How Long Should We Punish Shamelessly Privileged, Fraudulent White Folk?
Appearing on an episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk”, Oliva Jade Giannulli, the daughter of Full House actress Lori Loughlin, spoke openly this week about the college bribery scandal that rocked the nation two years ago.
Screenshot from Red Table Talk interview
Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli were charged in 2019 with money laundering and conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud after bribing the University of Southern California with $500,000 to admit their two daughters through the crew team’s rowing program, even though neither daughter actually participated or rowed at all.
To top it all off, Olivia Jade didn’t do herself any favours when, on her Youtube channel, she admitted that she ‘didn’t even care about school’ and was just there to have fun with “game days” and “partying”. She came under fierce scrutiny for her statements, infuriating people even further.
Olivia Jade had also been accused by prosecutors for knowing exactly what was going on, and being an accountable party as well. She appeared on Red Table Talk to ‘clear the air’ (as she put it) about her involvement in the scandal.
She wasn’t entirely in the dark — she just let her privilege blind her.
What becomes abundantly obvious in the interview is that Olivia Jade knew what was going on when it came to her bribed admission to USC.
Sure, she didn’t fork over the cash, but she was a willing participant. “Sweet! College admission I didn’t even earn! Thanks, Mom and Dad!” And she didn’t see a problem with it at the time.
During the interview, she states:
“We had the means to do something and we completely took it and ran with it. It was something that was wrong. It really can’t be excused. On paper, it’s bad — it’s really bad. But I think what a lot of people don’t know is my parents came from a place of just, ‘I love my kids. I just want to help my kids — whatever is best for them — I worked my whole life to provide for my family.’ I think they thought it was normal.”
Olivia admits openly that what happened was wrong (in retrospect, I suppose), but also feels like she shouldn’t be shamed and blamed for the remainder of her life — she believes people deserve second chances:
“What’s so important to me is to now learn from the mistake, not to now be shamed, and punished, and never given a second chance. I’m 21 — I feel like I deserve a second chance, to redeem myself, to show I’ve grown.”
And that’s a fair thing to say. She is, after all, only 21 years old.
That said, if anyone should be held fully accountable for this fraudulent scandal, it’s her parents who purposefully committed the crime. It was also their responsibility to raise their children with high morals and ethical life practices. They failed their children on many counts.
Justice, in part, is being served for them, as they are currently serving their prison sentences.
But how long should Oliva Jade, who avoided jail time, be shamed for the bribing actions of her parents, and her taking advantage of those bribes, despite being an adult when these crimes took place?
I can’t help but wonder if she ever would have felt like this cheating bribery act was ‘wrong’ if they’d never been caught in it. Or if she would have just believed that people in places of privilege should be allowed to pull strings if they’re able to?
From the sounds of it, the answer to that question is ‘no’, she wouldn’t have seen an issue with it, at all, had this scandal not taken place.
And here’s why:
“The Poster Child of White Privilege”
It was nice to hear Oliva Jade refer to herself in this way, but not too many props should be given, as it truly was the bare minimum of what she could have done.
And if she really believes what she says, my above statement wouldn’t be offensive to her in any way.
This is just another wake-up call of how little accountability we expect of white people.
In some ways, it sounds like Oliva Jade has been responsible and used this as a growing experience — as she should.
During the interview, she delved deeper into what she’s learned about herself, and how truly blinded she was by her own privilege:
“I feel like a huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege, and so when it was happening, it didn’t feel wrong. I also felt very misunderstood. The picture that has been painted of me, I feel like, is not who I am. I’m not this bratty girl that doesn’t want to change anything.
Also, I understand why people are angry and understand why people say hurtful things and I would too if I wasn’t in my boat. When you read it, you realize that there’s, like, some truth. I understood that people were upset and angry, and maybe it took me a little bit longer to understand what for, but man, am I glad I did realize. I took my privilege and all my blessings for granted, and I never thought anything of it.”
I’ll say straight out of the gate that I hate the statement of: “I took my privilege for granted”. This still sounds extremely, problematically privileged to me. Almost like, “I wish I’d appreciated my privilege while I had it so I could have used it more efficiently, rather than being completely blind to its existence and benefitting in ways I didn’t recognize!”
Maybe I’m being too hard on this young woman, as she’s still in her early 20s, but I can’t say I feel completely assured that she’s learned her lesson.
More than anything, it seems like she’s trying to make sense of her family’s fall from grace, rather than her own privilege and how to use her position in the spotlight for the greater good.
With this in mind as well, we have to consider our current ‘cancel culture’. ‘Cancel culture’ looks to hold people responsible for the consequences of their actions, including the natural repercussions that affect their lives and careers after they screw up.
Oliva Jade obviously should be permitted to have a life and career of her own, beyond this scandal, but another point I have to touch on is this:
‘Cancel culture’ has already proven that we’re faster to forgive the sins of privileged white people, leaving minorities in more damaged positions for their mistakes, keeping them from thriving in their careers for longer.
And the climb back up to success for those who aren’t privileged white folk? Of course, that climb becomes even harder.
So, when so many people spend their entire education working to get into a good college and fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to make that happen, taking decades to pay that debt off… where does that leave us with Olivia Jade, just two years later?
I think I’m still grappling with this one.
I just wasn’t a big fan of Olivia Jade on ‘Red Table Talk’, and feel like she’s got a lot more to learn before she should feel she can rightfully be accepted back into the public’s trust or respect.
Olivia Jade, who while at school was building a YoutTube channel, has been fairly silent online since the scandal broke. She says now that she’s looking to rebuild her career and move forward past all of this.
She is, after all, still very young, and she has an entire life ahead of her.
But that said, to say she wants to move on from this chapter made it seem like she just didn’t want it to exist anymore. She didn’t want to be known for it, or acknowledge it, or hoped that everyone would forget.
And I think I speak for many people when I say, with all of the newest information and insight taken into account, that I’m just not ready to forgive and forget so quickly.