area of the city, later setting the house on fire and killing all four. In another incident, a woman posed as a man to meet a male lawyer for a sexual encounter in a downtown hotel—killing him.  And in the 102nd murder occurring in August, the victim died as a result of a stabbing at a neighborhood basketball game.

 

Baltimore and the District of Columbia are alike in that they want answers. What is clear is that a one size fits all approach will not stop the increased  violent crime rates in both cities. Any approach needs to include involvement of community leaders, residents, police, law enforcement officials, criminologists, sociologists, social workers, criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors for starters. The reasons for the increased violent crime rates may be as diverse as the number of violent crimes occurring.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor.