I grew up in Chicago with a mom that was overzealous about education. By the time I was twelve, I’d gone to seven different schools. I went to one school for Kindergarten, two schools for first grade, I was home-schooled halfway through second grade and then started at a new school where I stayed for three years before I transferred to another school for sixth grade because they had ABC (A Better Chance Program) that helped inner-city kids into boarding schools. Then I transferred to a gifted program for 7th and 8th grade while completing my applications for boarding school only to get in and not have enough money, so I stayed at Morgan Park High School. So, the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the mom jailed for falsifying records to get her daughters into a better school hits close to home for me. In fact, I wished my mom had done the same thing. Thus while Williams-Bolar is being used as an example of the various ways individuals can commit fraud, she is also quickly becoming a martyr for inner-city parents seeking immediate solutions to sub-par educational institutions. Bravo.
In Williams-Bolar’s case, she used the address of her ex-husband (the father of her children) to gain access to a more prestigious school and was therefore charged with defrauding the school of more than $30,000 in funds. So what! I’m not at all sympathetic to the state in this situation even though rules are rules. It seems to me, if Rahm can hold down residence in Chicago while he works a job in Washington (which I think is fair, by the way), then this woman can use her kid’s father’s home to establish residency for her children, even if they don’t really live there. Doesn’t he pay taxes and vote in that school’s district?
When Judge Patricia Cosgrove decided to hand down a ten-day jail sentence to make an example of Williams-Bolar, she was doing what a number of prosecutors and judges have done in the media recently–use black people, both rich and poor alike, as examples for all to see. Think Nicholas Cage and then think Wesley Snipes. There was even a story on Bossip.com of a young black woman who was given a jail sentence that required her to report to prison every weekend. Being that she was a hair and makeup stylist, each week she outfitted herself with a new hairdo. It didn’t seem to bother the officials at the prison, as a number of photographs featuring her urban up-dos made it to mainstream media. After word of her popularity got back to the prison, she was ordered to wash her face and take out her weave before taking her next photograph. That’ll teach her. It seems to me she could have very well been making a mockery of the system but what does it mean for those in power to seek retribution?
As in the case with Williams-Bolar, the judge wanted to make an example out of her to deter others from making the same mistake. Is that okay? The arrest and release of Williams-Bolar is sure to bring into focus the pitfalls of poor neighborhoods; bad education, crime, drugs, and every other vice. However, along with the basics of social science analysis will be the clarification of fraud laws and the literalist’s view that no matter how sympathetic we may all be to Williams-Bolar’s case, she still broke the law. What is even more unfortunate, is that the judge, who had an opportunity to use her power to limit the scope of the punishment for Williams-Bolar chose instead to mock and shame her. I am not one to make major claims to reparations, at least not seriously. I crack jokes about blacks getting free cotton items and laugh about how unreasonable a mule would be to an inner city person in these times. But if anything makes me look back more on slavery and think there has to be some kind of payback, it is a case like this. Especially when the white defense seems to be that Williams-Bolar took what other people worked so hard to gain. Go figure.