Sunday November 28, 2021

A tale of two teens

September 02, 2020

I remember being thirteen and staying up to see if Trayvon Martin’s killer would be convicted. The announcement of the verdict kept being pushed back, but I kept watching – hoping that the anguish I was feeling would somehow be resolved by seeing George Zimmerman jailed.

My mom said the delay was tactical: designed so more people would be too busy sleeping to riot when the verdict came up not guilty. I, naive and accustomed to being called smart for my age, thought it impossible. A kid – a Black Florida teenager, just like me – was stalked and killed for no reason. The government was good. The world had to care.

But it didn’t. Zimmerman walked free. Martin – older than me then, never to reach my age now – stayed just as miserably dead. My world view shifted.

When I heard that the person who shot two protesters to death in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was seventeen, I thought of Trayvon.

Kyle Rittenhouse: seventeen, White, holding a semi-automatic rifle, with a chorus of witnesses identifying him as a killer, walked right past a swarm of police and, unpursued, put twenty miles between him and his victims. The next morning, he was arrested alive and unharmed.

Trayvon Martin: seventeen, Black, holding the Skittles and juice that he’d just bought from a 7-Eleven, is stalked and murdered by a self-appointed neighborhood guard for walking home and “looking about” suspiciously.

One boy lives, one boy dies. Who do you think America has sympathy for?

Depends where you look. Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter and idolizer of police, has become a conservative darling. Tucker Carlson—host of the most-watched show in cable news history – defended his actions as inevitable, even heroic: a testament to a boy who stepped up where “no one else would”. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter wantsRittenhouse, known only for killing Black Lives Matter protesters, to be President.

He’s been afforded a degree of leniency and linguistic care that is the inverse of the racist smears Trayon Martin faced. During the Kenosha protest, a police officer is recorded thanking Rittenhouse and his armed compatriots multiple times, who were breaking curfew just the same as tear-gassed racial justice protesters. Rubber bullets flew elsewhere, but police stopped to offer Rittenhouse and his good ol’ boys water.

When describing the triple shooting that took two lives, Kenosha’s police chief called Rittenhouse someone “involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place”.

Imagine painting someone who crossed state lines illegally armed with an automatic rifle as interested in conflict resolution, or describing Jeffrey Dahmer – another Wisconsin killer – as “involved in the use of teeth”.

The goodwill, even reverence, that’s been granted to this white boy who has taken two lives will never be given to Trayvon Martin or Jacob Blake.

Excerpted from: ‘A Tale of Two Teens: When White Killers Are Treated Better Than Black Victims’