“Back when I was broke, they was cool with it. Now every move I make, I’m in the news with it.”
This utterance from Robert Rihmeek Williams, better known as Meek Mill sure came true, though the news is not good for Meek’s sake.
The 30 year-old Philadelphia native was recently arraigned on probation violations and was sentenced to two to four years in prison. This sentence provoked many reactions, from casual fans to celebrities. What many individuals seem to jump at, regarding a high profile case like Meek Mill’s, is how the judicial system is unjust and racially biased.
Recently, Jay-Z penned an op-ed piece in the New York Times centered on how the criminal system ‘stalks’ black individuals. However, Meek Mill is not necessarily a good example of this. Meek Mill has been on probation for numerous years due to calculated decisions that go against his conditions of probation. In fact, Meek Mill has a long list of offences that have accumulated over the years.
In 2005, he was arrested for assaulting police and possessing a firearm. For these violations, he was sentenced to probation. In 2008, Meek Mill was served drug and gun charges for which he served eight months in prison. He was then released and placed on probation for five years. Meek Mill violated rules of this probation in 2012 as he reportedly booked shows out of state without the consent of his probation officer. At this point, he was mere months from having his probation lifted. Again, in 2014, Meek violated his parole by booking shows outside of state. For this violation, he served five months in prison. Finally, in 2017 he was charged with a misdemeanor assault due to an altercation in the St. Louis airport. Only months later, he was also charged with reckless driving. This led to his most recent sentence of two to four years in prison.
Now, if one were to look at these violations objectively, without knowing that this individual was Meek Mill, then one would most likely agree that these violations are good cause for prison time. The presiding judge in the trial even stated, “I gave you break after break, and you basically thumbed your nose at the court.” However, because Meek Mill is a popular rapper, he gets portrayed much differently. Twitter was ablaze with #freemeekmill and #justiceformeek tags on the days following his arrest.
Most notably, NFL pariah and social justice advocate Colin Kaepernick weighed in on the arrest and sentencing, claiming that this was just another example of how the justice system fails black individuals. Yet, the justice system did not fail here. It did its job by dishing a worthy punishment to someone who has had numerous violations, displaying little regard for the law.
Rappers are typically very divisive. Their language in songs are often expletive-laden and they live lavishly in the excess. Regardless, many individuals do look up to them as heroes. They are frequently seen as the underdogs, paving the way for others like themselves. This is especially true in the case of Meek Mill, as he was able to overcome poverty and the death of his father at a young age. However, one must be able look at their favorite artist or celebrity with an objective scrutiny and not let their love for him or her cloud over the real information.
That is not to say that claims about systemic injustice for black people is unfounded. It is abundantly clear that the criminal justice system today has more than its fair share of issues. There is evidence of unfair treatment and police brutality against many individuals, including the tragic deaths of Travyon Martin, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice, just to name a few of many victims of unwarranted violence and prejudice.
That said, to paint this specific case in the same light is naïve and might even work to discredit the movement. Meek Mill did indeed break the rules of the law and as such, he is getting the punishment that fits the crime, which is not very common among celebrities. Regardless of fame, celebrities should be held to the same behavioural standards of others and should be accorded the same punishments for deviations.
So, to Lebron James, Colin Kaepernick, Rick Ross and others who have defended Meek Mill, let us first gather the necessary facts and look at this briefly without the race-coloured lenses. Maybe then people will stop jamming the “tweet” button to express their disgust with a punishment given by a system that – albeit a possible rarity – accurately did its job.