Hi. Hello. Good day to you. My name is LaTwyla Mathias and I am a Black woman in America. This makes my health, wealth, and way of life subpar in comparison to any white American. Bet you didn’t know you were getting a dose of cold hard fact when you read this blog, but whoop, there it is. As I’m writing this, we have entered a new month, but not a new day in America. For Black people like me, every day we wake up to the same half life we’ve been living for so long. Sure, we’ve made some progress but we have miles to go. This is why I’m so glad advocates were able to increase the felony threshold in Virginia this year.
Growing up I learned a valuable lesson that timing is everything. Here we sit on June 1st, after a weekend of protests, outcry, and pain. All across the US my people are crying out. Unfortunately, ominous forces are working overtime to thwart the protests and to play into the racist tropes that brought us here in the first place. Then that tangled web catches some of our people in it, causing them to be charged, incarcerated, or worse. The entire system is flawed, from police brutality, mass incarceration, and the felony larceny threshold (the valued amount of stolen merchandise that determines whether a crime was a felony or a misdemeanor). It is all intertwined to work together to keep Black people oppressed. This is why people need second chances and guidance after having made small bad decisions, not jail time and a lifetime of restrictions.
Equity Over Racism
Conservatives would like you to think that raising the felony threshold will increase theft. It won’t. At least 12 states that have raised their threshold to $1,000 or more saw a decline in thefts. Instead of spending $25,000 a year per incarcerated adult and $171,588 a year per incarcerated young person, Virginia could use that money to fund social programs that keep people out of jail.
I’m now 33 and I’ve participated in my fair share of peaceful protests. I love protesting. While I don’t agree with violence, I strongly agree with equity. Let me share an example. When sports teams win a championship, crazed fans run up and down the street, destroy property, set things on fire, and cause a ruckus. When a Black man is killed, peaceful protests occur and sabotagers run up and down the street, destroy property, set things on fire, and cause a ruckus. Can you guess the difference between these two? With mounting evidence that white supremacists are starting the riots, why are our youth the ones behind bars?
One Small Mistake ≠ Lifetime of Restriction
I’m pretty sure we’ve all made a few mistakes in our life. But why should someone wear a scarlet letter for a poor decision that didn’t cause physical harm to anyone else? I wonder what will happen to the youth who will receive a felony. No ability to receive financial aid means no ability to afford college. Without access to college and a felony larceny charge on their record, job prospects are slim. In fact, having one felony on your record makes it extremely difficult to find a job at all, much less a good one. In addition to all that, they’ll also be unable to secure other social benefits like affordable housing.
In many ways, these kids deserve better. One small decision away from complete chaos. Let’s have compassion. I’m so glad that Virginia will raise the felony threshold to $1,000 so that we don’t ruin the lives of people who make one bad mistake.
The state and national political landscape are rapidly changing. Please commit to voting this November to keep the momentum going so we can build the country we deserve.
Check out our other bills highlighted in Progress Virginia’s Christmas in July: