Once upon a time there was a confused, fatherless African American teenager. He was raised by a single mom in an urban neighborhood, USA. He was a smart boy although his environment was filled with vice and delinquency. He'd been influenced by the subversive elements of the 1990s ghetto. After all, he was the product of 80s Reaganomics.
Between the ages of 16 and 24 this boy found himself in all kinds of skirmishes with local gangs as well as local authorities. He was arrested numerous times for a myriad of offenses. He had two friends who were just like him. In fact, his two best buddies were even worse. They stole cars, robbed people and were never caught.
These three young men were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, disenfranchisement and bad choices. They were sick with a disease called Lowcashism.
However one day, they woke up and decided to change. Perhaps the catalyst was that the first young man had a child, and his two buddies weren't far behind with children; all of them in their teens.
As a result of his new found fatherhood, the first young man went on a spiritual journey which led him to become a religious man and eventually a member of the clergy. As for the other two young men; after their own journeys one became a police officer, and the other a fire fighter and real estate salesman.
Today after 20 years, those young boys are now responsible men with careers and families. Perhaps it was their family values that kicked in, perhaps it was the sudden jolt of responsibility that children bring, perhaps it was the fortune of never being convicted of a crime or shot down in the street that gave these young boys the gift that changes men...time.
This is the true story of me and my two childhood friends. We were delinquents by any standard and yet we made it. We had been affected by the opposite of Affluenza; Lowcashism. Whereas Affluenza is categorized by a naive wealth-laden mindset that creates a narrow vision of how the world works and the consequences that one must bear for their actions, Lowcashism is the same disease but from a different set of causes. One might argue that being destitute, like being wealthy can lead to a warped sense of the world and as a result cause one to make choices that affect life negatively without quite realizing the consequences until it's too late.
Ethan Couch, the young man who killed 4 people while driving drunk in 2013 and later used Affluenza as a successful defense, may have been completely justified in winning long-term therapy instead of a long-term prison sentence. However, there is a blatant and hypocritical double standard in the juvenile justice system that's been demonstrated in this case and many like it. When young white privileged children take lives they're either mentally disturbed, severely depressed or obviously affected by something as abstract as Affluenza. But when an African American child makes the same mistake he's labeled a super-predator, a deliberate criminal and a savage who deserves to be prosecuted as an adult to the fullest extent of the law.
I don't argue that Ethan Couch should have been given the stiffest sentence. But if you let him off, then you have to revisit every juvenile offender whose had a subversive childhood influenced by either Affluenza or Lowcashism which ultimately impaired their decision-making skills.
When young white people commit crime or are the victims of it; new laws are passed and new terms such as Affluenza are coined to justify their recklessness. When young African Americans commit the same crimes or are victims of it, as is often the case, their stories are not even newsworthy.
Ultimately we all lose when we don't consider the environment and challenges that cause young people to act against their own best interest. In light of Ethan Couch's fugitive status, we hope that the families of the victims receive justice. In addition we hope that groups like Black Lives Matter, and The 99% Movement find a voice and a clear objective that leads to legislative reformation that is equitable. If not, then the next three young buddies affected by the temporary sickness of Lowcashism, will most likely be locked up forever or gunned down in the street instead of being given the luxury of time. Time and therapy are what most young offenders need; Ethan Couch and every young person from any ethnicity or class, included.