Nicholas Kristof, a celebrated New York Times columnist, has written a series of articles on racial issues in America several entitled, “Why whites don’t get it.” This poignant article on a 13 year-old black male who was sentenced to life in prison for shooting Debbie Baigrie in the face causing severe and lasting injuries. Though she suffered immensely from her ordeal, Ms. Baigrie has been in correspondence with her attacker, Ian Manuel, for over two decades even arguing on his behalf for early release.
Racial issues are clearly complex but essentially the chances of a white boy getting life in prison under similar circumstances is slim. Racial bias in our judicial system has been well documented. As Mr. Kristof often points out, many people, especially white people, don’t understand how tilted the system is against the success of inner city black youth. Mr. Manual, the shooter, was raised by a drug abusing mother without a father in poverty and had been arrested 16 times before the gang initiation shooting. Far to often, the precursors to a life of criminal activity is poverty, poor education, and broken homes. As Ms. Baigrie shares, “Walk a mile in his shoes.” As a society, Mr. Kristof feels we can do a lot better. I agree!