White privilege and the justice system

Illustration by Jaida Noble | Jenna Ryan and Kyle Rittenhouse are examples of how prejudiced the justice system is towards protecting white people from the consequences of their actions.

How is this still happening in America, the supposed land of the free?

How is it that white people can get away with so much? How are they so aware of this but yet, still can gloss right over the fact that they are extremely privileged?

Kyle Rittenhouse, a white male, shot three people, killing two, and yet was able to walk past police with an AR-15 style rifle even as protestors were shouting that he had just shot people. The police did nothing and arrested him the next morning at his house.  

Jenna Ryan documented herself at the Capitol on Jan. 6 during the insurrection and then tweeted “Definitely not going to jail. Sorry I have blonde hair white skin a great job a great future and I’m not going to jail…” She has been sentenced to only 60 days in jail.

While it is great that so far one of these two people have been brought to justice, why did Ryan think she could get away with it? Why was Rittenhouse able to walk past officers with a fully loaded gun after officers heard reports of a shooting?

The simple answer is racial bias. It is everywhere, including in our law enforcement and justice systems. 

Even in Washington, a supposedly progressive state, the ratio of Black people to white people imprisoned in 2019 was a ratio of 5.7-to-1, according to The Sentencing Project. The Census Bureau reports that Washington has a population that is 78.5 percent white and only 4.4 percent Black. Think about that compared with the Black/white imprisonment ratio. 

Washington has only the 21st highest Black/white incarceration rate in the U.S., New Jersey has the first.

You may argue that Black people commit more crimes hence the higher imprisonment rate but then you’d have to consider the poverty rate in 2019. According to the Census Bureau, for Black Americans was 18.8 percent and that is the lowest rate since 1959. Compare that with the white poverty rate of 7.3 percent. 

A study done by the American Action Forum found that “Without reducing poverty and income inequality, racial bias, and the overcriminalization of activities related to poverty, the United States will not meaningfully reduce its prison population.” 

So, to circle back around, why did these two criminals think they might get a free pass? Because they knew that they were privileged.

We’ve all seen these statistics, this is not a new thing but still, it continues in our justice system. 

For example, the judge presiding over Rittenhouses’ trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder, refuses to call the Black Lives Matter protestors “victims” and instead calls them “arsonists” or “looters.” 

This judge has said that electronic devices can distort video. Schroeder said, “This is Apple’s iPad programming creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there,” according to the Guardian. 

In addition to this, not that it can get much worse, Judge Schroeder snapped at the prosecution for asking Rittenhouse why he thought he needed to bring an AR-15 for protection, which is a good question!

Judge Schroeder has recently dismissed two of the previous seven charges brought against Rittenhouse. One of the charges dismissed was a misdemeanor saying that minors cannot possess a firearm except in specific circumstances.

As of Nov. 19, Rittenhouse has been found not guilty on all charges. He has been able to walk free even after having video evidence of the killings.

In my opinion, if this had been a young Black man, this would have gone in a totally different direction, and to put it brutally, I’m not even sure if there would have been a trial. 

Fix this, America.

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