Law & Order: SVU managed to combine the Trayvon Martin shooting, the Paula Deen racism scandal, and New York City’s stop-and-frisk controversy into one crazy episode that aired last week.
The episode follows a famous Southern TV chef who shoots a black, unarmed, hoodie-wearing teenager as she’s walking home to her Upper West Side apartment.
Despite a disclaimer noting that the episode is “fictional” and “does not depict any actual person or event,” the inspiration behind it is pretty obvious.
The full episode is available on Hulu. We’ve compiled the best parts below.
At the beginning of the episode, the Special Victims Unit detectives interview women who have recently been raped in separate attacks on the Upper West side.
The two women describe their attacker: black, about 6 feet tall, wearing a hoodie and baseball cap. The rapist told the women he had a gun and he said “You know you want it.”
Detective Olivia Benson tells the team to “stop and frisk ’til we get this guy.” New York’s stop-and-frisk policy has been controversial because of possible racial profiling.
News of the possible serial rapist on the Upper West Side reaches Jolene Castille, a famous Southern chef who has TV cooking shows. She’s walking back to her apartment when she notices someone following her.
She shoots the guy when he attempts to follow her to the door of her apartment. It turns out that the person Castille thought was an intimidating man was actually 16-year-old Mehcad Carter, walking home from playing basketball with his friends.
Castille tells the police that he lunged at her and that she thought he had a gun because he had his hand in his pocket.
The boy’s parents are understandably upset when they find out how he died, and police eventually find and arrest the real Upper West Side rapist.
The calls for Castille’s arrest begin, but she continues to justify her actions as self-defence, while making racist comments like “You think just because you caught a black rapist, he’s the only one?” She also tells a detective from Georgia that if they were “down home” Catille would be “getting a medal” for what she did.
The media frenzy begins. Castille is labelled the “ragin’ Cajun” and Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (also known as Ice-T) questions whether the incident was self-defence or a hate crime.
In court, more details come out that make it obvious this episode is modelled off of the Paula Deen scandal and George Zimmerman trial.
Protestors gather outside the courtroom before Castille’s trial.
Mehcad’s mother notes that when he left home, all he had was his mobile phone and some bubble gum (similar to Trayvon’s mobile phone and Skittles), and prosecutors find out about a civil suit brought by several black kitchen employees who worked in one of Castille’s restaurants (similar to a suit brought against Paula Deen that alleged racism in her Georgia restaurant).
Prosecutors obtain a disposition that Castille gave as part of the lawsuit in which she refers to her black employees as “field hands.” Castille justified it by saying that it was just a heated exchange that was laughed off later.
Finally, Castille makes an explosive statement that sums up what many people thought was in Zimmerman’s head the night he followed and shot Trayvon: “If it was a white boy, I wouldn’t have been afraid.”
Castille is acquitted, just like Zimmerman. Her lawyer makes the point that the police were racially profiling when they stopped and frisked young black men while they were trying to find the rapist, and that Castille was simply doing the same thing — watching out for men who matched the description of the suspect.
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