Regardless of what folks may say, the privileges of being rich and White are very real and benefit select members of our society that fall into that demographic. These privileges were absent for Bronx teen Pedro Hernandez. The authorities falsely accused him of orchestrating in a 2015 shooting outside of a local grocery store. Prosecutors said that Pedro had passed the gun used in the shooting off to the gunman. Reminiscent of the tragic story of the late Kalief Browder, Pedro sat on Rikers Island for more than a year, unable to make his $250,000 bail. His charges were dismissed after evidence against Pedro collapsed last year. If Pedro had been born into affluence and/or had the complexion for protection, odds are he would not have had to endure all of that.
White privilege and wealth privilege came back into headlines last week with the acquittal of 18-year-old Cameron Terrell, a White, privileged kid who is the child of interior designer Debra Terrell and media executive Donald Wayne Terrell, and lives in the upscale city of Palos Verdes Estates in California. He stood trial for charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection to the killing of 21-year-old Justin Holmes in South LA last year. Terrell had admitted to driving the car that the two alleged hitters were riding in when the crime was committed, but today, he walks free while the teen duo accused of the crime sit in jail.
You may be wondering what a kid who lives in a $2 million home was doing in South LA. Well, while most suburban White kids simply consume rap music from a distance or watch hood movies, Terrell decided to immerse himself in LA gang life. According to StreetGangs, Terrell had affiliated himself with the Rollin 90’s Neighborhood Crips. According to the LA Times, it appears Terrell gained favor with the gang and others in the community by “giving away clothing and letting people borrow his luxury car.”
According to court testimony, Terrell got on the police’s radar in the spring of 2017 after multiple interactions at Jesse Owens Park, a known Rollin 90’s hangout. Online posts indicate that Terrell was down with the gang the year before. According to reports, he was bestowed with the nicknames “White Boy” and “Milk,” and he can be seen in photos and music videos (like the one below) wearing gang colors, rocking gang flags, throwing up gang signs and hanging with known gang members. “He doesn’t take any of that back to Palos Verdes,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Tricia Taylor said to the jury during the trial.
The incident that landed Terrell in hot water occurred on October 1 of last year. “Palos Verdes’ Most Wanted” picked up two teen gang members that he’d befriended in his father’s Benz and drove them to the Manchester Square neighborhood, a territory of the Eight Tray Gangster Crips, an alleged rival set of the Rollin 90’s. While there, the three happened upon Justin Holmes, who was walking with two friends near the intersection of West 78th Street and Western Avenue. The two teens who rode with Terrell allegedly walked up on the trio asking which gang they belonged to, as Terrell was parked out of sight of the crime. Holmes’ friends ran off, leaving him to fend for himself, as he tried to convince the two alleged gunmen that he didn’t gangbang. He was telling the truth. He worked a square job at U-Haul and was simply visiting friends in the neighborhood on his day off. Regardless, shots were fired and Holmes fell dead. The two alleged gang members can be seen on surveillance video fleeing the scene and hopping into Terrell’s black Benz, which sped off. During the trial, prosecutors also showed a video that Terrell filmed of his friends kicking over candles laid down for Holmes at a street memorial.
Terrell was arrested and charged that same month. He posted $500,000 cash on a $5 million bond after a
full week behind bars and was released. Last Monday (July 23), Terrell got let off the hook, thanks to his attorney, Jovan Blacknell (a Black man) after the jury deliberated for 10 days (the trial started on July 3). After the verdict, Blacknell blamed “blatant overcharging” for the case coming to be. “Cameron Terrell did not possess any weapons, he did not shoot anybody, he was not part of any conspiracy, or any plan or plot,” said the defense attorney. “At best the evidence suggests that Cameron was a witness.”
While the prosecution argued that Terrell, indeed, was aware that his friends wanted to go to that neighborhood to kill someone, Blacknell countered by arguing that Terrell was under the impression that the two wanted to tag the neighborhood with graffiti. According to CBS Los Angeles:
Blackwell said his client was shocked when he heard the shots, driving a block away as a matter of survival. He added Terrell would not have been driving “his daddy’s car” if he knew there would be a shooting, though he did believe a fight would take place.
As far as his client’s dealing with the notorious gang, Blacknell argued that although one of Terrell’s friends had allegedly joined, Terrell, himself, was no gang member. Instead, Blacknell depicted Terrell as a gang scholar-of-sorts, who read books to study up on the culture and decided to go on an “LA Gang Binge” (whatever that is). He argued that Terrell was being unfairly judged by “closed-minded” people for having friends of different backgrounds who might “walk a different path.”
According to Blacknell, Terrell has a “newfound love” of the legal process and has decided to study law at an unnamed college in Houston. Terrell even went so far as to offer condolences to the slain Holmes in a statement he made after the verdict. “I want to say rest in peace, Justin Holmes,” he said. “He shouldn’t have died that day. I pray for his family every night.”
The case of Cameron Terrell is just another example of how privilege works in our society and legal system. Reading the details of the case may trigger memories of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman near a dumpster at a campus frat house in 2015. Thanks to his privilege, he was only sentenced to six months in county jail (he only served three), probation and sex-offender registry. Now, his attorney is appealing his conviction, claiming that his client wanted “outercourse,” a so-called “version of safe sex,” defined as “non-penetrative sex.”
Terrell’s case may also remind you of the case of Ethan Couch in 2013. Couch killed four people while driving drunk in 2013. However, his attorney’s claimed that he suffered from “affluenza,” a made-up term meaning that he didn’t know the difference between right and wrong due to his family’s wealth. He ended up only doing two years (720 days) in prison for a probation violation, not the deaths.
Terrell’s case is uniquely outrageous in its own way. Regardless of what his defense says, Terrell, a White teen appropriating gang culture, drove two young Black men to kill another young Black man. Without his wheel, the alleged shooters probably wouldn’t make it to Manchester Square that fateful day and Justin Holmes would probably be alive to continue building the life he wanted for himself. While Terrell will be able to walk free, pursue his dreams and surely enjoy his privilege even more in life, his two “friends,” who will remain locked up until they stand trial, are potentially going to prison for the rest of their young lives. That’s three Black lives lost, yet another White life preserved.
Black folks: Beware seemingly “cool” outsiders who look to integrate themselves into our communities/culture. While there are some who have good intentions, many are looking to take and consider the “hood” a Safari. Look out for the ones who only seem to want to take from us. Hip-hop mogul Dame Dash coined the term “culture vultures” to describe such a person. Cameron Terrell milked LA gang culture for whatever he wanted from it, be it a thrill, clout, entertainment or whatever the fuck, but when shit hit the fan, he didn’t stand tall in his actions like authentic members of the culture he was usurping from are urged to do. He wanted all of the benefits of “street life” with none of the consequences. Like many others, he got out of the kitchen when it got too hot and will likely never even look back.
When it comes to “culture vultures,” people like Cameron Terrell are the most dangerous kind.