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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bow Tie

In Which The Criminal Justice System Has Stopped Pretending

So it turns out, once again, that being a terrorist and murderer is okay as long as you're a White male. Good to know.

Kyle Rittenhouse drove across state lines from Illinois into Kenosha, Wisconsin, armed with an AR rifle, to the protests in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake. There he shot three protestors, killing two of them. He was charged with first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree reckless endangering safety, two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, all with use of a dangerous weapon, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, and failure to comply with an emergency order from state or local government. He was found not guilty on the first five counts, and the last two were thrown out by the judge on technicalities.

Defenders of the verdict (and often of Rittenhouse himself) have emphasized the claim of self-defense and that he went to "protect the neighborhood" and property. They ignore the fact that it was illegal for him, a 17-year-old, to have a firearm when not hunting or supervised by an adult (it wasn't short-barreled! A loophole!). They also like to point at the lives of victims, as if their past justifies their murderer's actions (that's how they look at Jacob Blake, too, as deserving of the bullets the officers shot into his back).

This was not self-defense. Rittenhouse was not defending any lives or property - even if he had family around, he was not in his neighborhood, and he certainly was not in his house "defending" against anyone. In the testimony from the surviving (wounded) victim, it is not readily apparent that anyone had threatened Rittenhouse enough to fear for his life, certainly not enough to justify aiming a gun at them.

This was an untrained young white man who wanted to play cop/soldier and murdered two people. Then the system worked the way it was designed and he was made to suffer no consequences, instead focusing on avoiding ruination of his future and framing him as a hero.

There are people for whom this verdict came as no surprise because they’ve seen it before. I think on some level we all expected this outcome, from the moment the judge decided that the victims couldn’t be called “victims” but could be referred to pejoratively and accusatorially.

We all expected it when the New York Times posited him as a young aspiring paramedic and/or police officer who just wanted to help people, instead of as a vigilante, a terrorist who traveled across state lines with a gun he should not have had (except we weren’t allowed to talk about that, either) looking for people to shoot with it.

We all expected it when the judge decided the defendant could essentially hand-pick his jury, even with the idea of randomization in mind, to show that a man charged with murder could still control his fate, while not acknowledging that if a Black man had been on trial, likely no such privilege would have been awarded.

Those same folks defending Rittenhouse like to criticize those of us who point out the institutional racism of our justice system (and every other system in the United States). They try to gaslight us into thinking we have been fooled by the media "making it about race." They point out that he is of Hispanic descent, but fail to recognize that he is white-passing. They fail to recognize that if he was of darker skin (let alone Black) we probably would not have seen a trial because he would have been shot dead in the street. They fail to recognize that Black people do not get anywhere near the same amount of leeway, of benefit of the doubt, of opportunities to speak for themselves, as Rittenhouse did. They fail to recognize that Black people certainly do not get the benefit of a judge who adjusts court language and procedure in their favor.

Now there are reports that he wants to be a nurse. If nothing else, we must all remember his name so that no nursing or other healthcare educational institution accepts this vigilante, who has already demonstrated that Black lives, and those who would protest in support of them, do not matter to him.

Even President Biden stated "I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works." It's true - it worked as intended, as an instrument of structural racism, of white supremacy. Biden may have been the better option in November 2020, but this is yet another example of him preserving the systems that have made America what it is today, instead of changing them (let alone what actually needs to happen, which is a destruction and complete rebuild of those systems).

I am not surprised by the Rittenhouse verdict. But like so many others, and like many of the voices to whom I have learned to listen, I am saddened by and tired of the fact that I’m not surprised. Our criminal justice system, like too many American systems, is broken. #RittenhouseTrial #KyleRittenhouse #WhiteSupremacy #WhitePrivilege #StructuralRacism #InstitutionalRacism

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