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Social media may not be conducive to social justice

For the past eight months, the infamous college cheating scandal has captivated the American media with actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin playing key parts in the situation. 

Along with the “cancel culture” that social media has embraced across the country, a new wave of fascination has given fuel to the case, attracting new attention to the actresses. It's reached the point that Lifetime movies have been made about them.

Though they were fired from their jobs, blacklisted by their friends and publicly shamed, both of these women have been launched into new heights of fame that will most likely keep them in the tabloids into the next decade.

An individual who has been “canceled” often gains more popularity, and the ability to have severe crimes or unacceptable behavior overlooked in the media. Musician Chris Brown is a prime example in modern times of someone who has been canceled and then who has risen up to become more popular than before. 

Brown has been known to commit heinous crimes against people, most famously Rihanna, who he physically and emotionally abused in their relationship. Somehow, after all his public violent behavior, he has still managed to score an interview with Oprah, sell more than 30 million albums and consistently been allowed to harass the same woman he abused on social media.

In recent years, with the help of social media, the societal definition of justice and the rule of law has dramatically changed. Alisa Farley, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said this contributes to minority voices having more comfortability to shame racial injustice in the country. 

“Social media has shown modern society that the country is still rooted with injustice in the legal system. Huffman is a great example showing how when you’re wealthy, famous and have connections in high places, it can gift you with such a lousy sentencing in comparison to the Black mom — I think from Connecticut — that was sentenced to five years in prison just for placing her son in a different school system so he could receive a better education. It just isn’t right … especially in 2019,” she said.

Farley was referencing the case of Tanya McDowell, a homeless Black mother from Bridgeport, Connecticut, who went to jail for enrolling her son in the wrong school district. With financial hardships, a criminal background in relation to drugs and a young son who needed a quality education, McDowell enrolled her 6-year-old in the Norwalk School District only to be charged with first-degree larceny. This resulted in her being sentenced to five years in prison. 

Her story is held in comparison to Huffman, who is serving prison time for 14 days, paying a fine and only needs to complete more than 250 hours worth of community service. Do be aware that in regard to McDowell’s sentencing, she was arrested for multiple offenses including a violent dispute which contributed to such a heavy sentence. 

McDowell’s case has since made headlines in recent months, with many trying to find a racial comparison to both crimes without going over the specifics of each case first.

There is one major similarity between the two that gives society a bold understanding of justice: temporary outrage. Both of these cases, which might look different when looking at them separately, show the same story of a mother who just wants to help her child. 

The heavy scrutiny of both women’s sentencings has shown that, though we find outrage and try to promote equality, we have a tendency to forget the core issues when it involves someone famous. 

Personally, I’m amazed at how easily we tend to forget about important issues like the Flint water crisis, relief efforts in Puerto Rico and millions of Americans struggling to get healthcare coverage. Instead, we spend weeks speculating which Kardashian is pregnant. 

But I do have faith, especially when this new wave of cancel culture is gone, that we will have a better understanding of justice and aren’t so quick to close the conversation on an individual's wrongdoings. Because if we don’t, we’ll just repeat the history of promoting the wrong individuals in entertainment.

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