Dear Mr. Wahlberg:
On April 8th, 1988 you struck an innocent Vietnamese man with a 5-foot stick. You struck such a vicious blow that he immediately fell to the ground unconscious, while you shouted racial slurs at him. According to the police report, after you were arrested and taken back to the scene of your crime, you told them ‘you don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother**ker whose head I split open.’ You then proceeded to flee from the scene of your crime and asked another Vietnamese gentleman, Hoa Trinh, to hide you because the police were coming and he did. When you had been successfully shielded by Mr. Trinh, you punched him in the face so forcefully that you blinded him in one eye and then tried to run off shouting more racial slurs. Police were able to apprehend you and you were arrested. You were 16 at the time and tried as an adult. You were initially charged with attempted murder, which was then dropped to criminal contempt. Although you had been in trouble with law enforcement previously for both violent and racially motivated crimes and the maximum sentence for your new charge was 10 years, you were only given a 2 year sentence. You were lucky that you only ended up serving FORTY-FIVE DAYS of your sentence. Forty-five days despite being a drug dealer, despite being hideously violent, despite your previous racially motivated assaults, and despite your checkered history with the law. Wow.
And then on November 26, 2014 you submitted a petition to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons to have your 1988 convictions of Criminal Contempt, Assault and Battery, Two Counts of Assault and Battery by a Dangerous Weapon, and Possession of a Class D Controlled Substance struck from your record. You stated that a pardon would be ‘formal recognition that I am not the same person I was…’. Ummmm, ok. I guess the first thing most people are thinking is why? Why are you so deserving of a formal pardon, no, a ‘formal recognition’ from the state when so many others are not? Why, when no pardons have been issued in Massachusetts since 2002, do you deserve one? Because you were able to get out of jail after just 45 days? Because you were able to go on and have a music and modelling career? Because you were then able to make millions off of an acting and producing career? No wait, you state it’s because you’ve raised almost $10 million for your foundation to help at-risk youths since 2001. While this is admirable, your estimated net worth is $200 million and you’re talking about raising $10 million over a 13-year period. Again, these are huge sums of money but even if we assume that the $10 million came straight from you and no outside sources, as a percentage of your wealth given overtime, this is really quite ordinary. It is estimated that those who earn over $200,000 a year give away 3.1% of their wealth, and those who earn less than $100,000 give away an impressive 3.6% of their wealth. So what you’re citing here as a reason for your pardon, rather than being extraordinary, is really quite commonplace among the general population. I don’t mean to detract from the good work that you do; I’m merely trying to put it into context in the wider charitable sector.
You also state that you deserve a pardon because it would allow you to work more closely with law enforcement in both Massachusetts and California. I think many people are thinking well thank you very much Mr. Wahlberg but Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others have already happened without your close minded-self being involved with law enforcement. No, no; I guess that’s not fair. But truly, you have a history of hideously violent behavior (like when you beat a man so violently in 1992 that you broke his jaw and then you paid him an undisclosed amount to make it go away because you were already famous as Marky Mark). We’re not talking about a bar fight here or a scuffle. We’re talking serious, life-altering, documented violence. Law enforcement is a high stress, physical occupation and on numerous occasions you have shown that you’re not afraid to get overly physical. If you were any other person applying for a job as a police officer or parole officer, your application would be highly scrutinized and ultimately rejected. What is it that you have to offer law enforcement that is so above and beyond the norm that your past can and should be erased when no one else’s is? This is baffling to me and millions of other people.
And yes, it sucks that a successful entrepreneur such as yourself cannot obtain a liquor license for your growing empire of burger restaurants, but that’s one of the consequences of living outside of the law. You state that granting a pardon would show other offenders that they can turn their lives around and be a success. Now while I might personally agree that prevention in the first instance or opportunity is a better motivator for good behavior than using deterrents or continuously recriminalizing people, that is the system we live in. I would gladly debate with you the merits of rewards/opportunities vs deterrents to help reduce recidivism, but that’s not what you’re arguing nor have you started any such campaign to change the system. Just so you know, this really makes it seem like you just want the pardon because you want to make more money and not because you truly believe that you can be a positive example to others or that the current criminal justice system needs to change. If anything, the state could argue that not granting you a pardon would be more of a motivator because that would, hopefully, deter people from committing a crime in the first instance.
Perhaps most importantly, what is so confusing to people, and what they want answered, is why you think your petition should be granted just because you haven’t been violent or racist in the recent past? First of all, that’s quite a normal occurrence for the majority of us. It does not make you extraordinary and it certainly doesn’t make you look good when highlight that as an accomplishment. And second, while you have done a lot of (public and advertised) good, at what point have you reached out to the communities that you terrorized? Did you reach out to the Vietnamese community and try to make amends for your disgusting behavior before you filed your petition? Have you worked extensively with immigrant communities to understand the error of your bigoted ways? Did you work with black communities after you yelled racial slurs and threw rocks at black kids? Do you work with those communities now? If not, why not? If you do, then you need to get new PR people. If you’re truly repentant and you’ve genuinely changed as a person, then why have you not engaged with the communities you hurt? Surely that would be more inspiring to young people than you simply asking for a pardon because you set up a foundation.
I think a final burning question people have is when do the breaks (or formal recognitions) stop for Mark Wahlberg? Despite being a horrifically racist and violent person, you were able to somehow erase this past and have a music career, which then turned into an acting career, which then grew into a producing career, and now a food empire. Clearly you are talented and hardworking but so are many of the people who leave prison. You claim this pardon is not about entitlement but what do you think would have happened to you if you had been black or Hispanic and the people that you attacked had been white? How do you think your sentence would have differed and how do you think it would have impacted you once you left prison? You may not want to deal with these questions, but when you ask for this extraordinary treatment of your criminal past, you are opening up the wider debate of the workings of the criminal justice system and central to that is the issue of race. If you want to be a champion for ex-convicts that is highly admirable but these questions are part and parcel of that status. People doubt your motives because despite wanting to be the poster child for the criminal justice system working, you either refuse or choose to not engage in a debate about the system. This makes you seem disingenuous, entitled, and quite frankly entirely undeserving of a pardon.
Despite seriously questioning your judgment and this ridiculous pardon, I would still like to thank you. You see, just like you, I have children and I want to teach them how to make this world a better place. Part of that is teaching them that the system is unfair. They also, however, have the power to change the system, and because as half-white, non-poor people they will benefit from the system, they have a responsibility to change it. But when someone like me (a non-white woman who wags her finger and shakes her head),raises the very real and very obvious double standard applied to whites and non-whites in the (judicial, legal, just general) system, people roll their eyes. They think I’m just another person blaming race and inequality because that’s (somehow) the easier option. Even when I quote studies and cite statistics and even when we have law enforcement on camera using excessive, and sometimes fatal, force against non-whites, people still roll their eyes at the minority harping on about race and blah, blah, blah. But when you submit a petition like the one you did and you talk about wanting ‘formal recognition’ from the state, you essentially do my job for me. So while I abhor your petition and your actions, I am still inclined to highlight them because you show me, my children, and the rest of the world that you are the very definition of white privilege. Your actions prove it in a way that no study or statistic ever could. So thank Mr. Wahlberg for showing us all that white privilege is alive, well, and very, very real. Your move Massachusetts.