Brett Kavanaugh and the ‘Young White Male’ Defense
If there’s one thing made clear by the criminal justice system, it’s that being young, white, and male can be a literal get-out-of-jail-free card, especially if you also happen to be wealthy. But the Young White Male defense can apply to men who are fully-grown adults, too. Defenders of Brett Kavanaugh are making that sentiment perfectly clear following the emergence of a sexual misconduct allegation said to have taken place when the accuser and Kavanaugh were teenagers. Though he’s now likely headed for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court, many of Kavanaugh’s defenders say that, even if the alleged incident took place, it’s more or less excusable because he was just a kid when it would have happened.
On Sunday, the formerly anonymous woman behind the allegations spoke on the record to the Washington Post. Christine Blasey Ford, now a professor at Palo Alto University in California, reiterated the story she told in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein that came to the fore last week. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Blasey Ford told the Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
As Blasey Ford’s words circulated the internet, Kavanaugh’s defenders came forward to argue that an alleged assault shouldn’t have any sort of impact on his life now, even if true. Why? Because he was a teenager at the time. (Kavanaugh, for the record, has denied the allegations and said he will “refute” them before the Senate Judiciary Panel.)
“It was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven,” tweeted Fox News columnist Stephen Miller, dismissively echoing what seems to be a common sentiment. Sadly, many still feel that when boys attempt or commit acts of sexual violence, it’s simply a matter of “boys being boys,” a natural part of their sexual development. That’s not at all true, but even if it were, the experiences of the women involved rarely factor into this equation.
The age of white men who hurt other people often gets them out of trouble. Aaron Persky, the judge in the case against the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner, said he didn’t want to ruin the young man’s life by giving him a long prison sentence. Turner was convicted of assaulting a woman while she was unconscious. When the woman he attacked spoke out anonymously against him, some blamed her for drinking to the point that she could have “allowed” herself to be assaulted — even though she was also young. The Young White Male defense does not apply to women.
The logic in defending Kavanaugh’s alleged actions in youth is not also applied to the multitudes of Black and brown young people who are thrown in jail, over and over, for non-violent legal infractions like smoking or selling weed. A 2016 report from the Sentencing Project states that “as of 2013, black juveniles were more than four times as likely to be committed as white juveniles, American Indian juveniles were more than three times as likely, and Hispanic juveniles were 61 percent more likely.”
No doubt thousands of Black and brown youth have been jailed in the decades since the alleged assault Kavanaugh is said to have committed. In that same time span, unknown masses of victimized women have been ignored or even blamed for the violence committed against them. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh has caused documented harm to women in just the recent past, including attempting to deny an undocumented immigrant teen an abortion.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination this Thursday. Some members of the Committee have said they’re open to hearing testimony from Blasey Ford, but so far Republicans are dismissing calls to delay the vote in light of the allegations.
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(Photos via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)