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White Privilege and Lori Loughlin

Lori Loughlin, now infamous for her role in the College Admissions Scandal, was released from prison on December 28. After two months. A source noted that Loughlin is “beyond relieved that she can put her prison sentence behind her.” It, prison, two months. 

Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the popular 90s sitcom Full House, also received a $150,000 fine and 150 hours of community service for posing her daughters as crew rowers to get into the University of Southern California. Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, is still serving time in prison. His sentence was five months

Admittedly, Loughlin is showing remorse for what she did. “I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry,” she said, “I’m ready to face the consequences and make amends.” And while Loughlin may feel remorse or recognize the severity of what she’s done, there’s no excusing the fact that this entire situation hinges on white privilege and the notion that, because of her status and skin color, her experience with the law is significantly less severe than what would happen to a person of color in the same situation. 

The Lori Loughlin Problem

In 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar used her father’s address in a neighboring school district when enrolling her daughters in school. Williams-Bolar, a single mother at the time, “wanted to raise her daughters in better circumstances than she grew up in.” After her daughters faced bullying and inadequate education in the Akron school district of Ohio, her father, who helped take care of Williams-Bolar’s daughters, agreed to use his address as a way to secure a better education for the girls. This is known as “boundary hopping.”

Williams-Bolar, a Black woman, was charged with theft of public education and other charges relating to falsifying documents. She was originally sentenced to five years in prison for a crime that many people across the United States commit. Her sentence was reduced to 10 days, but still, during her case, the presiding judge noted “others who think they might defraud the school system perhaps will think twice,” implicating Williams-Bolar’s case as the cautionary tale. 

Where does Loughlin come in? Equally, Loughlin wanted to secure a better education for her daughters than they could achieve on their own. Unequally, Loughlin’s daughters attended an all-girls private school in Los Angeles. The issue of receiving an inadequate public education wasn’t ever a question for Loughlin and her daughters. 

So what? Boundary hopping does place stress on school districts and increase over-enrollment, and Williams-Bolar was caught, wasn’t she? Yes, after the Copley-Fairlawn school district hired a private investigator to confirm she had enrolled her daughters out of bounds. 

Admittedly, Loughlin’s and Williams-Bolar’s situations are different. However, the inequity between them stands. Loughlin will be able to resume her life of comfort after serving her time and community service. She has the money to do that. All across the U.S., though, BIPOC individuals convicted of crimes equally or less severe than Loughlin’s can’t necessarily do the same.  The American criminal justice system holds just under 2.3 million people. On a federal level, many of those offenders are convicted for nonviolent drug possession, which will end up on the offender’s record and hurt their chances at finding a job post-sentence. Loughlin, on the other hand, “would love to act again at some point,” because she “always loved her career.” 

Lori Loughlin, while she did spend her time in prison during a pandemic which is undeniably dangerous, is going to return to a normal life after two months in prison. She has that luxury because she has the money to do so. Loughlin never had to worry about the quality of education her daughters received, Loughlin never had to worry about getting a job post-prison. The amount of privilege that comes with that is immense, all due to her wealth and skin color, of course.

Olivia Jade Speaks Out

Prior to her mother’s release, Olivia Jade Giannulli, a YouTuber and former student at USC, broke her silence on the Varsity Blues scandal on Red Table Talk. For those unfamiliar, Red Table Talk is a Facebook talk show hosted by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Pinkett Smith’s mother. Originally, RTT served as a show for women of color to voice their opinions. 

Giannulli went on the show with the intention of breaking her silence on the scandal after disappearing from the Internet following the drama. While on RTT, the three hosts and guest had an honest conversation about the stress Giannulli has faced for the scandal and her accountability. However, Banfield-Norris, and many other viewers, found Giannulli’s choice of outlet peculiar: “I just found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out to for her redemption story… it’s bothersome to me on so many levels.” Banfield-Norris grilled Giannulli, asking her tough questions regarding white privilege and her role in the scandal. It was an important conversation to have, to be sure, and the RTT hosts did it more justice than any other outlet could. 

However, coming out of the interview, and looking at the Lori Loughlin, College Scandal as a whole, it’s hard to imagine any real change. After all, Felicity Huffman, another actress involved in the scandal, is already on her way back to television. Giannulli, during her RTT interview, said she “deserves a second chance,” and it seems clear she’ll get it. She’s planning her return to YouTube, of course. 

So, how does this story end? Really, only time will tell. In a perfect world, Loughlin and her daughters would use their experience to speak out about mass incarceration and the injustices BIPOC face in the criminal justice system. And who knows! Maybe that will happen. Loughlin is still able to take full accountability and turn her wealth and status into means to empower BIPOC. To give things an optimistic spin, let’s hope 2021 is the year of rich, white celebrities speaking out against inequity and injustice. What a world that would be. 

Image Credit: Netflix

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