On November 19, 2021, a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment.
Rittenhouse shot two people to death and wounded a third person on August 23, 2020, who were protesting the August 20, 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer. Video of the police officer shooting Blake in the back seven times – as Blake’s small children were present – sparked public demonstrations in Kenosha and elsewhere. Rittenhouse, who was seventeen years old at the time, drove from his hometown in Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, claiming that he did so to help protect property from looting and destruction. According to his trial testimony, Rittenhouse shot the three people in self-defense. A jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges.
Why are you surprised that a jury acquitted a white man who killed two people and wounded a third person when the victims of his conduct were protesting the police shooting of a Black man seven times in the back?
Why are you surprised that Rittenhouse was acquitted after the trial judge allowed defense lawyers to label the people he shot to death and wounded “rioters” and “looters,” but would not allow prosecutors to call them “victims?”
Why are you surprised?
Have you forgotten that state legislatures passed laws – since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota last year – that grant immunity from civil and criminal liability to people who use their automobiles to strike demonstrators who block roadways to protest abusive and homicidal police conduct?
Have you forgotten that those laws were passed since August 2017, when Heather Myer was killed and more than a dozen other protestors of white supremacy were wounded when a white man drove his car into them in Charlottesville, Virginia?
Have you forgotten that a white couple in St. Louis, Missouri received pardons this year after they brandished firearms at protestors against abusive and homicidal police conduct last year?
Have you forgotten that the officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back is not charged with a crime?
Have you forgotten that the Hennepin County prosecutor initially and publicly questioned whether any crime was committed when George Floyd was killed?
Have you forgotten that George Floyd’s death was initially reported by the Minneapolis Police Department as a “medical incident?”
Have you forgotten that the police officers in Louisville, Kentucky who invaded the apartment where Breonna Taylor slept with her boyfriend and shot her to death in February 2020 have not been charged with killing her?
Have you forgotten that the Louisville Police Department initially filed a report showing that there was no one injured?
Have you forgotten that the three white men who chased Ahmaud Arberry before he was shot to death were not initially charged with killing him?
Have you forgotten that Trayvon Martin was killed by a vigilante named George Zimmerman, who, was acquitted in 2014?
Have you forgotten that the white men who hunted, kidnapped, and killed Emmit Till were acquitted?
Have you forgotten that white people – politicians, parents, preachers, and others – cheered after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death in Memphis?
Have you forgotten that hundreds of Black men, women, and children were killed in Elaine, Arkansas in 1919 by white men who, like Kyle Rittenhouse, George Zimmerman, and white people who publicly lynched Black men, women, and children, took it upon themselves to hunt and kill them by claiming they were preventing the massacred people from murdering white people?
Have you forgotten that no white person was charged for any of those Black victims of the Elaine Race Massacre?
Have you forgotten that Stephon Clark was shot to death by the police in Sacramento, California in the backyard of his grandmother’s house while he held a phone in his hand in March 2018?
Have you forgotten that none of the police who killed Stephon Clark were charged with killing him?
Have you forgotten that Bradley Blackshire was shot to death by a police officer in Little Rock, Arkansas who leaped on the hood of the car Blackshire was driving before killing him?
Have you forgotten that the police officer who killed Bradley Blackshire was not charged with killing him?
Have you forgotten that you live in a country where a Black enslaved woman who killed her white slaveowner who had repeatedly raped her was lynched?
Have you forgotten that you live in a society where a Black man named Robert Mallard was lynched in front of his family by a mob of 20 white men in Lyons, Georgia on November 20, 1948?
Have you forgotten that that when authorities tried one white man for Mallard’s death, the trial judge allowed the defense to call two jurors to testify as character witnesses for Mallard?
Have you forgotten that that the jury deliberated for twenty minutes before returning a not guilty verdict in that case?
Have you forgotten that a white defense lawyer in the trial of the three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arberry last year in Georgia complained about Black pastors sitting with Arberry’s relatives during the trial to lend moral support?
Have you forgotten that white church leaders assigned white men to stand outside white churches to violently prevent black people from worshipping inside them?
Have you forgotten that white supremacy and vigilante behavior similar to that of Kyle Rittenhouse, George Zimmerman, the white people who traveled from Mississippi and Tennessee to hunt and kill Black men, women, and children in the Elaine Race Massacre, and the white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arberry has long been justified as “self-defense?”
Have you forgotten that white people have always been able to kill Black, Latinx, and indigenous people with impunity in this society if they claimed they feared for their lives?
Have you forgotten how peaceful protestors against abusive and homicidal police conduct were attacked by federal law enforcement officers in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC?
Have you forgotten that no one was charged for committing that attack – not a single person!
Have you forgotten how that attack was misrepresented by William Barr, former Attorney General of the United States, and by Donald Trump, former President of the United States?
Have you forgotten how Trump urged mayors and police leaders to treat peaceful protestors roughly?
Have you forgotten how Trump encouraged his supporters to treat protestors at his campaign events roughly?
Have you forgotten how Trump and other white politicians are portraying the people who engaged in a violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, that resulted in several deaths and multiple injuries as peaceful protestors?
Have you forgotten that Trump and his supporters hail Kyle Rittenhouse as a patriot?
News flash! The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict typifies what America has always been. White supremacy has always been licensed to hunt, terrorize, and kill Black, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous people, with impunity.
White pastors, politicians, judges, educators, and parents have told white people to view people of color as sinister threats. White people, on the other hand, tell everyone else that Black, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous people are threats to public health and safety. Meanwhile, they normalize white vigilante’ violence.
Why are you surprised that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted?
What does your surprise mean concerning your moral discernment?
What does your surprise show about your knowledge concerning the history of racialized violence by white people against people of color and their white allies who protest white supremacy?
Why are you surprised? Are you surprised enough to be saddened? Are you surprised enough to be outraged? Are you sad enough to join efforts to dismantle white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence perpetrated by white vigilante actors and groups?
If not, what good does your surprise accomplish?