Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old when he shot three people, killing two, officially got away with murder. A jury of his white peers ruled that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he illegally acquired a gun, traveled across state lines, lied about his status as a medic, pointed his gun at protesters, and then used it to kill others.
The verdict is not surprising, if you are familiar with how the criminal justice system works for white people. Wisconsin Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the Rittenhouse trial, consistently made rulings in the best interest of the white gunman. He refused to punish Rittenhouse for violating the terms of his bail; excluded evidence of Rittenhouse’s behavior before and after the shooting that spoke to his intent and lack of remorse; allowed the defense to mischaracterize the people Rittenhouse killed as “rioters”; yelled at prosecutors in front of the jury; dismissed an illegal gun charge against the gunman; and had the jury clap for one of Rittenhouse’s expert witnesses.
Others might want to argue about why Schroeder was biased toward the defendant (I think the judge’s MAGA ringtones and off-color jokes tell you all you need to know about why he was sympathetic to a white gunman who shot up anti–police violence protesters at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement). But that he was biased toward Rittenhouse was obvious to those watching the trial without blinders.
Still, a sympathetic judge and a predominately white jury are just standard gifts the criminal justice system gives to white boys accused of criminal violence. Rittenhouse also enjoyed hero status among white supremacists and Republicans as well as favorable media coverage from Fox News and The New York Times.
No doubt, some people will express shock at the verdict over the next few days. But Rittenhouse’s freedom is not a “miscarriage” of justice—it is our white justice system working as intended. This system is designed to free people like Rittenhouse: white vigilantes who kill to maintain the best interests of whiteness. It doesn’t always work (I still believe the people who lynched Ahmaud Arbery will be found guilty). But it works often enough (see George Zimmerman) that it gives comfort and confidence to any white person who clearly realizes that they might do an obviously illegal and violent thing (like, say, storm the US Capitol) and either get away with it completely or receive a light punishment.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mystal. As he writes in the article, a black 17-year-old who did what Rittenhouse did would suffer a completely different fate. Frankly, that black teenager would most likely be killed by police before he had a chance to stand trial.
John Blake at CNN: There’s nothing more frightening in America today than an angry White man.
The specter of the angry Black man has been evoked in politics and popular culture to convince White folks that a big, bad Black man is coming to get them and their daughters.
I’ve seen viral videos of innocent Black men losing their lives because of this stereotype. I’ve watched White people lock their car doors or clutch their purses when men who look like me approach. I’ve been racially profiled….
But as I’ve watched three separate trials about White male violence unfold across the US these past few weeks — the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the Ahmaud Arbery death trial and the civil case against organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville — I’ve come to a sobering conclusion:
There is nothing more frightening in America today than an angry White man.
It’s not the “radical Islamic terrorist” that I fear the most. Nor is it the brown immigrant or the fiery Black Lives Matter protester, or whatever the latest bogeyman is that some politician tells me I should dread.
It’s encountering an armed White man in public who has been inspired by the White men on trial in these three cases.
Of course it’s not all White men, Blake writes.
But recent events have convinced me it’s time to put another character on trial: A vision of White masculinity that allows some White men to feel as if they “can rule and brutalize without consequence.”
This angry White man has been a major character throughout US history. He gave the country slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, and Jim Crow laws. His anger also helped fuel the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
It’s this angry White man — not the Black or brown man you see approaching on the street at night — who poses the most dangerous threat to democracy in America.
That’s a sweeping claim. But these trials represent something bigger than questions of individual guilt or innocence. They offer a disturbing vision of the future, and a choice about what kind of country we want to live in.
Read the rest at CNN.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D- NY) called for the Justice Department to review the Kyle Rittenhouse case after a jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges Friday.
Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, reacted to the verdict by remarking, “This heartbreaking verdict is a miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ. Justice cannot tolerate armed persons crossing state lines looking for trouble while people engage in First Amendment-protected protest.”
More stories to check out today:
The New York Times: Discussions of Race Are Notably Absent in Trial of Arbery Murder Suspects.
Politico: Judge faults Trump for Jan. 6 attack.
The New York Times: G.O.P. Is Energized, but ‘Trump Cancel Culture’ Poses a Threat.
The Washington Post: As Biden agenda advances in Congress, White House weighs new offensive on inflation.
The Washington Post: Sinema holds firm in support of the filibuster, imperiling late voting rights push.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!