Rittenhouse and Arbery Rulings: A Response
On the night of August 25th, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two and injuring one, who were attending a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, WI in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse, who was a minor at the time, had traveled across state lines with an AR-15 assault rifle he didn’t own under the guise of defending private property and private capital after the unrest in the city had led to property damage on previous nights. On November 19th, 2021, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges against him for his actions on that night.
The UO Young Democratic Socialists of America unequivocally condemns this verdict, the precedent it creates, and the darkest elements of American society it represents.
During the afternoon of February 23rd, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was chased down, shot, and killed by three white men: Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan Jr., while he was out jogging. These men killed Arbery because they claimed that they believed, with no evidence, him to be the perpetrator of a series of break-ins that had occurred in their neighborhood. On November 24th, 2021, the McMichaels and Bryan were all found guilty of multiple charges, including murder.
Our organization commends this verdict, overcoming a nearly all-white jury, but we recognize that even this result will not fully deliver true and lasting justice.
The United States of America was created by white settler-colonialists who committed genocide against Native Americans and dispossessed them of their land and whose entire economic system was constructed around the exploitation of Africans forced into chattel slavery. It is a state that has continued and deepened these divisions after the failure of post- Civil War Reconstruction by enforcing brutal apartheid conditions and continually criminalizing people of color, particularly Black people. It is a government founded by land-owning white men and designed to ensure their power and influence above all other citizens.
Under these circumstances, the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case cannot be seen as an anomaly nor does it represent a failure of the system. The United States’ criminal “justice” system is working just as designed. Additionally, we must also acknowledge that the conviction in the case of the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery does not truly represent enduring change as carceral solutions to the deep-seated horrors of American racism will always be ineffective and insufficient.
These cases must remind us that history is not a continual trajectory of increasing progress, but is instead a constant struggle between oppressed and oppressor. The harm committed by these white men, although occurring under very different circumstances, all are representative of a
culture that has emboldened and approved white supremacist vigilante violence.
As an organization of anti-capitalists across the left-wing spectrum, we recognize that the resistance against white supremacy is integral to class struggle as a whole. We commit to acting in solidarity with groups who are organizing in our community and across the nation against white supremacy and the prison industrial complex.
Additionally, we are compelled to make clear that although some short-term reforms (such as electing progressive prosecutors, moving towards the decriminalization of petty and non-violent offenses, working to defund and dismantle police departments, etc.) can bring about some minor but important progress, ultimately we have to be constantly pushing towards abolishing our deeply corrupted and racist prison industrial complex and rebuilding from scratch with a new, bold vision of achieving true justice and accountability for victims of harm.
The people are yearning for change and we have an obligation to ceaselessly fight to achieve these ambitious and urgently necessary goals.