Opinion: Call white supremacists what they are

The+image+above+depicts+Jacob+Blake%2C+who+was+racially-profiled+and+shot+seven+times+by+police%2C+while+separately+white+supremacist+Kyle+Rittenhouse+walks+away+unharmed+with+an+AR-15.+

Auva Soheili

The image above depicts Jacob Blake, who was racially-profiled and shot seven times by police, while separately white supremacist Kyle Rittenhouse walks away unharmed with an AR-15.

By Auva Soheili, Carlmont High School

What would you call someone who murdered two people after crossing state lines with an illegally obtained AR-15 to support a white supremacist gang countering a Black Lives Matter protest?

White supremacists in Kenosha

On the night of August 25, white supremacists gathered in Kenosha, WI, in response to protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of Officer Rusten Sheskey. Among the group of white supremacists was 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, whose mom not only armed him with a semiautomatic in a state where one must be 21 years old to own a firearm, but drove him from Illinois to attend. 

Their presence, meant to intimidate those protesting racist systems that target minorities, only reinforced the message that the lives of minorities do not matter.

However, Rittenhouse is not the only criminal here. The police did not question nor bat an eye at the armed teenager despite Wisconsin’s law prohibiting the ownership of firearms to persons under the age of 18. But this cannot be boiled down to negligence — in fact, Kenosha police cooperated with the gang: They handed out water, thanked them for their presence, and told them that they would drive the protestors toward the armed mob.

Even when Rittenhouse had just murdered someone, it was the crowd of protestors that tried to stop the active shooter. Rittenhouse then shot two more people, killing one and wounding the other. He went home and was arrested later that day in Illinois. 

While there has been an investigation into Rittenhouse’s exact ties to the gang, including speculations of whether he was in a white supremacist Facebook groupchat or simply got the information off the website InfoWars, one thing remains true: If a person attends a white supremacist gathering, they are a white supremacist. Kyle Rittenhouse attended a white supremacist gathering, therefore he is a white supremacist.

We shouldn’t be afraid to call it out. 

The media’s portrayal of white supremacy

Over the course of the past few days, media outlets like the New York Post, Associated Press News, the Wall Street Journal, and NPR have sugarcoated the truth. Seeing headlines like “Kenosha Deadly Protests,” “Suspected teen gunman Kyle Rittenhouse spotted cleaning Kenosha graffiti before shooting,” and “Victims of shooting during Kenosha protests engaged gunman,” one never would have guessed that a white supremacist terrorist had traveled over 20 miles to instigate violence.

News outlets usually, and rightfully, take their time to gather facts before rushing to conclusions. While this can prevent defamation, in this instance, the cautiousness is giving white supremacy a pass. The consequences of libel, the publication of false statements of fact that damage someone’s reputation, can be severe, but there is an antidote: truth.

Being the first to label Rittenhouse as a white supremacist may seem risky, but it is the truth. The unwillingness to label the situation for what it is–domestic terrorism committed by a white supremacist–sends the message that “it doesn’t matter what they do, they are not going to get called out for it, their racist ideology will not be questioned, nor will they receive proper repercussions.” 

This has left wiggle room for conservatives to hail Rittenhouse a “national treasure.” It baffles me: how does a teenage terrorist become the hero?

Days earlier in Kenosha, protestors had burned down the entire Department of Corrections compound, leaving the spray painted words, “Are you listening yet?” Conservative media outlets have used this as a ploy to paint Rittenhouse as someone who was merely protecting the community against destruction. What they focused on was the action: arson. However, what they failed to recognize was its symbol: What will it take to make lasting change? What will it take to end the brutalization of Black people at the hands of racist law enforcement?

Though there have been various types of protests, each time there is any destruction, some say, “Why can’t they just protest peacefully like Martin Luther King Jr.?” 

But they did. Protests started out peacefully while apparatuses of the government attacked civilians with pepper spray, tear gas, tasers, brute force, and batons. When some protests became violent, media coverage grew. As soon as protests became peaceful once again, mainstream media became disinterested in the cause. The mode of protest does not define the legitimacy of it.

Bree Newsome Bass expressed that refusing to support the humanity of Black people because of property damage is like saying, “I don’t know if i can support the abolition of slavery because I read that someone burned a cotton field down and that’s going too far.” 

The social contract

Our country, founded upon the Declaration of Independence, was based upon the political and moral philosophy of the social contract, which places governmental legitimacy of the State over the individual. The social contract means that individuals have agreed to surrender their freedoms and submit to governmental authority in exchange for the protection of their rights and maintenance of social order.

Organizations of State power, which regularly kill certain groups of people without legal retribution, is a flagrant violation of the social contract. Throughout history, when the social contract is broken, ethical legitimacy is given to those who rebel against the oppressive systems of law and order (and private property is not exempt — think of The Boston Tea Party). 

If these systems of “law and order” won’t protect the rights of minorities in the most basic ways, then from where is their moral legitimacy derived? And why should those denied ethical consideration under such systems have any moral duty to subscribe to them? The same systems Black people are told to adhere to are the same ones murdering them without consequence. Uprisings are a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. 

And as Dr. King said, “Violence is the language of the unheard.” Those whom the social contract has failed are out of options. Those that act in opposition to the uprisings are condemning a reaction rather than the root of the issue itself: white supremacy. 

Rittenhouse did not go to Kenosha to “protect a business,” he went to silence the voices of those speaking against systemic oppression. Nobody loves someone else’s business so much that they would drive across state lines, armed to the teeth, to defend it. Even so, there are no stand your ground laws in Wisconsin, making this defense illegal. 

Contradictory arguments from conservatives

In his defense, Rittenhouse’s legal team has claimed that he was part of a militia which is protected in the “well regulated militia” clause in the Constitution. However, private militias have no authority to act as law enforcement and the Second Amendment right does not extend toward their formation. Militias must operate under the authority of the governor or president. If it does not, it is illegal. 

For months, we have seen our very own President preach “law and order” when referencing civil unrest, and his conservative buddies echo it back. They have called Black protestors “thugs” for merely using their First Amendment Rights, whilst simultaneously defending the abuses of law enforcement and declaring Rittenhouse a hero. 

The Kenosha police not only encouraged the gang of white supremacists but stood idly by after Rittenhouse shot people, making them accomplices in abetting crime.

Rittenhouse has not been convicted yet, since his hearing was pushed back 30 days. However, he is being tried as an adult with six criminal counts. 

The first charge includes first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Joseph Rosenbaum and first degree intentional homicide in the death of Anthony Huber. He also faces one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor. 

These crimes Rittenhouse committed are in direct violation of the social contract: Americans have agreed to surrender their freedoms and submit to governmental authority, with the promise of the protection of their rights and maintenance of social order. But the government’s end of the bargain hasn’t been upheld: apparatuses of state power, such as the police, which regularly murder without legal penalty, is a complete breach of the agreement. And instead of defending the foundation of the country they love by condemning the violations of the social contract, conservative media outlets have been celebrating these offenses. 

This is what makes white supremacy seem permissible. It is this same racist double standard that let the same police department describe Jacob Blake as a threat for possibly possessing a weapon, but treat Kyle Rittenhouse as a human being and arrest him peacefully the following day. 

Civil Rights advocate and television host Trevor Noah said, “Why is it that the police decide that some threats must be extinguished immediately while other threats get the privilege of being diffused? We know the answer: the gun doesn’t matter as much as who is holding the gun, because to some, black skin is the most threatening weapon of all.”

So I ask again, what would you call someone who crossed state lines with an illegally obtained semiautomatic rifle to support a white supremacist gang countering a Black Lives Matter protest? A white supremacist.

And we shouldn’t hesitate to call it out.

This story was originally published on Scot Scoop News on September 8, 2020.