Meek Mill's New Prison Sentence Underlines A Frightening Reality For Black Men In America

Dear America's colorblind...

Philadelphia MMG heavyweight Meek Mill, born Robert Williams, suffered the blow of a two-to-four-year prison sentence after Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley slapped down the ruling on Monday (Nov. 6) for two probation violations.

The 30-year-old’s probation order traces back to nearly decade-old drug and weapon charges, for which he served only five months due to an early release. But according to national media reports, failure to comply with court-ordered travel restrictions and a failed drug test backed Brinkley’s current sentencing discretion.

She dug up other unrelated charges and arrests piled on the rapper’s record this year. In March, Williams was charged with assault at St. Louis International Airport after engaging in a physical altercation with an employee who asked for a photo, to which he declined. All involved in the incident were reportedly charged with misdemeanor assault charges, including the photo-happy employee, but no arrests were made. The case was dismissed seven months later.

Williams footed another legal misstep in August when he was arrested in New York City on reckless endangerment charges after dirtbiking on his ATV. According to police testimonies, Williams had no helmet on while popping motorcycle wheelies through the neighborhood with his biker clique. The 30-year-old pled guilty to the charges and accepted a plea deal from the District Attorney: stay out of trouble for six months and his charges would be dismissed.

The peaceful resolve of his run-ins were no match for Judge Brinkley’s decision, however.

“I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court,” Philly reports of her in-court statement to Williams after the sentencing. “Then I’ll be done with you.”

But considering the court’s legacy of sanctions presented against offenders, how much of a break did Meek — a Black, Billboard chart-topping, top-tier rap artist mounted from the street projects of Philadelphia — actually catch? For the sake of this piece, I will refer to Meek Mill by his given name, to make the distinction that the rapper is a man. A Black man.

A Black man shrugged away early in life by America’s cold shoulder for predominantly Black, underprivileged communities, as his history with excessive law enforcement might reveal. Williams lost his father at the age of 5 when he was killed during an attempted robbery. Leaving Williams as the patriarchal lead of his home beside his mother and sister, the death of his father would place a hole in the evolution of his manhood not even his mom could fill.

“We had nothing growing up, so my mom worked any job she could find to provide for me and my sister,” he said in a touching 2015 Father’s Day ode for Time. “I love her so much for that. But as much as I appreciated everything my mother did for me, she couldn’t fill the space that a father should hold in a child’s life."    

Just three years prior, he had reached deeper into the agony of a fatherless child for his "Traumatized" single:

When I find the n***a that killed my daddy know I'mma ride

Hope you hear me, I'mma kill you n***a

To let you know that I don't feel you n***a

Yeah, you ripped my family apart and made my momma cry

So when I see you n***a it's gon' be a homicide

'Cuz I was only a toddler, you left me traumatized

You made me man of the house and it was grindin' time   

Years before, Williams would become a father himself, his tug-of-war with America’s legal system would unfortunately paint a new reality of Black manhood. With two eyes nearly swollen shut, his cornrowed braids ripped from his scalp and his lip busted, the then-18-year-old Williams had his first encounter of what would become a fractured relationship with police. His harrowing recollection of the incident, as he reminds, jumpstarted his street hustler career well before fame:


Yes, this is the same Williams behind the lethally titled track “Body Count” and the same one penning the explicit, brutal and lyrical reality of a former street hustler. For some, that Hollywood extension may deem him an unrighteous proponent of violence. For others, it may turn them off from his hip-hop subject matter. But it does not provide a compass for his legal standing. Justice should be irrespective of Williams’ lyrical expression and financially elite status. I presume those same critics present similar arguments for the legal cases of other Hollywood creatives whose violence-driven creative products are widely supported, consumed and enjoyed by the mass population  as well.

Does this mean Quentin Tarantino’s multi-million dollar Kill Bill film franchise is directly correlated to his prior arrest for stealing a crime novel from a California bookstore? Or how about scenes from Scarface, the film adaptation of everyone’s favorite Cuban drug lord Tony Montana? Do they hold precedent over its creator Oliver Stone's 1999 alcohol and drug charges, all of which he plead guilty to?

Sure, it doesn’t. But you’ll never hear that from the same people who gush over the gory bloodshed of a solid Tarantino film. It won’t spill from the mouths of those adamantly backing America’s first and favorite amendment which guarantees freedom of speech. Somehow, everyone draws the line at the mics of rap music, though. I gladly regret to inform those people that music lyrics, otherwise considered creative expression, are one of the most fundamental arms of the First Amendment. However, they only become relevant in court when stacked upon the moral and legal prosecution of rap artists. And according to the meticulous study and research belonging to liberal arts Professor Erik Nielson of the  University of Richmond, the court's loose discretion allows for such biased relevancy as well.

“Race is without question involved in this,” Nielson said of the court’s use of rap lyrics in a Genius exclusive. “I think rap is often a proxy for a young Black male. When we talk about the demonized and villainized rappers, it’s coded because, for us, rap music is an accurate representation of Black life. So when we talk about rap, we’re really just finding another way to talk about Black and Latino men.”

When asked whether white defendants face this same reality, Nielson’s research-backed remark shows a stark contrast. “It has happened,” he informed. “It’s very rare. I can think of one or two. So there are examples, but it’s almost exclusively young men of color.”

Surprise, surprise — but, not really. Especially not when you take cases of “judicial discretion” into the hands of a judge like Aaron Persky, infamously known for tapping Stanford University rapist Brock Allen Turner on the wrist with a six-month sentence from indictments on five charges in 2016: two for felony sexual assault, two for rape and one for attempted rape.

Turner was a star student athlete on the university’s swim team. He made out with convictions for only three charges of felony sexual assault and served only half of his six-month sentence, despite the convictions yielding 14 years in prison. Persky’s “discretional” logic?"

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”

The danger of a white, male student athlete raping an intoxicated and unconscious girl behind a Dumpster and running off after being caught by two other students is an imagined fear — if you let Persky’s “judicial discretion” tell it. On the disturbing contrary to the famed reputation of Williams, however, Turner’s elite reputation as a star swimmer not only served in favor of his conviction, but provided the basis for Persky’s leniency as well.

Never to my astonishment, Persky presided over a similar case for 32-year-old Raul Ramirez in the same month as his ruling for People v. Turner.

Same charge: sexual assault.

Same type of victim: a woman.

The blatant nuance that resulted in a three-year prison sentence for the El Salvadoran immigrant for committing the same crime as white American Turner is an inescapable bias: Race.

So,  to the “do the crime, do the time” folks: how do you reason this logic for a system that gave a Latino man three years behind bars for the same crime and legal factors that a white male was granted six months (of which he served three for “good behavior”) for? Where does “time” come into play for the felony crime of a White male rapist compared to the misdemeanor crime of 30-year-old Williams?

It doesn’t. The “time” construct is built on the historical architecture of the legal system: strategically constructed with inherent racism, skyscraped with private profits and pillared by ethnic nepotism.

So if you believe nothing else from the legal testimonies of Black and Brown people, trust us when we say the system is literally built against our defense and for our demise.

Or buy a gallon of milk and track its refrigerator lifespan before its expiration date. That's about the full time served by a white, male rape felon and not even a quarter of the sentence for a Black, male misdemeanor offender in America.

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