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Why I’m Tired of Watching Guilty White Men Go Free, and You Should Be Too

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The morning of November 19th, 2021 was one that sparked outrage across the country and prompted further conversation surrounding the “justice” system in America. Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha, Wisconsin shooter was acquitted on all counts including first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon and first-degree recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon; thus avoiding all jail time. This is following the summer of Black Lives Matter and the horrific murder of George Floyd, leading to numerous protests that were simply the representation of exhaustion and disgust towards racial disparities and violence that define this nation.

Being frank, I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing boys such as Kyle Rittenhouse, Mitchell Johnson, and Andrew Golden walk free after taking the lives of innocent people, while there are substantial amounts of innocent people on death row for crimes they didn’t commit. The use of “boys” here is entirely intentional. The case of the Kenosha shooting is one that perfectly highlights the atrocity of what the American legal system considers to be justice. This all begs the question of when has the legal system truly been about liberty and justice for all?

One doesn’t have to do too much digging to find countless examples of legal bias against certain populations in the U.S. In a potent example of this, Rittenhouse walked straight through a police barricade with a semi-automatic rifle with the intention of using his weapon to further his “patriotic” intentions and was completely unscathed. In contrast, a twelve-year-old child named Tamir Rice was shot and killed for having a fake gun, with no homicidal intentions, and walking home by himself in a neighborhood of people who distrust him because he is Black.

History has proven that Black and Brown bodies are the go-to sites where angry, white cops can dump their violent intentions and then place the blame for it on the receiver suggesting that they are predisposed to violent acts. This theory is clearly biased and also does not consider the root of these angry feelings towards law enforcement. Black Americans carry the generational burden of racialized violence every day and experience the long-term consequences of it.

Yet, we see people like Kyle Rittenhouse and Robert Aaron Long getting to actually shoot people out of what is being called self-defense, or just frustration with having a “plain ol’ bad day”. This is appalling. These rulings are appalling. If you’re not angry, you’re wrong. For too long dangerous white men have escaped being held accountable for horrific acts of violence and hatred towards others. The priorities of our nation as it stands today, and how they have been established throughout history shine through in these moments.

Hypocrisy is not new in our nation; the founding fathers of the nation led the “free world” while actively enslaving, and torturing people while pressing narratives of freedom and self-determination. Despite the fact that this has been a reality in America for far too long many people are still in shock over the outcome, pointing to the fact that most don’t consciously pay attention to racial disparities in America. 

So once again, I reiterate: I am tired. I am frustrated, I am disappointed, and I am fearful for the people of color in this nation. I should not have to be. These sentiments have been echoed far before me by activists and peace-promoters of all races and nationalities. I’m well aware of my positionality as a white person in this world and the protections it affords me, so continuing to air my grievances and publicly discuss my disgust for the American legal system won’t change the fact that I will likely never be stopped for a “random security check” at an airport. However, what I can (and will) do is sit here and make it known to the rest of the white people out there that if you’re not angry in some capacity at moments like these, you are part of the problem, and you need to wake up and act.

If those in positions of power are not examining their response to these events of racial injustice then there is likely a lack of critical thinking and conversation going on surrounding the topic. It is necessary for these conversations to be had along with contacting our legislators in order to use their privilege for good. We’re not doing a good enough job as privileged individuals to influence the collective consciousness of the nation.

We have an obligation to those around us to let our emotions drive our actions towards true justice and equity. If you’re angry, do something about it. Thoughts and prayers are not enough and never have been, so do your reading on the ahistoricism that plagues our education system that obscures the severity of white supremacy and systemic racism in this nation and work towards being part of the solution.

This can mean having that uncomfortable conversation with your racist uncle (I’m pretty sure we all have one), attending community care meetings in your surrounding area to learn about de-escalation strategies and how this can save someone’s life in a police altercation, donating to said community organizations such as Heal Da Homies right here in DC, among many other things. Don’t let yourself fall into the fallacy that you can’t make any substantial change as one person; this is a message that the oppressor. In order to maintain power the oppressor wants you to believe so that categories of difference and social stratification can reign supreme in the minds and hearts of the people. When we forget our common humanity, fear and hate for one another thrive.

I am a firm believer in the idea that anger can be an extremely productive emotion. One of the most powerful and eloquently-put examples of this (in my opinion) is Fredrick Douglass’s speech entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” In this iconic speech, Douglass at one time expresses his fury over the hypocrisy of the American dream and points out the agency that his audience had in addressing this. One quote has stuck with me since reading it, and I’d like to share it with you: “Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

There is a wave of unabashed anger in his words, but he orders and delivers them in a way that cannot be ignored. This is what we must be doing. We must be speaking out on these injustices and the hatred that underpins the governance of this nation, while at the same time uplifting the voices of the people of color who are impacted the most by this hatred. There is a time to speak, and sometimes for white people there is a time to be silent. 

Stepping off of our podium to make room for our modern-day Douglass’s is just as critical, if not more, in making true strides towards the fall of white supremacy. The lived experiences of Douglass brought to light the horrors that his audience could very easily turn away from and made them come to terms with it on a day when they celebrated a terribly bloody fallacy of their freedom. We must continue to uphold moments where this kind of education can happen, and let the fury towards injustice flow just as freely as the emotions that uphold it.

So, be angry. Get upset and find others that are feeling similar emotions, and talk about how that anger can be channeled into change. Truly, none of us are truly free as long as we allow teenagers with AR-15’s to dole out what they consider to be justice while putting Black men in jail on marijuana charges. We are capable of so much better, and therefore we must do better.

Morgan Leifsen

American '23

Morgan is currently a junior attending American University pursuing a major in international relations. They are a first-time contributing writer for Her Campus and are very excited! She loves to read and play with her foster kittens when she's not planning a trip, as she loves to travel. They're passionate about anti-trafficking efforts and pursuing a career in advocacy against wartime sexual violence.
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