Matthew Cordle Video: Viral Confession Shows How We Treat White Criminals in the U.S.
On June 22, 61-year-old Vincent Canzani became the unfortunate victim of aggravated vehicular homicide.
I want to commend Cordle for confessing to his crime. As he recognizes, by confessing, he hands "the prosecution everything they need to put me away for a very long time." Regardless of one’s opinions concerning the justice system, confessing was undoubtedly the right course of action, both to address his own guilt and to help Canzani’s friends and family in their healing processes.
However, this video also raises important concerns regarding how we, as a culture, treat white and black men differently in the United States.
The video is constructed such that Cordle — a young, white man — feels relatable to what is presumably a white, middle-class audience. The music that accompanies his monologue is strangely soothing, as if to soften the fact that he is confessing to homicide. The close-up on his face contributes to a sense of intimacy that bridges the gap between Cordle and his viewer. We, the viewers, are made to feel like we are personally listening to his testimony, which allows us to feel personally invested in him.
Importantly, he is afforded the opportunity to explain why he is confessing. When the “high-powered attorneys” he contacted suggest he lies, he says “Well I won’t go down that path.” When he contemplates the possibility of getting a reduced sentence, he claims “I won’t dishonor Vincent’s memory by lying about what happened.” He is made to appear the hero in the situation, despite confessing his guilt. Because we as viewers feel personally invested in him, we are able to see his humanity.
When black men are convicted of crimes, they are not afforded the same opportunity to establish their humanity. As we witnessed with Trayvon Martin, black men, even black teenaged men, are assumed guilty.
I am not saying that we should feel less empathy for Canzani, Cordle, and all the people affected by what transpired on the morning of June 22. I do not doubt that Cordle regrets his actions, nor do I doubt that he would change what happened if he could. I do, however, think we — the white, middle-class portion of the United States — should give black men the same opportunity to represent their humanity that we give to white men.