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'Blond Hair White Skin'

Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

She slammed down her white privilege like you’d slam down an American Express black card. Which is to say, with supreme confidence.

Two months after posting video of herself in the mob of right-wing thugs who stormed the U.S. Capitol, Jenna Ryan went on Twitter to taunt her detractors. “Definitely not going to jail,” she wrote. “Sorry I have blonde hair white skin a great job a great future and I’m not going to jail. Sorry to rain on your hater parade.”

Last week, Ryan was sentenced to 60 days in prison.

That seems to have pleased a lot of folks. “How the arrogant have fallen,” said one. You can hardly blame that person or the thousands of others who took to social media to gloat at the incarceration of this 51-year-old Texas real estate agent. There are few things more satisfying than to see some deserving individual get their comeuppance. For that moment, at least, the universe makes sense.

Even so, one has to wonder if this is really a reason to rejoice. Was Ryan proven wrong? Or did she simply put the court in a position where it had no other choice?

Consider that the sheer brazenness of the crime demanded some response. Then add in that Ryan said the quiet part out loud, the part white people so often deny, about how “blonde hair white skin” entitles you to a more lenient brand of justice.

 

The court had to impose some consequence, if only to defend its own credibility. Judge Christopher Cooper admitted as much in sentencing her. Noting that the case has generated lots of attention, he said, “People will be interested to know what sentence you get. That sentence will tell them something about how the courts and how our country responded. And I think that the sentence should tell them that we take it seriously.”

But the fact that Ryan will do some time hardly proves her wrong about color-coded justice.

Yes, she got 60 days for invading the U.S. Capitol. But Sean Worsley got 60 months for possession of legally prescribed medical marijuana.

Yes, she got 60 days for an act of treason. But Willie Nash got 12 years for having a cellphone in jail.

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