By now most people have viewed one or both of the popular documentaries detailing the Frye Fest (that never was) and its creator William ‘Billy’ McFarland. I’m sure no one who has viewed the docu’s would be in disagreement that Billy is a narcissistic psychopath. Still one has to wonder how in the hell was he able to scam people out of millions and convince people to attend a festival that in no way could meet the advertised expectations. White Privilege that’s how. When you’re a white male apparently no one asks you even the most logical, standard, business questions before they hand over money. Fyre Fest was just one of many ventures Billy had embarked on that failed and left its consumers without what was promised. Yet and still Billy was able to put on a suit, go on television, meet with investors and make them believe him and his ideas were worth millions.
I’d argue this would NEVER happen to a black woman or man. I’ve witnessed firsthand black professionals present all their credentials, knowledge, solid business plans, and even capital to be turned down and dismissed. Often times white people (or people who or not of color) get leery of black people with solid credentials and financial stability. They typically ask, “How’d you really get that money? Now, WHAT college did you attend? Do you have a business partner assisting or backing you (presumably a white one?),” but Billy was able to scam people from elementary school and more than likely to this very moment as he sits in jail.
Most people find it humorous that rich (white) privileged kids were the ones getting scammed, and because no one was physically harmed the Fyre Fest is known as one of the biggest jokes played on stupid wealthy Millennials. Billy was charged with fraud and sentenced to six years. He is now serving time in Federal (plush) prison. At this time there several lawsuits against Billy and others who played a part in the spectacle filed on behalf of those that purchased tickets for the event.
So often rich white people are able to get sentences that allow them to “pay their debt to society” but it doesn’t infringe on their lives much. Meanwhile, research has proven that the justice system has been constructed to target African Americans and make sure they are placed in prison to serve extremely long, disproportionate sentences or never be released at all. I know I am not alone in thinking that Billy certainly will not be rehabilitated while incarcerated and will most likely scam someone again. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the documentary has popularized Billy and some investor(s) can’t wait for him to get out of prison and monetizing him and/or a future business venture of his. Meanwhile, so many of our black brothers and sisters struggle to find employment after being incarcerated.
Yet and still in all of this, the people left exploited the most are the black residents of the island of Exuma. The documentaries detail the residents working tirelessly to construct accommodations on the island for the festival. The most heartbreaking part of the Netflix documentary is the segment when a restaurant owner on the island details how she had to go into her personal savings to delve out tens of thousands of dollars to people who worked for her who had prepared food for Billy, his counterparts, and festival attendees. She tearily explains that unlike Billy she could not leave these people unpaid. Whether the lawsuits are paid by Billy and the other organizers of Fyre Fest the plaintiffs will be okay financially. The workers of the island will likely never see a dime of reparations from Billy. And no one will hold him accountable to do so.
If you’re a black person you’re not surprised that this was able to transpire. Hell, if you’re a black person you’re not surprised at much of anything anymore. After watching the docu’s my lasting thoughts were that Billy was able to scam people out of millions before the age of 27. In a way that’s inspiring. I know as a black woman I could never present the same credentials (or lack thereof) as Billy and have investors throwing millions at me. But, it did make me ponder, If Billy can get millions with charm and deception, I should be able to make millions with hard work, self-discipline, and perseverance. White Privilege will always be an advantage that I don’t have and that’s just the reality. However, knowing just how much of an advantage that White Privilege provides is crucial in knowing what we are up against in the professional and everyday world. Shout out to Netflix and Hulu for giving an entertaining documentary illustrating White Privilege epitomized.