Friday, June 8, 2007

Paris Redux

Well apparently I'm not the only one appalled by the turn-of-events surrounding Paris Hilton's release from jail. She's been ordered back to court this morning because Judge Sauer feels the Sheriff's department was too hasty in letting her spend the remaining time under house arrest instead of incarcerated in the LA County Jail. The Sheriff's department also received over 400 email messages and more than 400 phone calls from people around the country protesting her preferred treatment status as a celebrity incarceree.

And I am wondering about justice. I mean, if Paris Hilton actually does serve jail time, does this mean that justice was served, that the penal system works? It's probably not so cut and dry, but I also wonder to what degree both the judge and the sheriff's office was influenced by public opinion, which is definitely against Hiton at this point, or at least against her release and her serving her sentence under house arrest (which, again, I have to think, how punitive is that for her? Sure she can't go out and about, but she certainly could have her picture taken by the ton of papparazzi surrounding her house if she still wants to be in the public eye and she certainly can have her handlers bring her food, news, various sundries--I mean, it's not like people can't see her, she just can't go out. And she lives in a 4 bedroom home in a very tony part of LA--really, how bad can her house arrest be? I suppose there's the potential shame factor, but considering there have been numerous photos and videos of her in various states of undress and in various sexual positions, how ashamed can she be feeling? And am I being too harsh in saying this--in not feeling much if any sympathy for this particular American heiress?)

Again, I wonder to what degree popular opinion plays into this. That my sentiments are shared by several people around the country seems fairly accurate to say at this point, given the outcry against her release to house arrest.

And race may not be playing an overt factor in all of this, but I don't think it hurts that she's white and blonde and privileged. And yet, I wonder if that's part of what is being judged in the court of public opinion too. The fact that she's so much the poster child for the overindulgent, overprivileged person. In the AP story they interviewed a man who was also at the LA County Courthouse fighting a traffic ticket, Moses Baltazar, who had once parked Hilton's car when he was a valet. Apparently she only tipped a dollar, which miffed him considering (a) she's rich (b) he helped fend off the papparazzi for her. And he's miffed that she is receiving special treatment given her celebrity status.

Special treatment. This seems to be at the heart of white privilege--the fact that there is a special treatment that white Americans often receive, whether consciously acknowledged or not, that people of color don't. I really think Peggy McIntosh articulates this so clearly in the list of privileges that she has in her invisible knapsack. And it's also the thing that ruffles us, in the court of public opinion--the idea that certain people do have special privilege because of who they know, how much money they have, and where they were born.

I also know that special treatment is what anti-affirmative action people shout about--and then they quote from MLK Jr.'s "I Had a Dream Speech" where he talks about wanting to be judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. But this is going to bring me into a different type of rant, so I'm just going to say that I really hate it when the neo-conservative anti-affirmative action camp does this, because I'm sure MLK Jr. would roll over in his grave if he knew that his words were being parroted back in this way and for these purposes.

As for Hilton, I don't think it's the color of her skin that she's necessarily on trial for so much as the flaunting of her privilege that really rankles a lot of people--and that if we do judge the content of her character, well, I don't think that someone who tries to have her family buy her out of her misdemeanors is someone who is showing a whole lot of character.

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