2 trials, 1 theme: White men taking law into their own hands

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool Kyle Rittenhouse testifies during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. The trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery had vastly different outcomes. But coming just days apart, they laid bare a dangerous and long-running current in the fight for racial equality: The move by some white Americans to grab guns and take their own stand against perceptions of lawlessness, particularly by Black people. The two cases, which ended with an acquittal for Rittenhouse last week and guilty verdicts for Arbery’s killers on Wednesday, highlighted polarizing issues about gun and self-defense laws, and racial injustice. They also forced the questions: Who or what is being protected? And from whom? Should peace of mind for white Americans come at the expense of the protection and safety of Black Americans? “So much of this issue about protection and safety is about the safety and the protection of whites or white property,” said Carol Anderson, historian and professor of African American studies at Emory University. “There is a hubris of whiteness. The sense that it is on me to put Black lives back into their proper place.” Arbery, a Black man, was chased and shot to death by white men suspicious of an outsider in their predominantly white Georgia neighborhood. In […]

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