I talked to so many friends today who all said the same thing: I’m not at all surprised. This is business as usual in this country.
I had to contrast that with my own emotional response. I broke down in tears right in the vet’s office. It’s not that I was surprised. I wasn’t. In fact I’ve been saying, like many over the last few days, that he would walk. Yet when I heard the verdict read, I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing.
Five years ago, Colin Kaepernick started a movement that caught fire across the nation as athletes took a knee during the national anthem to protest. I flat out didn’t get it. In fact, I was indignant. How dare he use sports as a political platform. “Black Lives Matter” was a leftist organization and racism wasn’t nearly as big a problem as they were trying to say. I had accepted as truth the ideology of the white conservative world around me.
But between Kaepernick’s conviction and Trump’s lack thereof, the blinders were slowly broken up and shaken off. It has been a long, hard, painful process, but the truth has been worth it.
Still, I’m late to the game. And it helps explain why I had a visceral reaction to the verdict while BIPOC and allies are just shrugging right now. Why “not surprised” is trending on Twitter. This is how the system is intended to work. I see it now, even though I’ll never fully understand what it is to live it.
I’ve also heard from people today claiming this case had nothing to do with race. I get it. I actually really do. I know the rhetoric. I used to say all the same things. And I understand how easy it is to look at this from your white conservative world and miss it.
But I’m pleading with you to look again. Humbly listen. Consider what is being said that may be true. A white supremacist walked knowingly into a volatile space with a group of people protesting/rioting against white supremacy, killed two of those people, and walked away. No consequences. Compare that to Julius Jones. Tamir Rice. Kalief Browder. And if you don’t know who they are, look them up.
Our Black brothers and sisters are actually accustomed to this. They knew that he’d go free because he’s white and the lives he took were protesting white supremacy. They know that if the roles were reversed, if a Black teen had gone into a charged group of Trump supporters and shot and killed two of them, he wouldn’t have the same fate as Rittenhouse. In fact, they wouldn’t expect him to live long enough to see a trial.
This should break our hearts. No one in our country should feel this level of resignation.
I’m not saying you need to join your local BLM chapter or change your political affiliation. I’m just asking you to choose curiosity over judgment. Have compassion. Be gentle. And listen.