Unforgiven: A Tale of Two Felons and America

I could not help but compare and contrast the stories of Travis Hudson and Michael Holley, both of which surfaced this week.

Both men are felons. Hudson’s felony happened 18 years ago when he was 15. He apparently had knowledge of a burglary committed by someone else and helped obscure it. In the years that followed, he stayed out of trouble and went to college. He’s been supporting himself as a salesman at JMI Flooring in Bartow. He wants to teach or become a nurse. Black men are in short supply as teachers.

Albert V Bryan Federal District Courthouse - Alexandria Va - 0014 - 2012-03-10

Sorry. Zero tolerance and all that. Keep selling floors. You should have known at 15 your stupidity would wreck every life’s ambition. Quick, how many kids of the 35 percent face that kind of accountability in their lives?

Meanwhile, Michael Holley, a quite recent felon, who directly committed crimes for which he went to prison, is right back doing what he loves. Any number of friends and former business associates have pulled him into their bosom.

I should be clear. I don’t have any problem with that. Retribution should have a purpose. Prison was a pretty painful purpose for Holley, I suspect. Extending retribution to post prison life would just pointlessly inflict pain and cost the rest of us money. Let him support himself if he can. And clearly, Michael Holley couldn’t get hired as a teacher or nurse.

But something is on display here. For one, the School District, the public sector, has much higher standards of conduct than private sector sales organizations, even if those standards are incredibly stupid and unjust. Shouldn’t that cause all you private sector fetishists to think a little?

More fundamentally, this is your country. A disgraced, white car dealer can go right back to what he loves to do after prison. Meanwhile an idealistic young black man has his options severely constrained by a crime I’d almost certainly avoid conviction for when I was 15. Or that somebody would have helped me expunge long ago because I come from a background of family and friends of legal and bureaucratic sophistication, from a class that knows how to work the system.

I have a pretty simple question for considering issues of justice and morality within our legal and social structure: Is there any chance this would happen to me, a relatively worldly and well-groomed child of the near elite? If the answer is no, but it still happens to someone else without my pedigree, I consider it my duty to try to denounce it. There is, for instance, virtually no chance that I’ll ever be wrongly removed from a voter roll. Doesn’t mean other people should be, either.

I could have been convicted for any number of crimes as a teenager — as could any one of you, I’d wager, if you’re honest with yourselves. The current president of the United States and his immediate predecessor certainly could have been. The likely difference between us and Hudson is that he grew up in a world in which the accident of his birth and where he grew up likely made him a target of a level of state scrutiny I will never experience. I’m not content, like some of our libertarian friends, to shrug and say that’s life. You shouldn’t be content with that America, either.


Creative Commons License image credit: Tim

5 thoughts on “Unforgiven: A Tale of Two Felons and America

  1. Really? Really?! This is just a race-bait article. WTF?

    Wait, lemme guess… you were reading the Ledger on July 16, 2012, saw these two articles, and your racial justice spidey sense started to tingle. That’s the only way I can see you mashing two completely unrelated articles together and coming up with this screed.

  2. You’ve become nothing more than a heckler. Which is sad, because you used to think and have some interesting things to say. Why don’t you address the content and say what you find objectionable rather than attacking my spidey sense? Are large groups of people subjected to far greater state scrutiny than others simple because of who they are? Or not? And are you satisfied with it.

  3. Is Holley eligible for the teaching position? He’s white, right? So the felony doesn’t really count against him for a teaching job? Are there no further depths of depravity for you to plumb?

    Chuck, why do you let him post this kind of stuff?

  4. Well, in this case, race really has nothing to do with it. If Holley were black and Hudson white, their predicaments would be the same right now.

    Tons of teens of all colors get arrested and receive a record. It is the overly-stringent background check to blame in Hudson’s case, not his race.

  5. So, a Muslim Hunter, a Glibertarian, and a Publix heir walk into a bar. And not one of them has the ability to address any of the actual content in the piece they’ve read.

    Let me repeat/spell out the point:

    “More fundamentally, this is your country. A disgraced, white car dealer can go right back to what he loves to do after prison. Meanwhile an idealistic young black man has his options severely constrained by a crime I’d almost certainly avoid conviction for when I was 15. Or that somebody would have helped me expunge long ago because I come from a background of family and friends of legal and bureaucratic sophistication, from a class that knows how to work the system.

    “I have a pretty simple question for considering issues of justice and morality within our legal and social structure: Is there any chance this would happen to me, a relatively worldly and well-groomed child of the near elite? If the answer is no, but it still happens to someone else without my pedigree, I consider it my duty to try to denounce it. There is, for instance, virtually no chance that I’ll ever be wrongly removed from a voter roll. Doesn’t mean other people should be, either.”

    There is zero chance, none, nada, absolutely nil, Wesley, that you, if arrested at 15 on a dubious accessory after the fact burglary charge, would not by this time, in one way or another, be eligible to teach if you so chose. There is only a slightly smaller chance that I wouldn’t be; and I’m just a random lawyer’s heir, not Barney’s. That has much more to do with class than it does with race, but they tend to overlap to some extent.

    Our questions here are 1) Am I wrong about that? 2) If I’m not, what do we think about that? 3) If we don’t give a damn, like DR and Skep, what does that say about us and the country we so vociferously claim to love?

    I personally think not giving a damn would make me a worthless piece of crap. You may think it makes me whatever you think it makes me, but everyone has to answer their own conscience. And no one has to read what I say. If you have an interest in reading, which you three appear to, take a shot at 1, 2, and 3 rather than being silly.

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