Oh, to be white and a terrorist.
On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan in an attempted assassination of the most powerful man in the free world. He also shot Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, who was left partially paralyzed, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental institution for nearly three decades. After that, he was released under strict conditions.
Now, in 2022, he’s set to be free from those restrictions and it’s difficult not to think about how he likely never would have seen the light of day again if he were a Muslim man or a Black man or just someone who didn’t look so … traditionally American. That person would have been a terrorist.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman is expected to confirm during a Wednesday hearing that Hinckley, 67, will be released unconditionally on June 15. Friedman had said he planned to do this back in September. In fact, in 2003, it was Friedman’s decision to allow Hinckley “to live for longer stretches in the community with requirements like attending therapy and restrictions on where he can travel,” AP reported at the time. Since 2016, Hinckley has been living free from confinement in Virginia under the restrictions that are about to be lifted.
Those include: allowing officials access to his electronic devices, email and online accounts; being barred from traveling to places where he knows there will be someone protected by the Secret Service, and giving three days’ notice if he wants to travel more than 75 miles (120 kilometers) from his home in Virginia.
In July, Hinckley — who plays guitar and sings and has shared his music on a YouTube channel — plans to give a concert in Brooklyn, New York. Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the “John Hinckley Redemption Tour” have been cancelled.
The judge has said that Hinckley, who turned 67 Sunday, has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, no violent behavior and no interest in weapons since 1983.
Prosecutors filed a status report ahead of the hearing to confirm that the mental health professionals who treated Hinckley agreed he “has recovered his sanity such that he does not present a danger to himself or others because of mental illness if unconditionally released.”
Just a reminder that this man tried to assassinate a sitting president of the United States. Harsher punishments have been meted out to prisoners of color for non-violent drug charges or for violent offenses for which their mental health status wasn’t even considered.
Also, maybe this is a good time to talk about Mumia Abu-Jamal. No?
After all, it took nearly 50 years for political prisoner Sundiata Acoli to be granted parole just last month following decades in prison for a questionable conviction in the killing of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973.
Of course, in a country where a mob of white insurrectionists has been treated by the justice system like they just barely did anything wrong despite lethally attacking police while storming a government building where legally cast votes were being certified, it’s no surprise that a man who would be considered a terrorist if he didn’t possess the completion for the protection would be treated so leniently.
Don’t get me wrong, someone who is suffering from mental illness shouldn’t be confined their whole lives if they’ve been treated successfully. I’m just saying, let’s not pretend a Black or brown person could have tried to kill a president and even had their mental state considered like this.
Let’s not pretend white privilege isn’t setting Hinckley free.