Whites who decide to do justice

New York- The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery had completely different results. But the fact that they occurred within a few days in a row brought forth a dangerous and protracted current in the struggle for racial equality: the tendency of some white Americans to take up arms and take their own stand on the issue, which they perceive as anarchy, especially among black people .

The two cases, which ended with an acquittal for Rittenhouse last week and convictions for the Arbery killers on Wednesday, highlighted polarizing issues of gun laws and self-defense and racist injustice.

They also force one to ask oneself: Who or what is protected? And from whom? Should the peace of mind of white Americans come at the expense of the safety and security of African Americans?

“Much of this security and safety issue has to do with whites ‘safety and security and whites’ private property,” said Carol Anderson, a historian and professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “There is an arrogance towards whiteness. The feeling that it is up to me to put the lives of blacks back in the right place.”

Arbery, a black man, was chased and shot to death by white men who suspected him of being an intruder in their predominantly white neighborhood in Georgia. In Wisconsin, although both Rittenhouse and the three men he shot were white, the confrontation occurred because of the 17-year-old boy’s decision to travel from his home in Illinois to the city of Kenosha and arm himself with an AR-15 rifle. willing to protect local businesses from protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The unmistakable connection: the idea that white men who perceive a problem “should pick up a gun and get into trouble and then argue that they did it in self-defense,” says Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the College of Justice. NYU Law.

“This is a product of the gun culture. Also a product of the laws … that give white men with weapons the ability to cause chaos and sometimes get away with nothing,” said Waldman, author of the book “The Second Amendment: A Biography.

The two overlapping trials highlight deep racial divisions in American society, especially in the wake of last year’s broad racial justice movement that swept across the country after George Floyd’s death.

Both also took place at the end of a year that began with an uprising in the Federal Capitol, where an overwhelming white crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump, furious at the idea that the 2020 election “stole” them, stormed them. in the legislature in an attempt to take over the government.

The driving force behind the storming of the Capitol, Anderson said, was the unsubstantiated claim that there was large-scale voter fraud in cities with a significant black population, “the idea that black people who voted is what stole the election.”

“The point of umbrella surveillance is that something valuable to me, to me, to my society, is stolen and stolen by the unworthy, by those who deserve nothing,” Anderson said.

White self-defense means “the need to keep the black population, especially the black male population, under surveillance and control,” said author Darryl Pinckney. It has evolved over time, but the United States has a long history of people who have chosen to uphold the law with their own hands, and white Americans who use it as an excuse to violently uphold racial boundaries.

Pinckney mentioned the laws against free movement and the black codes, which were adopted after the Civil War, which were intended to control freed slaves. “Laws that say, ‘If you can not say where you live, you can be locked up and put to work in group shackles for a while.’ During the segregation, black people were told that they were in the wrong place. At the time of the integration, black people were asked why they were in a certain place, they were obliged to show their affiliation to “insure” whites.

Arbery’s murder brings to mind the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, by a white Latin American who patrolled his Florida neighborhood against alleged criminals. For many African Americans, that case served as a warning that just being black could make them targets, said Angela Onwuachi-Willig, dean of Boston University Law School.

For Willig, there was a direct line between Martin’s murder and the famous 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who visited the Mississippi, who was brutally murdered by a pair of white self-defense groups convinced that the 14-year-old had whistled at a white woman. And the Arbery case is also another reminder of the persistent fraud that can await African Americans who dare to venture into areas that are considered white strongholds, he added.

Organized violence by ordinary white American citizens against black people has a long history in the United States and was often committed with the express or tacit approval of authorities, says Ashley Howard, an associate professor of African American history at the University of Iowa. Howard mentioned in particular the slave patrols that were tasked with capturing alleged escaped slaves, and the lynch traps, where the guards stood aside and handed over the keys to bullies so that they could access the black suspects.

The Arbery killers “worked under the kind of slave patrol code, where police powers are delegated to virtually all whites so that they have the power to ask any black person: Why are you here? What is he doing here?” Anderson pointed out.

During the days of the civil rights movement, police often turned a blind eye to white self-defense groups that flocked to black communities to quell protests, Howard noted. The violence was fueled by the false notion that black people attacked white people.

“It’s this feeling that the world they know is being attacked,” Howard said, referring to the white self-defense groups. “It is threatened and they literally have to take up arms and defend it from roaming mobs or whatever they are now designated and understood.”

Although Rittenhouse’s victims were three white men, race was also at the center of his case, as he decided to take up arms to defend private property during the Black Lives Matter protest, and his victims were white men who supported the deal. -Americans. “Attacking the black allies’ white allies has always been part of history,” Pinckney noted.

Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist and newspaper editor, was fatally shot by a slavery mob in Alton, Illinois, in 1837. His killer was found “innocent.”


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