Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse

So most of you know about the events that have been happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You have either heard about Jacob Blake being shot multiple times by police officers in front of his children and/or about what Kyle Rittenhouse did… or- if you don’t remember his name- the teenager with an assault rifle who walked around and killed protesters in the area without being apprehended until later.

Did you all realize that these two events happened in literally the same exact place? That the protesters who were shot were there protesting Jacob Blake being shot? Wow.

I wanted to talk about each of these events because of the divisiveness I have seen in how people are responding to them….AND because my heart is filled with sympathy for these families whose lives will never be the same.

In Jacob Blake’s case….I hope that he surprises doctors and does not end up paralyzed. But even if he manages that- I just can’t stop thinking about his children. How would it feel to see your father shot in front of you? Or, if you have your own children…. for them to see you shot? ESPECIALLY by figures of authority who you are supposed to be able to trust and go to for help?

In the other scenario….two people were murdered (and another injured). To the families of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber….the two men who sadly lost their lives… I hope desperately that you all find some peace. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose someone under those circumstances and that doesn’t even touch on the extra layer of difficulty that having their deaths be so publicized and politicized must add. I’m deeply sorry and my heart is with you all.

I’ll admit something about what I thought when I heard about these two events. I did jump to some conclusions at first. Most of my guesses about how Jacob Blake’s situation was handled ended up being correct. It was horribly mishandled and racism (whether conscious or unconscious) likely factored into the excessive force used. All of the arguments I’ve heard about Jacob Blake having a knife or a criminal record does not negate the gross misuse of force by that officer. (I’m glad to talk further with anybody who still disagrees with me in that regard.)

I will say, however, that if you had asked me what happened in Kyle’s case before I spent the time looking deeper- this is what I would have said (based on what I was seeing and hearing in my circle): “I think some kid decided to shoot protesters with an assault rifle because he felt he was providing some sort of vigilante justice and supporting the far-right.”

I did a thing though. I researched what happened.

So…after looking at multiple sources and especially digging around in the news sources that are typically most center and least biased…. I assembled a fuller picture of what actually happened and changed some of my thoughts. Because….

Sometimes it’s hard, but it IS okay. After a lot of digging- the new conclusion I’ve come to in Kyle’s case is that he was a child who thought he could run around playing tough-guy with a rifle and who got scared and reacted by using the weapon he was carrying.

I can already sense some of my liberal friends starting to get twitchy about me “making excuses for him.” That’s okay…because unbiased reports from multiple sources say that he didn’t shoot until he was being chased. I would not say that it was in self-defense exactly. But I would say that it was…in fear? In response, maybe.

I was a teacher for four years. I still volunteer in classrooms every week. A 17-year-old is still a child. And even apart from my anecdotal experiences….the prefrontal cortex- the part of our brain that is in charge of impulse control and decision making…isn’t fully formed until a person’s early 20s. (When I get out of the Army, I’ll share some fun controversial thoughts on my opinions about when somebody should be able to enlist in military service, based on that information). I’m not a lawyer or judge though, so I’m not hammering out any opinions on the legal aspect of Kyle’s case. I’m just sharing my thoughts on it. And- although it goes without saying- even though I have a little bit of compassion for a scared teenager- I also do believe that he absolutely should NOT have been carrying a weapon in the first place, was clearly very misguided, and was wrong for committing those murders.

For my more conservative readers…..don’t get too excited. Even though I am glad to learn more and change my mind based on new information- both Jacob Blake’s AND Kyle Rittenhouse’s scenarios only further back up the fact that we need reform in our police forces.

For some reason, supporting police reform is considered a “liberal” viewpoint. I personally don’t understand why it’s not bipartisan. My guess is just because people got freaked out by the phrase “defund the police.”

(Which…by the way….doesn’t mean abolish the police in most cases. I’ll probably do a full separate post on this later. “Defund the Police” just means….spread resources across multiple agencies to handle the burden of crime prevention and management.)

Setting “Defund the Police” aside though…if you look at both scenarios in Kenosha from a super basic, unbiased level- here’s what happened:

A black man was shot seven times in front of his children for possibly having a weapon and a 17 year-old white boy was carrying an assault weapon around all day and then after actually shooting people was apprehended without force.

No matter what your beliefs on how race factored into those scenarios or on whether or not Kyle was acting in self defense….how does this not point to the fact that we are in desperate need of reform in our police departments? Why wouldn’t we want to make it mandatory for cops to be given and use body cams? Why wouldn’t we want cops who use deadly force to undergo vigorous investigation and accountability measures? Why wouldn’t we want to encourage and implement more training on bias, scenario deescalation, and protocol on escalation of force? Why wouldn’t we want cops to have to do more than 6 months of training before being given BOTH significant authority and a deadly weapon?

I personally believe the response to each of those individuals was influenced by how the cops perceived Jacob and Kyle, due to the different colors of their skin. You can’t look at what happened to Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Philando Castile and so many others and think those were coincidence. So…I absolutely do think that Jacob Blake was another victim of the systemic racism that’s alive in our country.

But here’s the thing. EVEN IF I’M WRONG…. things like additional training and body cams wouldn’t hurt anybody. Whereas NOT doing so is ending with people dying. Overall, no matter what, it would incur a net gain insofar as making sure our police force has been given everything they need to be successful and to be held accountable if necessary.

I keep seeing people I love who are reiterating Blue Lives Matter rhetoric and pointing out the good cops in their lives. Of course there are good cops! I know good cops…Lots of people know good cops! But admitting racial bias and lack of training are influencing how SOME cops are responding to the scenarios they are encountering is only going to benefit the “good” cops too. Good cops should want this too! Most of the ones who I have talked to DO. They are okay with changes like these, because…they’re going to just keep doing the good work that they’ve been doing all along. (Also, a big thank you to all of those in law enforcement who DO serve citizens and act as a protective and positive force in our communities. You’re awesome).

This isn’t a political issue everyone….it’s just being politicized. There are solutions and compromises. Let’s figure that out….because it will save lives. #BlackLivesMatter ❤ ❤

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