Otto Warmbier, 21, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea for a minor crime last week. The Huffington Post responded Wednesday with an op-ed titled “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.”
Warmbier is a student at the University of Virginia and was arrested in North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster. He said he did this for a friend back home who was a member of his church. In return for getting the poster, his friend would give him a used car worth $10,000.
The HuffPo writer, La Sha, began her piece by telling a story from her youth. She described her mother celebrating when American 18-year-old Michael Fay was sentenced to six lashes from a cane for car vandalism charges in Singapore. At the time Bill Clinton said, “I think it was a mistake, as I said before, not only because of the nature of the punishment related to the crime but because of the questions that were raised about whether the young man was in fact guilty and involuntarily confessed.”
Sha wrote, “I was in sixth grade and all I could imagine was how horrible the pain would be. My mother was unmoved at the thought, remarking, ‘He earned that.’ I thought about my mother’s words a few days ago while watching video of 21-year-old Otto Warmbier.”
He added, “Now, my mother’s callous reaction to Micahel Fay’s sentence is my reaction to another young white man who went to an Asian country and violated their laws, and learned that the shield his cis white male identity provides here in America is not teflon abroad.”
Mind you, this Huffington Post article lacks a satire tag.
La Sha continues to write that she is more shocked by the crime that Warmbier committed in North Korea than the punishment of 15 years hard labor.
“That kind of reckless gall is an unfortunate side effect of being socialized first as a white boy, and then as a white man in this country,” said the HuffPo writer. “The kind of arrogance bred by that kind of conditioning is pathogenic, causing its host to develop a subconscious yet no less obnoxious perception that the rules do not apply to him, or at least that their application is negotiable.”
The Huffington Post writer described Warmbier as having privilege that is “a hell of a drug.” Examples of this privilege to her are when American criminals who surrender peacefully are not shot and killed by police officers.
“When you see a white man taken to Burger King in a bulletproof vest after he killed nine people in a church, you learn that the world will always protect you,” wrote Sha. The white man she referenced was Charleston shooter Dylann Roof.
The HuffPo writer views 15 years of manual labor in North Korea equivalent to her mere existence as a black woman in America.
La Sha wrote, “The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.”