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November 22, 2021

Why Black Folks are Angry about the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict.

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Black folks are angry. Black folks are tired.

It is near impossible to put into words the uniqueness of the Black American human experience.

We all have our own distinctive experiences, of course. But the collective way in which Black folk experience life in the United States, while simultaneously living an American experience, is extremely oxymoronic in nature.

If we dare to look back on America’s history, we can see the ways in which the Black experience has always been—and proves to continue to be—mired in the tentacles of the ideals of white supremacy, threaded into the inception of this country.

While Black people are not a monolith, we are bonded by the experiences in America that have held us to a different standard since the day our ancestors were shipped to its shores. We walk many paths, have a variety of views, and come in a myriad of shades, but the one thing we cannot escape in this freedom-loving land is the fog of discrimination that overlays every aspect of our lives. Even with that equalizing factor, we all choose to process that reality in our own ways.

What happened in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is an egregious travesty of justice—and I am livid.

I realize there are a number of contributing factors that lead to the outcome; however, the most glaring element to me, and many that I know, is the privilege of his whiteness that allowed for him to be “innocent until proven guilty” in the eyes of the media. As well as a large swath of Americans who granted him that alleged inalienable right, and ultimately, a jury of his peers who set him free.

I state these things as a matter of fact based on the outcomes of cases like Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Kalief Browder—each deemed criminal for nothing more than playing and walking while “fitting the description” in the minds of those who terminated their lives.

I say this because my sister knew better than to ever allow her children to play with toy guns.

I say this because we had to tell my nephew, who was nine at the time of Martin’s death and loved wearing hoodies, that he could no longer wear them due to fear of him being perceived as “threatening.”

I say this because of the disproportionate number of Black men who are pulled over and 20 percent more likely to be searched during traffic stops—and who are more likely to be killed during those traffic stops.

Statistics is a game of numbers and those numbers support the views that we as a community already know to be true because we live and feel them intimately every single day. We mourn for one another the same way Americans collectively mourn the deaths of our soldiers. We do so because we know that none of us are immune to the evils of blatant racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias. From the Black soldiers who fought the British for the foundation of America, to those who fought for the Union, to the newly freed men and women who attempted to forge their way in a country who never considered them human, let alone American, we have never truly been afforded equal justice on this land.

I was charged to mindfully write about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse when I said I was angry. Well, I am angry—and there is nothing malicious in that anger. It does not detract from my ability to love and to be peaceful. I have earned every right to be angry about this. Black folk have been angry for hundreds of years. We have been angry and have called for peace. We have been angry and tired and hopeful while hopeless. We have been angry, and all the while have asked for nothing but the simplicity of equality—not revenge, but equity in the eyes of the law.

It is 2021, and our cries for equality have reverberated back to us with “not guilty” verdicts for white vigilantes and death sentences for Black men (and women) at simple traffic stops or less.

In my eyes, and the eyes of so many, Kyle Rittenhouse is a killer who our “law and order”-obsessed nation has allowed to walk free. I have every right to be angry and there is nothing horrifying about that.

No justice. No Peace.

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