Letter: Rittenhouse verdict underscores racial bias

Posted 12/6/21

To the editor:

Last week we learned that Kyle Rittenhouse, a white man who carried a weapon of war into a neighborhood that was not his own, will face no legal consequences for killing two people …

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Letter: Rittenhouse verdict underscores racial bias

Posted

To the editor:

Last week we learned that Kyle Rittenhouse, a white man who carried a weapon of war into a neighborhood that was not his own, will face no legal consequences for killing two people and critically injuring a third. It is worth remembering what the people in Kenosha, Wis. were protesting when Rittenhouse decided to play vigilante: The fact that Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back in front of his children by a police officer. The officer who shot him faced no charges.

This is exactly what we mean when we talk about systemic racism. The criminal justice system in the United States is biased in a way that tends to protect white perpetrators of gun violence while it disproportionately punishes people of color for non-violent offenses, too often with lethal force.

And this “not-guilty” verdict was only possible because of a decades-long effort by the gun lobby to create permissive open-carry and stand your ground laws. The verdict was the result of a feature, not a bug, in our legal system, and the result was an injustice.

We at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence condemn the racial biases built into the U.S. legal system and mourn the toll it has taken on communities of color across the state and country. The verdict underscores how much more work we need to do in Rhode Island.

We will continue to fight for a ban on high-capacity magazines and regulation of assault weapons so that — among many other reasons — they cannot legally be used by white supremacists to terrorize at-risk communities in Rhode Island.

All Rhode Islanders have a right to peacefully protest injustice and should not have to fear falling victim to self-appointed vigilantes looking for excuses to open fire. We will not allow the tragedy that unfolded in Kenosha, Wis. to happen in Rhode Island.

Pete Bilderback

Warren

Peter Bilderback is vice chairman of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.

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