2 trials, 1 theme: White men taking law into their own hands

2021-11-24 20:50:01 –

The trials of three men accused of murdering Kyle Rittenhouse and Amado Arbury had very different consequences. But just a few days away, they unveiled a dangerous and long-term stream in the fight for racial equality: to grab a gun and take their own position, especially against the lawless perceptions of blacks. Movement by some white Americans.

The two cases, which ended last week with the acquittal of Rittenhaus and the conviction of Arbury’s murderer on Wednesday, highlighted the issue of guns, self-defense, and the polarization of racial injustice.

They also forced the question: who or what is protected? And from whom? Should the peace of mind of white Americans come at the expense of the protection and security of black Americans?

“Many of these protection and security issues are about the safety and protection of whites or white property,” said Carol Anderson, a historian at Emory University and a professor of African-American studies. “There is arrogance of whiteness. It feels like it’s up to me to get the black life back to the right place.”

Black Arbury was shot dead after being chased by a white man suspected of being an outsider, primarily in the neighborhood of white Georgia. In Wisconsin, Rittenhaus and the three men he shot were both white, but the encounter moved from his Illinois home to Kenosha and armed with an AR-15 rifle dedicated to protecting local businesses. It was caused by the 17-year-old decision. From Black Lives Matter protesters.

Unmistakable Connection: The idea that a white man who recognizes the problem should “pick up a gun, get into trouble, and claim self-defense,” said Michael Waldman, chairman of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Stated.

“This is a product of gun culture. It’s also a product of law … it gives white men with guns the ability to cause confusion and sometimes avoid it,” said “Second Amendment to the Constitution: Biography.” Waldman, the author of, said. .. “

Two consensus trials highlighted a deep racial rift within American society, especially following the widespread movement for racial justice last year that swept the country as a result of the murder of George Floyd. ..

Both began in a year when the 2020 elections began with a riot at the U.S. Capitol where a crowd of overwhelmingly white supporters of former President Donald Trump was furious at the idea that they were “stolen.” Came to the end of. Build with efforts to take ownership of the government.

According to Anderson, the raid on the Capitol was triggered by unfounded allegations that there were a large number of fraudulent votes in cities with a significant black population: “Black votes steal elections. The idea was. “

“It’s about vigilantism, which means that something valuable to me, to me, to my community is stolen, by something worthless, something worthless,” Anderson said. rice field.

White vigilantism means that “the black population, especially the black male population, needs to be under surveillance and control,” said writer Darryl Pinckney. As it has evolved over time, the United States has a long history of people who put the law in their hands, and white Americans who use it as an excuse to violently enforce racial boundaries.

Pinkney pointed out the wandering law and black code passed after the Civil War aimed at managing liberated slaves. “The law says that if you don’t know where you live, you can be trapped and forced to work in a chain gang for a while.” During the separation, blacks say they are in the wrong place. I was. In the age of integration, there was the question of why blacks were in a particular place. In order to “reassure” the whites, we needed to prove that they belonged.

Arbury’s death reminds us of the 2012 black teen Trayvon Martin being killed by a white Hispanic man patroling a alleged criminal in a Florida parcel. Angela Onwachi Willig, dean of Boston University’s law school, said it served as a warning story for many African Americans that the incident could target them just because they were black. Stated.

For Willig, there was a direct line between Martin’s murder and the infamous 1955 Emmett Till Lynch. Emmett Till is a black teenager who visited Mississippi from Chicago, and a 14-year-old woman is a white woman. And she said the Arbury case is yet another reminder of the protracted malice that may await black Americans trying to reach what is considered a white fortress.

Ashley Howard, an assistant professor of African-American history at the University of Iowa, said that systematic violence against blacks by white Americans in general has a long history in the United States and has been explicitly or implicitly approved by the authorities. He said that it is often done. She pointed out slaves suspected of being fugitive and slave patrols set out to capture the Lynch case.

The Arbury murderer said, “I was working under that kind of slave patrol code. It basically represents all whites and asks blacks why they are here and what they are doing here. I had the power to do it. ” Anderson said.

According to Howard, during the civil rights movement, police often turned a blind eye to white vigilants coming to the black community to quell protests. Violence was fueled by the false perception that blacks were aggressive against whites.

“It’s this feeling that the world they know is being attacked,” Howard said of the white vigilantism. “It’s threatened, and they literally have to pick up a weapon and protect it from moving mobs.

The victims of the Rittenhouse were three white men, but the race was at the center of his case, given that he decided to take weapons to protect his property during the Black Lives Matter protest. I did. Equal treatment of black Americans. “Attacking the White Allies of Black Liberation has always been part of the story,” Pinkney said.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a white abolitionist and newspaper editor, was fatally shot by a slavery mob in Alton, Illinois in 1837. His murderer turned out to be “innocent.”

James Peck, a civil rights activist white activist, was brutally beaten by the “bloody pulp” during the Freedom Riders, as explained by civil rights activist John Lewis, a racial traitor by the KKK. Was considered.

Viola Riuszo, a white civil rights activist who participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, was shot dead by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In today’s context, the persistent plea of ​​”Black Lives Matter” and the many whites who listen to the call for participation in the movement are followed by renewed discomfort and fear of the loss of white identity and power. Some people feel that they are becoming more and more bold to deal with it.

“White identities have never been so challenged or abandoned by other whites,” Pinkney said. “There is a real sense of betrayal, and that is part of the fear — the loss of this position or the devaluation of personal whiteness.”


Nasir is a member of AP’s Racial and Ethnic Team. Follow her on Twitter: https: //www.twitter.com/noreensnasir

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