On Nov. 19, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges relating to the shooting of three protesters who gathered to protest police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin. These events beg the question: where and why are young people still learning racism?
At 18, Rittenhouse was involved with militia groups and illegally owned a semiautomatic weapon. He traveled with a white supremacist group to a Black Lives Matter protest where he shot three people. After these encounters, he waved at police with the weapon in his hands. The police failed to protect protesters and make a swift arrest.
According to CNN, “Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.” After crying on the stand, he was acquitted of all five charges.
There is nothing more powerful than white tears. The justice system is built to respond to the dissatisfaction of white people which is why when a minor cries on the stand, it is a powerful trigger. The Rittenhouse trial highlights an important distinction in the justice system— the difference of race. Had the perpetrator been a person of color, I can’t help but wonder if they would be put away in jail, let alone alive through the arrest. White people are always protected, regardless of the crimes they commit by the institutions and societal biases that enforce oppression.
The US has given white supremacists a home and let them recruit youth like Kyle Rittenhouse. They know they are supported by institutions that refuse to punish them. Here, you can get away with racism and hate crimes if you are white, or at least that is what the Rittenhouse trial exemplifies, and all before the ripe age of 19. These precedents keep white people in power.
If we can learn from the atrocity that is the Rittenhouse incident and trial, we should recognize that racism is a grassroots system. When kids learn racism from their parents or from white-washed history classes, they take it with them into our society and workforce.
The blame can be shared beyond Rittenhouse. He learned extreme hatred early on in life and the education system never corrected it. Ultimately, it is clear he faced trauma and will need to decondition significant beliefs and behaviors. It is historically unsurprising that reactionary American adults raised a child to be racist, which is why government systems need to discourage the continuation of racist education. This is how racism is perpetuated.