This afternoon, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges related to his killing two people and injuring a third in Wisconsin during a Black Lives Matter protest. He successfully argued the shootings were in self-defense.
First, this will be obvious to some, but it is important to acknowledge the sadness. We should be sad. But we should also be unsurprised. It may feel like the result of the Rittenhouse trial and the recent commutation of the death penalty for Julius Jones to life without parole are not connected stories, but they are through the lens of US history. Both stories stem from white supremacy. Rittenhouse went to Wisconsin to patrol in defense of property and order because he believed them threatened by people who went to protest in defense of human lives. He turned out to be the only real danger that day. But our society too often sees the world like he does. Never mind why he was there. Never mind what he was doing. We have always valued white property more than Black life. We, in fact, thought Black life to be white property. If you defy this hierarchy, like a Black Lives Matter protestor, you can be executed. Many, many people will cheer. Jones gets life without parole for a crime he may very well not have committed. The exonerating evidence is irrelevant. Nobody rallied around him. Nobody raised money for his trial attorneys. He is no powerful white man’s hero. Elected leaders weren’t gaining political points by praying during his jury deliberations. Many, many people will praise the Governor of Oklahoma’s mercy for withholding his death.
We should be sad, but we should be angry. We should be afraid. Expect more people with guns at future rallies for justice. Expect more of them to look for reasons to fear for their lives and shoot. Expect more juries to find their fears “reasonable.” The more fearful a culture is, the more reasonable fear seems. When guns are your right — because fear is your right —everyone’s freedom is diminished. The potential for violence against Black and Brown bodies, and those who would protest on their behalf, is significant. Rittenhouse confirmed the Second Amendment can blast its way through the First.
We should be sad, but we should be prepared. This won’t end soon, so we must embark on a long journey of formation. First, pray. Take the sadness, the anger, and the fear to our God. Remember who our Savior is. Remember who he blesses, and who he opposes. Remember his authority. Second, purchase. Justice is costly. What do you have to give? Maybe right now, it’s very little. Maybe it’s nothing. That is fine. Your resistance might just be living on for now. But you may have time, energy, money. Find somewhere to put them. Third, partner. Partner with others and God. God does not call us individually, but communally. Follow those who are already on the path. And finally, policy; work for systemic change. Governments, churches, companies, and all our institutions will never stop needing people who stand up and say what’s right — people who are not satisfied with empty words.
Thank you for praying. Thank you for acting. Thank you for reading. God bless you.
The KTF team