Arbery killing and Rittenhouse case put America and White Supremacy on trial

OPINION: Whether Black Wall Street, the murderers of Emmett Till, the MOVE bombing, or the Jan. 6 insurrection, organized White terrorist violence faces little-to-no consequences in the land of the free

Loading the player...

The latest antics in the trial of the White men who killed Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin should tell you everything you need to know about White supremacist violence, and what will be tolerated and celebrated in America.

If these two kangaroo trials result in acquittals, it will be par for the course in a nation which always upheld the right of White men to murder Black people with impunity, and gun down righteous White folks who stand up against systemic racism and Jim Crow fascism.

Black people warned you this was coming, and this has been the state of affairs for years.

Travis McMichael Kyle Rittenhouse
Left to right: Travis McMichael, on trial for the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery; and Kyle Rittenhouse, on trial for the fatal shootings of two Black Lives Matter protesters. (Photo: Getty Images)

In Jim Crow sham trials, it is unnecessary for the White participants to pretend there is even a veneer of legitimacy in what is taking place. After the Rev. Al Sharpton showed up at the trial of Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. — who are on trial for the vigilante-style killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery — one of the defense attorneys said “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”  

The case, which started a jury pool of 48 people, 12 of whom were White, whittled down to a jury of 11 Whites and only one Black, in a county that is 26% Black and 69% White. And the defense had requested that Arbery not be called a “victim” in court proceedings. Because far too often, that’s what justice looks like in America.

Meanwhile, in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the armed teen and self-proclaimed militia member accused of gunning down three White men, killing two of them, at an antiracism protest against the killing of Jacob Blake, a Black father, in Kenosha. Blake, 29, was left paralyzed after police shot him in the back four times. Police at the protest provided the armed Rittenhouse with bottled water and thanked him for being there before he committed the alleged murders and fled across state lines to his home state of Illinois.

Viewers witnessed the curious acting performance of Rittenhouse on the stand, as he appeared to cry invisible tears — the tears of White men who are bullies and perpetrators, who commit heinous acts yet paint themselves as the victim, and emerge as the heroes and leaders of White America. This, in a courtroom whose judge — Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder — came from central casting as Racist White Judge #1.

Judge Bruce E. Schroeder and Kyle Rittenhouse
Judge Bruce E. Schroeder is seated in front of a large video monitor as Kyle Rittenhouse and attorneys for both sides argue about a video in Kenosha (Wisconsin) Circuit Court on November 12, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)

Acting more like defense counsel than judge, Schroeder has gone the extra mile to signal to all of us that there is no way his boy Rittenhouse is going to prison, from reading a cookie catalog on the bench, to telling the jury to praise a defense witness, and proclaiming the slain victims cannot be called “victims,” but could be referred to as “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists.”

“This is a long-held opinion of mine, which very few judges, I guess, share with me,” said Schroeder, who said “victim” is a “loaded word” and even “alleged victim” is too close.

Like the judge, certain swaths of White America are sympathetic to Rittenhouse — as they supported generations of Kyle Rittenhouses before him for 400 years — because they are tired of being called out on White supremacy. They long for the days when White folks were able to lynch Black people and ‘n***** lovers’ without catching any flack for it, and just go home and drink a Pepsi. And in the rare event they stood trial, an all-White jury found them not guilty, in which case they kissed their wife or girlfriend, and drank a Pepsi — or a beer — and that was that. And they would return to their community as heroes; the best their town has to offer.

In that regard, Rittenhouse has many role models to follow, such as George Zimmerman, the Afrolatinx, White-adjacent, self-proclaimed neighborhood patrol watchman who took the life of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty and granted honorary Whiteness, and the conservative White press painted Trayvon as a thug who got what he deserved. As Malcolm X once said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

George Zimmerman (Associated Press)

In his courtroom acting debut, Rittenhouse seemed to borrow directly from accused serial rapist and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Faced with sexual assault allegations during his Senate confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh turned himself into the crying victim, insisting he drank beer and liked beer a lot — but not enough to Black out or rape a woman. Now an American hero to the conservative movement, Kavanaugh is on the court for life, where he and his colleagues are in judgment over women and their bodily autonomy.

We are living at a turning point in America, where the battle against White supremacy could bring us a true multiracial democracy. And if we fail, we will return to the nineteenth century. According to a poll, one third of Republicans are ready and willing to use violence to save their country. One member of Congress, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), tweeted an anime video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Some states have introduced or passed laws protecting drivers who run over protesters like Heather Heyer, the Black Lives Matter counter-demonstrator killed by a Nazi motorist at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Further, the Great Replacement Theory — the White supremacist theory that White people are an endangered species to be replaced by liberals, Democrats and Jews with immigrants and Black and Brown people — is now mainstream thought in the GOP. And White supremacist controlled states rush to enact voter suppression and racial gerrymandering to further disempower Black people and exclude them from voting and juries.                   

Whether the Confederate States of America, the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, Black Wall Street, the murderers of Emmett Till, the MOVE bombing, or the Jan. 6 insurrection, organized White terrorist violence faces little-to-no consequences in the land of the free. White vigilantes and racist mobs always get off, and what Black people have been saying about the racist criminal justice system and those many atrocious and racist judges on the bench like Judge Schroeder is true.

This is why the Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse verdicts are important. America is on trial.


Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

Have you subscribed to the Grio podcasts, ‘Dear Culture’ or Acting Up? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...
var sc = document.createElement('script'); sc.type = 'text/javascript'; sc.async = true; sc.src = '//mixi.media/data/js/96502.js'; sc.charset = 'utf-8'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }());