Chris Hayes is a different kind of journalist. He is young. He has wisdom beyond his years. He is empathetic.
Christ Hayes understands the power of personal testimony in order to provide a more in depth understanding of a story he is relaying. He is able to connect without sounding preachy or presumptuous.
Last Friday on All In With Chris Hayes, he gave a very poignant narrative of his brush with the law at the Republican Convention in 2000. It turns out that he forgot he had a thirty dollar bag of weed in his bag.
When his bag went through the scanners, all was fine. However, his bag was physically opened and searched. He saw the officer take out the weed. The officer then conferred with other officers. The officer put the weed back in the bag and sent Chris Hayes on his way. He was in a panic. He was surprised that all worked out. He was a 21 year old kid with glasses.
What occurred to Chris Hayes is more common than not. Unfortunately it cannot be quantified. When someone has a brush with the law and the officer looks the other way, there is no record. One can only infer these occurrences from testimony of the lucky, and the unlucky.
Chris Hayes’ testimony was important for various reasons. It gives a human context to the marijuana debate. It also illustrates how providing a sensible ‘look aside’ in the criminal justice system prevented the destruction of a life and with that a career. Would MSNBC give a convicted drug offender his own show?
Blacks and Whites use marijuana at the same rates. Yet Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to get arrested. Given that hard quantifiable data come from arrest records, there is a skewed impression of criminality by Blacks. This does not only apply to marijuana but it applies to many other offenses. Minorities’ offenses are much likely to end up with arrests that become a lifelong stigma. It forever changes the direction of their lives and their careers. A small mistake can relegate them to a life of poverty and unemployment.
Chris Hayes cannot be accused of playing the race card.
Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a silly column a few days where he lamented the legalization of marijuana. He was concerned that marijuana would cause Americans not to be the persons they want to be. In his shallow thinking he never spoke about the lives damaged by the criminalization of marijuana. Worse, he did not address that he and his buddies were privileged to have the choice to grow out of their ‘criminal behavior’ without ever entering the criminal justice system.
Chris Hayes personalization of his encounter with the law while having marijuana was important. In one narrative he showed the ability to describe his white privilege in a manner digestible to many. One could not accuse him of playing the race card.