T.I. Might Go to Prison, but Would Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton?
It's being reported that rapper T.I. (aka Clifford Harris) has a probation revocation hearing on Oct. 15. The rapper was arrested for drug possession with his wife, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. The incident occurred on Sept. 2, and the couple was allegedly in possession of codeine, Ecstasy and Marijuana, which was uncovered in what police say was a routine traffic stop.
I spoke with someone familiar with the case and asked him whether T.I. was going back to prison. He said that although he isn't sure of the rapper's fate, there is an inherent contradiction in his case. While we can almost expect that T.I. will be punished for his latest violation of the law, the same can't be said for other celebs, like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Both of these young women have been arrested time and again for one offense or another. In each case, they are typically given a slap on the wrist.
Artists like T.I. and Lil Wayne have done hard time for their violations of the law. We could try to argue that their crimes are worse than those of Lohan and Hilton (I don't agree with this point), buy you can't disconnect their experiences with the justice system from the disparities between white females and African American males.
According to the Department of Justice, black males are roughly 35 times more likely to go to prison than white females. Additionally, black children are nine times more likely than white children to have a parent in the penitentiary. T.I.'s children have already spent a year without their father. If his hearing doesn't go well, they may not see their father for a very long time.
This is not to say that T.I. didn't play a role in the creation of his problems. I've written publicly that I was incredibly disappointed after this latest incident. He not only disappointed me, but he also let down millions of fans who believed in him, and the children he's vowed to raise. But I wonder if this were Lohan caught with weed and codeine in her car, would there be a possibility of a prison sentence? Both she and Paris Hilton have been arrested for cocaine possession, and Hilton was recently videotaped in the car of a friend who ran over a woman and drove away. Lohan and Hilton have rap sheets that could probably rival those of T.I. and Lil Wayne, yet we typically expect that they are going to "MacGyver" their way out of every situation.
If a black male rapper were doing all the things that Lohan and Hilton were doing, would their trips to the courthouse be cute little celebrity appearances, or situations where they'd be expected to face real consequences? If these artists were sent to rehab or jail, would they be able to skip out of their sentences or miss court dates whenever they wished? What about black males in the 'hood being caught with dope versus college students who get drunk and high every weekend on college campuses? Do we consider all of these cases in the same way?
I won't answer these questions for you, since our perspectives as Americans vary widely based on where we come from and who we represent. But with almost no exception, we can argue that the experiences of black men in the criminal justice system are quite different than that of white females. This is true even if you're a celebrity.
Boyce Watkins, PhD