By now, we have all seen and heard that as of last Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse is a free man. Free to do as he chooses and pleases, despite the fact he shot three men, killed two of them – as he claims – in “self-defense.”
If you are one of the many who are outraged that a jury found him NOT guilty on all five counts he had against him, were you really expecting otherwise? Have you not been paying attention to what has been occurring in this country since 1776? If you are one of the social warriors (I applaud you by the way) who is hellbent on using your voice to make sure the next Kyle Rittenhouse – and believe me, there WILL be another Kyle Rittenhouse – doesn’t get off scot-free, the reality is there is only one way we can make that happen.
We all have seen time and time again – well, Black people unfortunately experience it on a daily basis – that our justice system is broken. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. George Zimmerman. Darren Wilson. The list of those who willingly broke the fifth commandment and got away with it goes on and on, and will only grow longer – looking at you Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan – unless…
The rallies and protests demanding that our justice system be fixed after another guilty white male is set free are moving for sure, but in reality, they don’t – nor won’t – change anything. Let history be our witness. Every time we see another white male escape punishment for killing an innocent Black male or female, the only thing more predictable than the jury’s verdict itself is the uproar that will ultimately result. An army of social justice warriors will rise up, use their voices, demand change and guess what? Nothing. Ever. Changes.
The only way we can bring about the change we all so desperately covet is through education and better understanding our moral obligation as humans: to abide by the Golden Rule with everyone we encounter, even if they don’t look like us. Despite what some crazy white supremacists may tell you, Black people are very much human, and by that very definition, they have rights – the same rights as white people.
I fully understand that no matter how sickened I am over the Rittenhouse decision, I know that I can never see it, live it, or understand it from the eyes of a Black person. Nor will I ever be able to rationalize how difficult it is to be a Black man or Black woman in society. As a white male, it’s unimaginable for me to even conceptualize being pulled over solely based on the color of my skin.
We all, well most of us anyhow, want change, but if we are to bring about that change we desire, it needs to start with all of us at home. We can no longer wait for the justice system to fix itself. We can no longer pray for peace and hope that the next vote we cast in November for a candidate of our choosing will be the one who magically fixes this centuries-old problem.
The most powerful voices in the room are the ones at home who take the time to educate their family members and friends that Black people are every bit as equal as whites and deserve to be treated as such. As humans, Blacks are entitled to the same freedoms, privileges and powers as whites. We don’t need someone famous to ingrain that in us, nor should we wait for activists to bring about the changes we seek. The process has to start with each one of us, in public AND private, in the boardroom AND at the dinner table. We need to do a much better job of learning from the wrongs of our past and come to the realization that we are the only ones who can fix it – not Washington, certainly not lobbyists, and not the activists. And it can’t wait any longer.
The obligation we all have as humans shouldn’t fall to a select few. Too many Black people have innocently died for no reason other than the fact that systemic racism is deeply embedded in American culture. It shouldn’t be that hard to live by the Golden Rule, yet for some reason it is. But if we really are serious about fixing the justice system, it’s not optional. We owe it to Emmett Till. We owe it to Breonna Taylor. We owe it to Trayvon Martin. We owe it to George Floyd. And, we owe it to the countless other innocent Black men and women we have never heard of who have tragically lost their lives at the hands of a privileged white person.
Matthew Chudoba of Ridgefield is a life-long Connecticut resident and strategic communications professional. The views expressed in this commentary are his alone.