White Boy Rick vs. White Man Manafort

Facts reflect vast disparities in the criminal justice system regarding how white and Black Americans are treated and sentenced, with inequties in the system favoring white people. The disparities expand when economic status is examined, with wealthy Americans receiving advantages and benefits from the criminal justice system, that poor and middle class Americans are denied.

There are numerous examples of wealthy people evading accountability to the rule of law; with the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, the current President, being a prime example.

Rick Wershe Jr. was recruited into playing a role in the criminal justice system, serving as an informant at the age of 14. Wershe’s story, which invovled drugs and stolen cars, was portrayed in the 2018 Hollywood film White Boy Rick, where a bleak Michigan neighborhood, set the landscape for the film’s depiction of Wershe’s life in the 1980’s when “Just say no,” and mass incarceration was the response to drug use. At the time, crack cocaine was devastating communities, with no empathy or resources provided to families ravaged by drug addiction and the impact of stagflation and Reaganomics.

In 1988, while still a teenager, Wershe was convicted of possession of around 16 pounds of cocaine and sentenced to life in prison. He is the longest-serving prisoner under the 650 Lifer Law. While still in prison, Wershe was involved in a stolen car ring, to which he plead guilty, to protect his sister. He may be released in 2020.

And then there’s Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, and exotic suit aficionado, who was sentenced to 47 months for tax fraud and bank fraud. Right now there are Black people receiving far harsher sentences for, fill-in-the-blank, non-violent crimes, and they too probably lived an, “Otherwise blameless life.” Their unfortunate short fall, was not stealing money through fraud and Oligarchs, to achieve white collar justice, and of course, not being born white. Then again, Rick Wershe Jr. was white and male and it didn’t help his sentence.



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