Dr. Mintler mentioned “the hustle spectrum” several times throughout the course, and that idea stuck with me. The hustle spectrum represents the continuum of illegal, off-the-books behavior that people partake in, from the grand white-collar conspiracy to the untaxed teenager babysitting their neighbor’s kids. Some parts of the spectrum are innocuous, but technically, they would still represent a rung on the crooked ladder. For lots of people, these small infractions are largely forgotten, or more often, never acknowledged from the start. There’s nothing really wrong with that, since no one is hurt by it.

Still, the word “spectrum” is important to remember, as sometimes actions are less clearly innocent while still being potentially understandable. One example I’m reminded of comes fromĀ The Godfather. Vito Corleone, working with Clemenza and Tessio, steals a truck of dresses on the street. They then each sell their share of the dresses. While potentially understandable, their actions aren’t the most important ones for this example, as its difficult to argue that they hold no moral guilt. The people who bought the dresses from them, however, are an additional step removed from the crime. They may not have even known about the origin of their purchases. Ignorance of the law doesn’t mean you aren’t considered guilty by it, but despite their definite status as lawbreakers, they probably weren’t convicted. Had the crime been larger, their immigrant status in early 1900s America would probably have landed them in jail, but the small scale and distance from the original crime saves them from punishment.

That bit about their immigrant status tends to carry over to modern day, but applied to a slightly different group: ethnic minorities. Minor crimes are far more likely to be prosecuted and punished if their perpetrators are people of color. Additionally, many of the crimes the very small, minor crimes that white people commit are simply not available to poor people. You can’t mow lawns during the summer if you don’t have a lawnmower and your neighbors don’t have lawns.