We learn at a relatively young age that to error is to be human. We're taught to apologize and we understand that the consequences can be anything but pleasant, but we're told that everyone falters and misunderstandings happen and life goes on.
We learn that we all make mistakes.
You make mistakes if your name is Ethan Couch. You simply miscalculated when you stole beer from a Walmart, decided to drive your car when your blood alcohol level was over three times the legal limit and you were high on Valium. It was a blunder when you then smashed said car into four people while they tried to fix a woman's stalled vehicle. You misstepped when you killed those four innocent individuals. You're a lost kid, incapable of making the right decisions because your parents were wealthy and failed to teach you responsibility.
It was a mistake, so you deserved only 10 years of probation instead of 20 years in jail.
You make "very bad mistakes" if your name is Josh Duggar. You went through the "most difficult time in your life" when you molested your sisters and a babysitter. It was a horrible experience, for you, so you confessed to your parents and they knew you needed close, spiritual counseling with a family friend instead of law enforcement intervention.
It was a mistake, so you deserved the statute of limitations saving you from ever facing a judge or jury.
You make mistakes if your name is Joseph Housman, a 63-year-old open carry advocate who engaged in a stand-off with police after refusing to relinquish your weapon when scaring a handful of residents. You're an elderly man, stuck in your ways and steadfast in your convictions and, honestly, who can blame you? Your inability to take other people into consideration is more of an adorable quirk than an actual problem.
It was a mistake, so you deserved the police declining misdemeanor charges after you willfully disobeyed them for 40 minutes. You even deserved to have your gun returned to you.
You make mistakes if you're me, and you were pulled over while driving with a suspended license. Instead of getting arrested and your car impounded, you were told that "life can be overwhelming" and it's "hard to stay on top of things." Adulthood can be difficult so it's understandable that you had other priorities.
It was a mistake, so you deserved the police officer saying "I'll be driving this way, so you can drive home that way" and letting you go with nothing but a warning.
You didn't make a mistake if your name is Michael Brown. You stole from a store and shoved a store owner and walked in the middle of the street. Reports indicate you attacked a police officer and reached for his gun, so there are no second chances for you.
You didn't make a mistake if your name is Walter Scott. You had arrest warrants and you ran away from a police officer, so why would you deserve understanding? You don't.
You didn't make a mistake if your name is Tamir Rice. You should have known that playing with an air gun is dangerous and deceptive and threatening.
You didn't make a mistake if your name is Freddie Gray. You were involved in 20 criminal court cases, some unresolved when you took your final breath, so if you didn't want your back broken, you shouldn't have broken the law.
We tell our children that everyone makes mistakes, but that isn't true. The truth is, if you're an affluent caucasian in America, you are afforded the ability to claim confusion or a temporary lapse in judgment. If you're an affluent caucasian in America, you're given the room to learn from the negative and trip your way towards responsibility and maturity. Your friends, your family, law enforcement, judges, and strangers on the internet will all come to your aid, arguing your right to a second chance because we learn at a young age that to error is to be human.
But if you're not an affluent caucasian, there is no room for mistakes. If you're not an affluent caucasian, you do not deserve the understanding of others or the capacity for painful but necessary growth. If you're not an affluent caucasian, you're not even afforded the ability to live through the consequences of your actions. You don't receive the benefit of the doubt or, at times, even the discretion of the judicial system.
No, the only mistake you can, in fact make, is the mistake of being black.