By: Prema Rahman, MPAC Policy Analyst
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse reeks of white privilege and further exposes the inherently flawed justice system in America.
The message from the Wisconsin jury is clear: if you are a white man in this nation, you can walk free with blood on your hands. Accountability only comes into question when a suspect or perpetrator is a person of color, with the public vilification and punishment becoming far worse if the person is Black. The hard, unacceptable reality is, had a Black man committed the crimes that Rittenhouse committed, the jury would have found him guilty on all counts.
Though disappointing — no, agonizing — today’s verdict came as no surprise. The Rittenhouse case was laden with foreshadowing from the very beginning. It is no secret that Judge Bruce Shroeder, who presided over the case, exhibited clear bias multiple times throughout the trial, from not allowing the prosecutor to refer to the men who Rittenhouse shot as “victims” to initiating a break in the hearing due to Rittenhouse’s emotional outburst. These are only some moments from an exhaustive list of ways in which Judge Schroeder violated his obligations as a judge to preside over the case in an unbiased manner.
On August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse shot and murdered two people and injured another at the protests against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protesters had rallied together to express their hurt and sense of injustice over the shooting of Jacob Blake. While Rittenhouse walked away scot-free from the scene of his crime, too many Black Americans have had to pay for far lesser crimes with their lives. No judge, no jury, just executioner.
In his testimony before the court, Rittenhouse claimed self-defense and that his intention was to protect property and provide first aid. Because that’s exactly the kind of behavior typical to someone who drove across state lines and armed himself with an assault rifle, right?
The irony and the juxtaposition of how our legal system treated Rittenhouse versus how it treated Blake could not be more stark.
Jacob Blake was handcuffed to his hospital bed after he became paralyzed from being shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey in the presence of his children. It was as if the law enforcement officer had already determined that he was guilty without any due process. Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse not only had a defense fund that raked in nearly half a million dollars, but he now has a floating job offer from Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL 1).
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse may feel like a defeat for all those working toward justice and equality before the law, especially for Black lives, but we must not allow for this verdict to discourage or dishearten us.
MPAC stands with Jacob Blake and his family, and we will redouble our effort in this struggle and work alongside Mr. Blake and those like-minded for justice.We are honored to have Jacob Blake, Sr., father of Jacob Blake, as our Keynote speaker at MPAC’s 21st Annual Virtual Convention on Sunday, December 5th. We are one Ummah and will continue elevating the voice of our African American brothers and sisters, who have endured centuries of systemic injustice.
Register for the event here.