In the wake of certain points of view I have expressed on social media regarding the Rittenhouse verdict, I have
received a certain amount of blowback from some of my more pro-Black friends and associates. I can’t say that it’s surprising, although it is disappointing; much of my work has analyzed socioeconomic and political inequities that negatively impact minorities and immigrants. Moral and ethical consistency is something that I actively strive for. Do I always hit the mark? Of course not; like anyone else, I am very much a work in progress, and it will never be complete. However, I do try, and that is what leads me here today.
I do not find Mr. Rittenhouse an admirable, or even sympathetic, character. This has nothing to do with any concept of his motives, as I don’t know the young man and can’t possibly speak as to what his motives were. Prior to the incidents for which he was on trial, he was recorded stating that he was there to help people, and I’m fine taking that on face value. However, he interjected himself into a tense, impossible position that, generally, contemporary 17-year-olds aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle. To my point of view, this makes Mr. Rittenhouse more tragic than anything.
I don’t think Rittenhouse should have been present, but he did act in self-defense. When approached by Joseph Rosenbaum, he fled. As he fled, Joshua Zuminski fired a shot in the air, causing Rittenhouse to turn in the direction of the shot’s sound, which happened to be towards Rosenbaum. He aimed at Rosenbaum to fend him off, and Rosenbaum, a mentally ill individual, lunged for his rifle to take it from him. This was not established by witnesses for the defense, but the prosecution. Thus, the chain of events ending with two men dead and another grievously injured began.
There is a certain train of thought that if Rittenhouse had been a minority, a jury would have rejected his claim of self-defense. I do not at all deny that judicial outcomes are skewed against minorities and immigrants. In point of fact, I cast my defiance into the teeth of those who claim they are not. As long as people identify as anything other than people, juries will remain fickle and inequitable. As long as people deny inequity, they will continue to identify as “us” and “them.” It’s a vicious circle that no single judicial outcome will resolve.
Inherent to this train of thought is the belief that not until the majority consistently feels the full weight of police and prosecutorial misconduct against them and their children will any meaningful change occur. I don’t mind saying things that make people uncomfortable, so I admit that there’s some truth to this. As Dave Chapelle astutely pointed out, drug addiction wasn’t seen as a mental health issue during the crack epidemic, because it was largely a minority problem. Attitudes changed when the opioid crisis ravaged the majority population. This isn’t an attempt at divisiveness; it is simply fact.
However, the Devil thrives on half-truths, and there is entirely too much vindictiveness intrinsic to that way of thinking for me. Some will say that’s just the world we live in, but fam…that is not the world that I want to live in. I know I come across as antisocial and misanthropic, and I am, but those are defense mechanisms. I care about people a lot more than I am comfortable with. I don’t want to see more White people in prison unjustly. That’s not a solution and would only lead to more problems. What I want is to see fewer minorities and immigrants in prison unjustly. Being pro-minority does not necessarily presuppose being anti-majority.
The call for blood is strong, and even understandable, in a society rife with injustice, but I cannot see it as commendable. Too much blood has already been shed, that of both the innocent and the guilty. Let us not forget that none of this would have happened if police had not shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, a heinous miscarriage of justice for which no one was charged. However, convicting Kyle Rittenhouse would not make up for this crime. Nothing can. Convicting Kyle Rittenhouse will not bring back Trayvon Martin or punish George Zimmerman. It would not restore life to Tamir Rice, or Philando Castile. The only thing that will work is for those who deify individuals like Rittenhouse to come to the realization that the forces that create the Kyle Rittenhouses of society are the same forces that murder the George Floyds, and they are a danger to us all – even if, no, especially because, they are a danger to some more than others.
Tarnell is an economist, entrepreneur and social observer. When he is not being a Lucky Libertarian, he is likely plotting to take over the world (and leave you alone) and singing romantic ballads to absolutely no one.