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Will He Be Held Accountable?

In a recent SNL’s Weekend Update sketch, Michael Che joked if there was a “white tears law school” that teaches white men how to cry their way out of trouble. Che was referring to Kyle Rittenhouse’s over-the-top tearful testimony during his recent trial. It is likely that the dramatic performance swayed his white-jury-minus-one-Black.

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has overshadowed the shooting of Jacob Blake by a white Kenosha cop in 2020. Blake was shot several times in the back, severing his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed. Blake is unlikely to get real justice in his case. The Justice Department has already ruled it would not be seeking charges against the officer involved.

Rittenhouse has become the poster child for blue lives matter. We surely can’t say he values all white lives. The junior vigilante shot and killed two men and attempted to kill others - all who were white. He faced five felony charges and one misdemeanor. Those felony charges carry up to 65 years in prison although he’s unlikely to get the full brunt of those sentences. His age, race and tears are big mitigating factors.

One of the concerns of the racial justice movement has become the commandeering of protest spaces by white radicalized youth and white anarchists.

The then 17-year-old rode into Kenosha with an AR semiautomatic rifle under the guise of wanting to protect businesses during the protests fueled by the Blake shooting. Rittenhouse knowingly purchased his weapon illegally, knowingly took it across state lines illegally, knowingly drove without a valid driver’s license, knowingly lied on the scene that he was an EMT. This is not a choir boy who was a victim of circumstance. His actions were intentional from the time he left Antioch, Illinois to when he fired his gun at people at two separate locations. Despite the evidence of premeditation, he and his attorneys are claiming self-defense as their winning legal strategy.

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One of the concerns of the racial justice movement has become the commandeering of protest spaces by white radicalized youth and white anarchists. The Kenosha protest is an example of this where competing agendas play out and become a distraction from the original cause - protesting the excessive use of force by police in the Blake shooting. Instead, it became a showcase for white bravado. Rittenhouse said his choice of weapon made him look “cool” as if he was auditioning for his place in white vigilante history.

The criminal trial was rife with judicial and political missteps. Judge Bruce Schroeder often made the headlines with his behavior from what evidence he allowed in the courtroom to disallowing the word “victim” to be used to describe Rittenhouse’s human targets. The longest-serving judge in Wisconsin should’ve been astute enough not to insert his racial bias by making a joke about why Asian food delivery could be late for lunch.

The latest on this case is that the judge may allow the jury to convict on lesser charges. Judge Schroeder has dismissed the charge of possession of a dangerous weapon. He has released a 36-page instruction booklet for the jury for a case that has multiple charges and layers of legal complexities.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evans has authorized the National Guard troops to report to Kenosha in anticipation of a negative public reaction to a verdict in the Rittenhouse trial. I can only assume his decision takes into consideration the vigilantes who are bound to converge on Kenosha to raise hell should there be convictions of their hero.

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The hunt is still on for all those who participated in the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to hold them accountable. Armed with semiautomatics and racist ideology, these mainly white men will continue to define what justice should look like in this country. Kyle Rittenhouse is representative of this movement. It must be resolutely stopped by an organized, anti-racist counter-movement that puts justice and democracy at the forefront.

Jamala Rogers