Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty, Race Forward Continues to Call for a Transformed Justice System

After three and a half days of jury deliberation, Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of all five charges in the murder of two unarmed men and the shooting injury of a third during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.

Following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man--who was left paralyzed from the waist down, by a white police officer, protest ensued in Kenosha, where Rittenhouse, 17-years-old at the time, brandished a AR-15-style rifle and fatally shot Anthony Huber, 26, and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum.

Stark and well documented disparities in our criminal justice system indicate that the outcome of the trial would very likely look different had Rittenhouse been a Black man.

Further aggravating the repeated pattern of racial disparities where courts treat white men on trial, such as Dylan Roof, more leniently, Judge Schroeder insisted on biased language in the courtroom by refusing to allow those who were killed to be called “victims,” but allowing them to be called “rioters'' and “looters”. Judge Schroeder demonstrated the importance of language, and misused his authority to undermine accountability for these brutal killings. 

The verdict comes in the midst of the trial of another white male who murdered Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and eight years after George Zimmerman, in the guise of a vigilante, was acquitted of the murder of Travon Martin, another young black man. The intersection of this resurgence of white extremist political violence and white supremacy, and the ensuing lack of accountability, represent a pattern that strains and damages the legitimacy of our institutions. This pattern threatens our democracy, while allowing the murders of Black and brown people and their allies. It further proves that the current justice system is far from just, and is designed to work against Black and brown people time and time again. 

Race Forward continues to call for accountability and a completely transformed justice system that  moves us towards a true democracy that ensures the rights and lives of all people are respected.