If Casey Anthony Was Black She Would Have Been Guilty

Janelle Harris

Casey AnthonyI don’t want her phony, television-camera tears. I don’t want her explanations. I just want Casey Anthony to admit she did it or that, if she didn’t personally do it, she knows who did.

She can’t pin her behavior to the excuse of being a young, irresponsible mother. Plenty of those running around. They generally offload their children with a relative who will care for them and go about their hard partying ways. She can’t even blame it on a history of sexual abuse, which will make folks do a lot of things, but murder toddlers? That’s a stretch.

This much I do know: let a black woman’s 2-year-old go missing, let her lie about where she was, let her waste hours of law enforcement manpower, let her be a regular on the nightlife scene while her baby’s body lay decomposing in some makeshift grave. If Casey Anthony was a black mom, she’d be on death row getting fitted for her injection needle right about now.

When I was younger, even when I was pregnant, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why women broke out in tears when they delivered their babies. Aside from the pain, which looked to me like it warranted way more than a few piddly boo-hoos, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

Then on October 10, 1998, I figured it out. I wasn’t in labor long, less than 30 minutes from the time I hit the emergency room door ‘til the time the nurses laid my daughter on my chest. She was chillin’, sucking her thumb. And I, like all those other mothers I’d seen before, was bawling my way through the ugly cry. It was such a high, a mix of pure joy, relief, excitement, gratefulness, and a love that just overwhelmed me.

You can herd women from all walks of life together who have absolutely nothing in common, but if they’ve experienced motherhood, they more than likely can relate to that hodge podge of beautiful emotion and the instantaneous adoration of—and connection to—a child.

So I can’t understand anything about Casey Anthony’s behavior and decision-making throughout this whole long, drawn-out nightmare since her little girl has been gone. But the verdict has been passed down, double jeopardy is in play, and the rest of us—especially those of us who’ve experienced the elation of bringing a child into the world—are left feeling disgusted, angry, and deeply saddened for the wasted life of gorgeous little Caylee.

The American justice system is a fickle, funny, preferential-treatment having beast, especially when it comes to citizens who look like me. Folks went wild, you hear me? W-i-l-d when Michael Vick tangled himself up in dogfighting. Outrage ensued. His career floundered. Endorsements pulled. Thrown in jail. He served almost two years in prison for killing dogs.

By the time all is said and done, Casey Anthony will probably serve no more than four years for killing her child.

I can’t help but think about Lashanda Armstrong, who drove the family minivan containing her four children into the Hudson River earlier this year. Her 10-year-old son, La’Shaun, escaped but his three younger siblings drowned along with his mother. That story stays on my mind, maybe because I can empathize with the stress she had to be feeling. But there’s just no excuse for that level of selfishness or cruelty.

I don’t care how upset you are, I don’t care how dismal your situation is: you drop your babies off somewhere, even if it’s on the shoulder of the road, and you let them live. Take your own self out if you feel that’s what you need to do. But you give your children the opportunity to experience life.  

But let’s imagine Lashanda was pulled from that car and nursed back to health to stand trial. Or better yet, let’s imagine it was me, and you already know how different this crazy verdict would’ve come out. A black woman would be guilty before she ambled to the defense table and have a death sentence stamped on her before the gavel came sailing down.

Casey Anthony will have a hard road for the next few years. Maybe she’ll pull a Monica Lewinsky and keep a super-low profile. Maybe she’ll get married and change her name and blend into complete middle-American anonymity. But unlike her fate if she was a black woman, at least she’ll have a life.   

Would Casey Anthony’s verdict have been different if she wasn’t an unsuspecting, pretty white girl?

Image via steakpinball/Flickr

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