The Ryan Lochte Robbery Drama Isn’t About A Little White Lie, But Rather, Big White Privilege

August 18, 2016  |  

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Ryan Lochte

AP Images

In the midst of all the time I’ve spent watching the Olympics lately, I had briefly heard the stories surfacing earlier this week that American swimmer Ryan Lochte and teammates Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen had been robbed in Rio. I admit that I immediately assumed it was true, and went about my business. Why lie about something like that?

But once I heard that the swimmers, with the exception of Lochte, who had already flown home, were pulled off of their flights and detained, I had to look a little further. So I read multiple publications to get a better idea of why people who said they had been victimized would be treated like criminals, and just like that, things got murky. The “inconsistencies” in the swimmers’ stories weren’t small.

Aside from the fact that Lochte didn’t tell the police, but rather, the media that the swimmers were robbed initially, they went from claiming individuals dressed up as the authorities ran up to the taxi they were riding in to rob them to saying that they stopped at a gas station and one robber approached them, not plural.

Then there was the fact that Lochte went from saying a gun was put to his head during the robbery, to telling Matt Lauer of Today that the gun was just pointed in his general vicinity.

Then there was a reported surveillance video that the BBC claims shows the swimmers, after the robbery, returning to the Olympic village, “passing valuables through a metal detector, despite telling police that items had been stolen.” Lochte claimed they had their wallets and some personal items taken, but a watch and phones (usual targets for theft) were spotted in the surveillance.

And in that same video, they reportedly seemed upbeat as they returned home to the Olympic Village. Lochte told officials they left a party at Club France around 4 a.m. on Sunday, but cameras at the club show them leaving at 5:50 a.m. according to The New York Times. They didn’t get back to the Olympic Village until 6:56 a.m. according to a Rio newspaper. And when they arrived, based on the video, Judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop (who ordered the swimmers’ passports seized) said in a statement, “You can see the supposed victims arriving without signs of being physically or psychologically shaken, even joking amongst themselves.”

And now, to make matters worse, Brazilian police sources have told ABC News this morning that there is a video showing one of the swimmers breaking a door to a bathroom and fighting with a security guard at the petrol station they stopped at.

Still, Lochte told Lauer that he “wouldn’t make this story up.” His lawyer agrees. And one would hope he wouldn’t. Filing a false police report, under Brazilian law, is punishable by a fine or a jail sentence of up to six months. And yet, now his teammates, Conger and Bentz, reportedly told police a short time ago that the story was fabricated, according to the AP.

And while I watched people, namely White folks, try and slander Rio and Brazilian police, saying they should let it go and focus on trying to deal with the actual reports of robberies and crime “rampant” in the country (you watch City of God once and now you’re an expert on what’s going on over there), Twitter is calling bullsh-t, and so am I. I specifically call bull on this statement from Rio Olympic organizer Mario Andrada, who said, “These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities. They competed under gigantic pressure. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometime you take actions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

Only problem is, Lochte, the oldest motherf–ker of the group, is 32. He’s not a kid, as none of them are. And don’t let the colored hair fool you.

And most importantly, let’s stop telling people to focus on bigger issues or try to divert attention when White people get their hand caught in the cookie jar. When they use countries with checkered reputations, people with murky pasts and groups plagued with stereotypes as scapegoats for their behavior. When they lie to cover up bad behavior and have, on cue, people ready to classify them as “kids” who make simple “mistakes.” Lord knows our inherent bias allows us to pick and choose who gets to be a “dumb kid” and who gets to be a “thug.”

It’s part of the reason I was so disgusted with the likes of Taylor Swift after the whole Kanye West, “Famous” drama. Despite getting on the phone with this man and saying that she liked the idea of him saying that she still owes him sex because he made her famous (and that it was “really nice” of him to ask for her permission first) on the track, she backpedaled and told the world that she never heard the song, approved it, or had a conversation with West before it was released. To defend herself, she would say she never said it was okay for him to call her a “bitch” in the song, painting herself as the victim — yet again.

But let’s not act as though this doesn’t happen all of the time. When it takes a 4-year-old to stop a babysitter’s plan to claim she claim her employers were robbed by a Black man for the crime her boyfriend and friend committed. When a pastor lies about being shot and robbed by a “Black man.” The Ashley Todd mugging story. Charles Stuart. Susan Smith. And so on and so forth. Because the assumption, as I ignorantly once believed, was “Why lie about something like that?” Because there’s something bad to hide.

I say all this to state that such lies, and the penchant people have to believe them due to the notoriety of a certain person, place or thing, is incredibly dangerous. It continues to paint the worst picture possible of them (a country with rampant crime, the crazy rapper, the violent race) all while helping to promote a positive image of privileged people: The sweet and always victimized White country/pop singer, the Olympic golden boys, the genuinely good “kid who made a mistake.”

And again, I call bullsh-t.

I don’t know what may have happened. Maybe they really did act a complete fool in the gas station and needed a story to explain that situation. Maybe they were in a place they shouldn’t have been and someone did get robbed, so they had to cover their a–es. Maybe they just wanted some sympathetic attention. Who knows? But as developments continue to come in, the complete truth is going to come out eventually, and it will be time for these “kids” to be honest and for the people who constantly cape for them to back off and allow them to explain themselves. And that will be one story that I, for one, can’t wait to hear.

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