Defenseless in America

While some Americans might have thought Kyle Rittenhouse was going to be found guilty, the sad reality is that those in America with lighter skin are protected by the law while people of color, especially Black people, aren’t given that same privilege.

On Nov. 19, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all five counts: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment. These charges were based on the events that occurred during the Black Lives Matter protest for Jacob Blake in August of 2020.

Rittenhouse claimed self-defense for killing two protesters and severely injuring one. There are many people of color who have been charged with far less violent crimes, but have been convicted, or worse, killed by the police.

For instance, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl was killed by the police after she tried to defend herself from two girls attacking her. She didn’t have the same opportunity to claim self-defense as Rittenhouse did. Bryant was immediately assumed to be the attacker, and was shot on sight by the police.

However, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that people like Rittenhouse are able to get away with murder. It’s happened in the past and will most likely continue if nothing is done to reform
the justice system.

With this precedent being set, there is another trial wrapping up that also features a self-defense claim despite the video evidence proving otherwise.

In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery (25) was murdered by three White men while out for a run. The three men, father and son Greg and Travis McMichael alongside their neighbor William Bryan, saw Arbery while running and wrongly accused him of being a burglar. On video, Arbery is seen running from the three men before being confronted by McMichael which ended in him
being shot and killed.

Like the case of Rittenhouse, the men are claiming self-defense. The McMichaels and Bryan assumed that Arbery was a threat, just because he was a Black man taking a jog through the
neighborhood. One of the main reasons this case is under scrutiny is the amount of corruption within the local judicial system that didn’t arrest the three men after they initially murdered Arbery.

In Humboldt County, there is a similar case that hasn’t been solved because of the corruption in our local justice system. In April 2017, Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, and his friends went to a party in Arcata. At this party, Lawson was wrongly accused of stealing another partygoer’s phone and was attacked and had racial slurs said to him. Lawson sadly
did not make it. In the months following his murder, it appeared that the justice system was not working on his case.

Due to mismanagement and bias within the justice system in Humboldt County, Lawson’s murderer wasn’t prosecuted back in 2017. Four years have passed and justice has still not been served. Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson fights for her son by holding monthly vigils, protests, community service events, and many other helpful contributions in the name
of her son Josiah.

Until our justice system is fully reformed, countless BIPOC Americans are not afforded the same privilege to defend themselves. With every protest that occurs we are faced with the harsh
reality that defending ourselves and our rights may put us at risk of violent mistreatment from our citizens.

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