Fog of Facts
What Are the Facts, Mr. Rittenhouse
I received an email comment from Dona Yasser, a “Moms Demand Action” volunteer, about factual errors in my recent column regarding Kyle Rittenhouse that merits repeating.
“Guys, I agree it is a travesty but we have to get the facts right to keep the 2Aers from tearing us down. Please edit your post. As Elaine pointed out, he killed 2, not 3. It was not an automatic weapon — they’re illegal- it was a semi-automatic weapon. You got it right at the first mention but need to correct the second. He was not driven to Kenosha by his mom. He drove there the day before and stayed at a friend’s house. He didn’t bring his gun. It was at the same friend’s house, where it was kept after the friend illegally purchased it for him. Everything you say about the NRA and gun culture is correct. I’m a Moms Demand Action volunteer. We’re making a difference. You can take concrete action against the NRA’s “guns everywhere” platform by joining us. It’s not just moms. https://momsdemandaction.org/"
I apologize for the errors in my blog, that is the price I pay for being an independent blogger with no editors checking content. It also is the result of an explosion of emotion that I felt at the farcical theater that was disguised as a trial for justice.
The fact is that the “facts” are what got Rittenhouse off, the “facts” are what have continued to empower the radical right, the “facts” are what the bigots will use to further discredit Black Lives Matter and give even more freedom to the police. They say that fiction is more factual than non-fiction because the novelist can drill down to the unspoken emotions and motivations and is not bound only by the “facts.” The real fact is that the Rittenhouse trial and the aftermath were essentially pre-ordained and it stripped bare any pretense that we have a free and open society where we judge people “by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.” Racism is perhaps more rampant, deadly and exposed than ever and that was nowhere more obscenely obvious than at the Rittenhouse trial involving a young white man who killed two protesters and seriously wounded a third and was acquitted because he said he shot them all in self-defense. Let’s be crystal clear, Rittenhouse did not shoot in self-defense because the appearance of a man roaming the streets with a semi-automatic rifle at hand was enough to intimidate anyone and instill fear in anyone that there was a person in their midst who posed a mortal danger. If anything, the three victims were acting in self-defense. And yet, the law left little room for anything but freedom for Rittenhouse. You all saw the teenage Rittenhouse break down in tears and the reaction from many was that the poor misguided boy should not have to pay because his remorse shows he was obviously acting in self-defense. The tears were rehearsed, that much seems so obvious to anyone with eyes and his comments were the rehearsed words of an adult counseled by his lawyers, with no remorse and that is clear to anyone with ears.
Justice is not blind. Any black man or black woman who walks down any street anywhere in this country, carrying a semi-automatic rifle, will very likely be gunned down whether by police or by self-styled white vigilantes. In the minds of a white jury, there would be no rationalization for being armed and there would be the assumption that the man or woman was certainly up to no good. Any trial of the police or the vigilantes would be a farce because the victim would never be believed if he insisted that he was armed for reasons of self-defense because he is always looking behind him to defend himself.
It is not the legal system that is broken, it is the culture that is broken, a culture of racism. I understand fully that Rittenhouse’s victims were white but the incident that brought his victims to Kenosha involved the killing of a black man. The protesters who went to Kenosha were sending a message that the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, would not be tolerated. The jury spoke: Not only was it tolerated but the killer was set free because of the facts. The jury decided the man who set the noose was innocent and that is a fact.
The only answer I have is that justice may have a chance only when the white majority society understands that the whole system is designed and carefully crafted over many years, to keep the people of color down and to protect the majority white community. That is the fact. There will be justice when white people do not cheer for “their people” and jeer the others, the blacks. That is the fact.
No one has written more eloquently about racism in America than James Baldwin. Here were some of Baldwin’s thoughts.
In his 1963 book, “The Fire Next Time,” Baldwin wrote: “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were Black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
Another quote from Baldwin in 1980: “What we are dealing with really is that for Black people in this country there is no legal code at all. We’re still governed, if that is the word I want, by the slave code.”
During an interview on the Dick Cavett show in 1969, Baldwin said: “If any white man in the world says give me liberty or give me death, the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing — word for word — he is judged a criminal and treated like one, and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.
“(The police) are a very real menace to every black cat alive in this country. And no matter how many people say, ‘You’re being paranoid when you talk about police brutality’ — I know what I’m talking about. I survived those streets and those precinct basements and I know. And I’ll tell you this — I know what it was like when I was really helpless, how many beatings I got. And I know what happens now because I’m not really helpless. But I know, too, that if he (police) don’t know that this is Jimmy Baldwin and not just some other nigger he’s gonna blow my head off just like he blows off everybody else’s head. It could happen to my mother in the morning, to my sister, to my brother… For me this has always been a violent country — it has never been a democracy.”
Toward the end of his life in the mid-1980s, Baldwin said in an interview for the documentary, “The Price of the Ticket”: “What is it you want me to reconcile myself to? . . . You always told me it takes time. It has taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time, my nieces’ and my nephews’ time. How much time do you want for your ‘progress’?”
Those are facts, not the legalities written by the lawyers representing the white majority culture and considered to be the indelible signs of a just society, when they are anything but that.