Same Sitch, Different Day

White child vigilante’s acquittal proves nothing’s changed

Photo by Joseph Yates on Unsplash

The heartbreak, anger, fear and futility the families of Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder victims are feeling must be enormous. And, Black American families all over the country. And, the family of Julius Jones in Oklahoma.

Today, a jury in Wisconsin, aided and abetted by the judge, acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges related to the murders he committed during Black Lives Matter protests. His mother drove him across state lines, and then, armed with an AR-15, Kyle wended his way through the areas where protests were happening and went human hunting. The facts are there. That is what he did. He claims that he was acting in self-defense, but let’s be clear here, it is not self-defense if you go to the location, armed with a gun, looking for a fight. That’s pre-meditated. That’s a considered decision to put yourself in a position to kill people.

Yesterday, Governor Stitt of Oklahoma granted clemency to Julius Jones, a 41 year old Black man on death row, convicted of a murder he allegedly committed when he was 19. Mr. Jones has maintained his innocence since he was 19, another man has confessed to the murder, and there were, even at the time of the trial, witnesses claiming that Mr. Jones was not even at the location of the murder. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has made two separate recommendations. The first was that Mr. Jones be removed from death row & offered the possibility of parole, and later they recommended his entire sentence be commuted. Governor Stitt may have stopped the execution, but did not accept either recommendation from the Pardon and Parole Board, instead opting to change Mr. Jones’ sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The confluence of these events, along with ongoing trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged murderers (where the defense attorneys’ blatantly racist comments regarding Black pastors continue unabated despite the judge’s multiple warnings), brings into high relief, the very different realities for white and Black Americans. They highlight the injustice of our criminal justice system, the lengths to which of many white Americans will go to maintain their supremacy, and why Black Americans are so angry and fearful.

If it had been a Black teenager, armed with an AR-15, whose mother drove him across state lines so he could insert himself into a crowd of protesting, mostly white people, there would not have even been a trial. In today’s trigger happy society, the Black teenager would have died the same night. Let’s not bother with that farce.

How dare any of who care about the future of our country, and our countrymen, work toward a better, more just, more equitable United States. The gall we must have to demand change.

I won’t bother asking why this is happening. We all know why these verdicts happen. Verdicts like Kyle Rittenhouse’s are why there aren’t more white people on death row. Verdicts like Julius Jones’ are why organizations like The Innocence Project exist. And, I don’t see the point in writing much about what needs to change. We all know what needs to change. Judges like the one in the Rittenhouse case need to be removed from the bench and disbarred for misconduct. Lawyers like the defense attorneys in the Aubrey case need not be allowed to practice law. We, white people, have to be intentional in dismantling the systems that were created to favor us, and keep everyone else out. We have to speak out, knowing full well that it’s going to anger some people, including people we know, about racism, inequality, and inequity. We have to take responsibility for our actions, and the actions of those that came before us, to change the system. I wasn’t alive when the systems were created, but as an adult living in today’s society, that continues to benefit at the expense of others, I am complicit if I do nothing, say nothing, and allow others to do the same.

This is just another day in the United States. No one I know is surprised by what happened. We’re just inured to the horror. But, determination and passion continue to fuel the fires of change. Those of us who care may take a break to keep ourselves from breaking, but we won’t stop. We can’t. We have too much to do.