Ahmaud Arbery’s killers—not representing a major news outlet or being an officer of the court, I’ll dispense with terms like “defendant” and “accused”—are being tried by a jury with 11 whites and only one Black in a county that’s 25% African American. Maybe it’s not the notorious “all-white jury” of yesteryear, but something’s still wrong with the math. The defense team even had the gall to complain that the jury lacked a sufficient number of “bubbas,” that is non-college educated white men, like their three clients. The Constitution calls for a jury of the defendant’s “peers,” but let’s not ignore the victim’s peers. I worry the Arbery trial is shaping up as one more Jim Crow style mockery of the judicial process, something that should be ancient history by now.
And then there’s the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who just happened to be walking around the streets of Kenosha Wisconsin with an AR-15 rifle during the unrest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse wasn’t a Kenosha resident but claimed he was there to help protect the community. His victims may not have been Black, but he still thought he was justified in taking the law into his own hands. The judge prohibited the prosecution from calling the three men Rittenhouse shot (two fatally) “victims,” claiming it was the standard rule in Wisconsin until someone is convicted of a crime. At the same time, however, he allowed the defense to refer to the victims as looters, rioters and arsonists even though there is little evidence that is the case. It would seem the judge doesn’t have much concern or respect for the vigilante’s victims.
The bubbas’ rationale for killing Arbery—supposedly they thought he was responsible for a series of break-ins—is ridiculous. They fancy themselves society’s guardians, while Black men like Arbery are either rapists or thieves; it doesn’t occur to them that they are the ones who are the criminals, in this case murderers. Although he was dismissed, a juror in the Rittenhouse trial made a joke about the shooting of Jacob Blake, the event that sparked the riots in Kenosha (“Why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times? Because they ran out of bullets.”) Talk about lack of respect for the victim!
These People Think Vigilantism is Their God-Given Right
I’ve felt the need to write about our society’s predilection for shooting young Black men all too often, and I fear this isn’t the last time I will feel so compelled. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who will be happy to see vigilantes like Rittenhouse and the three “bubbas” found innocent. Never mind “white privilege,” these people—that is both the vigilantes and their supporters—seem to think it is their God-given right and duty to defend Jim Crow era white power and control. Why do they still feel entitled to be both judge and jury of their fellow citizens?
I mustn’t leave you this week without congratulating the House Democrats for finally passing an infrastructure bill for President Biden to sign. It is my sincere wish that Washington manages to disseminate the funds in an efficient manner (admittedly not always the case) and they are put to their intended use so the American people can reap the benefits. I don’t recall the last time I mentioned my Cousin Henry, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky (1777-1852), who was a member of the Great Triumvirate. In addition to also being “the great compromiser” (which unfortunately helped to postpone the Civil War and the end of slavery), history sometimes forgets that he was considered the father of the American System, the principle that government could make the country better and help its people by building roads and bridges and canals as the country grew west across the continent. Unfortunately, it feels like a long time since our government has shown all the good it can do.