What Happens When White Supremacy Wins
Processing the Rittenhouse acquittal
On Friday 19 November 2021, white supremacy won. Again.
And Black people grieved. Again.
In a week where Julius Jones was saved from death, only to face life imprisonment for a crime he's innocent of, and where justice for Ahmaud Arbery continues to hang in the balance, Kyle Rittenhouse got the acquittal he had cried for. It seems white men's tears are also potent, especially when the judge is on your side.
The verdict wasn't a surprise to Black people, especially Black Americans. For weeks, Black people everywhere had watched the process, had seen the signs that this young man would not face the same justice as would a young Black man in identical circumstances.
The signs were there in the jury selection, in the judge's tone, in the tears, in the dismissal of some charges.
Ashanti Maya Martin, co-founder of Where is My Land, and a former crime beat journalist, makes some strong arguments about why the case turned out as it did. She also notes that the system was designed to protect Rittenhouse, not Black people. So the system of whiteness protected itself, as intended, and as it always does.
What grinds Black people about this case is the clear evidence of a dual justice system. It's not so much about Rittenhouse being convicted. It's the fact that a Black man in his situation wouldn't have been alive to face trial. And if by some miracle he had made it to the courtroom, he'd be looking at a long spell in jail at the very least, if not worse. The stats show time and again that Black people get harsher punishment than their white peers.
Some people are celebrating the acquittal as a victory. That includes the orange one. And you know that if he supports it, it must be a bad thing.
Some are thinking about offering Rittenhouse internships, and it’s mind-bending that someone who’s killed two people should be getting rewarded. His mom - and, I ask you, what parent in their right mind drives their son around with an AR-15? - is being lauded as a heroine (or the mother of a hero) by some of those same people.
Meanwhile, Black people are screaming and crying - silently or loudly - because of yet more evidence that they - we - are disposable.
The message the acquittal sends is clear: support white supremacy and you're unstoppable. Support Black people and your killer may walk free. It's a warning to would-be white allies. And it gives every white supremacist crackpot license to keep taking Black lives. It's now open season, not that it wasn't before.
We know this is a battle we will win in the long run. Time and demographics are on our side. But while we wait, how many of us must die, sacrificed on the altar of white supremacy? Nobody knows, but with the Rittenhouse verdict the door has been opened to a potential bloodbath.
In the meantime, would-be allies, this is where you hold respectful space for your Black friends and colleagues. This is where you allow them to feel, grieve, and try to heal. And this is where you recommit to the antiracism fight so that the next Rittenhouse - because there will be another one - doesn't have it quite so easy.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.