a
Copyright Rights for Recovery - 2016
HomeAdvocacyA Felon, or King James?

A Felon, or King James?

A Felon, or King James?

And no, not THAT King James, but rather the one of regal descent; the handsome fellow below.

How could I, an individual born no where near the 16th Century – an individual in long-term recovery whose substance use disorder resulted in a felonious conviction of driving under the influence, assert that I am anything close in nature to the King of Scots and England? That part is easy – I’m white.

 

Did he really just say that?

 

Yes, as a matter of fact I did just say that. Though by many metrics of society I am a marginalized and disenfranchised individual, it pales in comparison to the privileges I still am privy to because of the color of skin. Since many of us like keeping score at home, let’s run the numbers:

  1. I have a chronic disease (substance use disorder) that many still in the world view as a moral failing, or a sin.
  2. I have more than 70 hours of tattoos on my body (no matter that many are religious scripture, memorials to people that have passed, and personal recovery mantras.
  3. I have a felony conviction.

For many, those three bullets would spell social outcast – and in many ways, that is true. As a person who has those characteristics above, I have known what it feels like to be gawked at in public by other “straight-laced” individuals, followed by security at certain venues and places, known just as “950” because of my probation number, and had many of my human rights taken away as a result of my criminal justice involvement.

BUT – there is one glaring thing missing from our list…

I am WHITE.

I have no idea what it feels like to be marginalized or de-humanized to the extent that I cannot drive down the street. I do not what it feels like to be afraid if I will be able to make it back home to my family by the end of the day, I have no idea what it feels like to have a system stacked so high against me that I cannot find any semblance of upward mobility. Frankly, despite all of my negatively associated characteristics, I might as well be royalty in this country.

Frankly, despite all of my negatively associated characteristics, I might as well be royalty in this country.

I have spent years as a martyr to the events in my life; crying foul of every transgression I thought wasn’t fair or just. At the time, I knew no better. Whether I believed equity and equality were the same, or my own privilege blinded me to reality I still don’t know. What I know now is that my ignorance to such things as systemic racism, power and privilege, 21st century oppression, is no excuse for me to do nothing. It is no excuse for me not to lend my voice to others whom are crying out in anguish and sorrow – confused as to why we live in a world that can result in such atrocities. There is no justification for the wonton taking of human life – none.

There is no justification for the wonton taking of human life – none.

I don’t pretend to have the solutions; I barely have a tangible grasp of what the real problem is. What I do know though, is I will not continue to be part of the problem. I choose to acknowledge my privilege and what it really means in this world. I acknowledge and respect that there are others that have none of the things I have, and that is wrong.

I acknowledge that I am not okay with a world that as a convicted felon, I might as well be King James.

Share With:
Rate This Article

Robert Ashford, BSW is a man in long-term recovery who advocates for recovery, behavioral health policy, criminal justice reform, and many other social justice issues. He holds a BSW from the University of North Texas, and is currently at University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice to complete an MSW program. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Renew Magazine, Addiction Unscripted, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. He is also the founder of the multi-author advocacy platform, Rights for Recovery.

robert@rightsforrecovery.org

No Comments

Leave A Comment