For the modern conservative movement in America, it’s accountability for thee, and none for me. Cruelty for you, but civility for me. And, every day, you must concede to white supremacy, or be canceled by the increasingly radicalized and weaponized GOP.
This oppressive, maddening double standard—and their vision for the future of our diverse country—is exquisitely captured in the farcical trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who drove across state lines and used an AR-15 to kill two people at a BLM protest in Wisconsin. Rittenhouse is claiming self-defense, because it’s totally normal for sane, rational people to drive to a different state and defend someone else’s community by openly carrying an AR-15 and pointing it at strangers during a crowded, volatile protest.
What could go wrong? The family and loved ones of the two dead victims can answer that question.
If Rittenhouse were Black or brown, we might only see chalk lines and his body on a gurney covered in a white shroud. That is, he might well have been shot and killed by the police—or else pilloried and hounded by mainstream media who have consistently referred to men of color as “thugs” and “criminals.”
Aspiring right-wing political figure and Hillbilly Elegy enthusiast J.D. Vance introduced a new terminology in a tweet this week, notoriously suggesting Black men are “wolves” who “set fire to their communities,” and defended Rittenhouse as a boy without a father whose “human nature” told him to “go and defend what no one else is defending.” Not content with his racist dog whistle, Vance also exercised some good ol’ fashioned antisemitism to suggest Rittenhouse, and other culture warriors like him, are fighting “global monopolists,” otherwise known as “The Jews” to white supremacists and modern Republicans.
Through the lens of the prism of white supremacy, white killers like Rittenhouse can never be the criminals, the antagonists, or the bad guys. They are heroes, romanticized and lionized for trying to save and defend white, Western civilization under attack by the insidious forces of “Wokeness,” which is weaponized by the right as a smear to defame all people of color and their allies who are trying to demand equality, racial justice, and fairness.
And lionizing a teen killer—who may duck justice any day now—is just the tip of an increasingly terrifying iceberg.
In 1915, the seeds of this delusional narrative of history were captured in D.W. Griffith’s blockbuster movie The Birth of a Nation, in which the heroes violently suppress newly freed Black people allegedly using their emancipation to replace white power and try to rape white women. This movie, the cinematic equivalent of Avengers: Endgame of its day, revived the KKK, a terrorist organization that was composed of suburban dads, law enforcement, clergy, and elected officials who exorcised their tremendous economic anxiety while wearing hoods. (Famously, President Woodrow Wilson loved the movie and screened it at the White House.)
If Rittenhouse is not a hero, then he’s to become a victim, or a martyr like Ashli Babbit, a violent insurrectionist who died while trying to storm the U.S. Capitol. President Trump has tried his best to redefine her as an “innocent, wonderful, incredible woman,” and she has been defended by GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, who claims she was “executed” by the Capitol police. Gosar also pals around with white nationalists when he isn’t busy tweeting anime clips imagining violence against AOC. In fact, the thousands of MAGA supporters who took over the U.S. Capitol to try to, literally, cancel a free and fair election are seen by the right wing as heroes who tried to defend this country from the insidious “deep state”, a conspiratorial catch-all for all forces that are opposed to right-wing authoritarianism.
This now apparently includes Rep. Liz Cheney, once the third-highest-ranking Republican who voted with Trump 93 percent of the time but is now an “outcast” simply because she thinks almost being killed with her colleagues by a violent mob is a bit much.
Currently, Rittenhouse has become a cause célèbre for Second Amendment rights, pushing back against BLM and “wokeness”—whatever that means—and concealed carry. He joins Mark McCloskey, the wealthy white suburbanite who along with his wife brandished firearms against peaceful BLM protesters outside his St. Louis home. They pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses, but were later pardoned by Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons. The GOP did not admonish them for being irrational and unhinged aggressors; instead the couple was given prime real-estate at the RNC to address the nation and warn them about the impending attack on suburbs.
Naturally, Mark McCloskey is now running for Senate as a Republican.
If the Republicans gain power in 2022, and it seems likely they will, then this upside-down will become our permanent reality, a throwback to how things were before 1954, the year Brown v. Board of Education ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. The institutions, and its gatekeepers, that are meant to enforce the laws and maintain order will simply be instruments for white minority rule, easily manipulated like Play Doh to ensure white power by any means necessary.
Just look at the outrageous behavior of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who seems to be doing double duty as Rittenhouse’s defense attorney. How can we expect a “fair trial” when Schroeder ruled those killed by Rittenhouse could not be called “victims,” and when he refused to issue a new arrest warrant after Rittenhouse allegedly violated the terms of his bond? Just to avoid subtlety, Judge Schroeder’s cell went off during the trial playing Les Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” which is blared at every Trump rally. He also allowed evidence where a police officer told Rittenhouse: “We appreciate you.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Rittenhouse walks scot-free and eventually straight to Congress as a Republican senator or to Fox News headquarters as a host.
Critics allege we are being hysterical, and they’d support Rittenhouse even if he were Black. History provides another reading. In 1967, 30 members of the Black Panthers protested at the California statehouse armed with pistols and shotguns. Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan immediately responded by passing the Mulford Act that repealed the law allowing the open-carry of loaded firearms, a sweeping gun-control act supported by the NRA and conservatives.
The lesson? Assault rifles and concealed carry for us, but none for you. Unless you’re Winsome Sears, who became the first woman elected as Virginia’s lieutenant governor. She campaigned with a photo of her holding a rifle. That’s apparently fine because she’s also a Republican and capes for whiteness. Imagine how they’d respond if Ilhan Omar posted a similar photo and touted, “Defund the Police?”
Unfortunately, if Republicans get more power, we can’t even learn about this history or talk about racism and white supremacy, because they are aggressively trying to whitewash history all across the country. Through projection and hypocrisy, the GOP embodies the “cancel culture” they allegedly fear from the “woke mob.” In Virginia, Gov.-elect Youngkin ran and won on the manufactured critical race theory (CRT) scare to appeal to the racial anxiety of white women. Apparently, school-shooting massacres and murderers like Rittenhouse are fine, but Beloved is too terrifying. Virginia school-board members just followed it up by suggesting that they burn sexually explicit books. Across the country, the GOP is proposing 50 bills to ban CRT—which isn’t taught in elementary schools—stop teaching about racism and diversity, and ban books.
In Texas, a GOP lawmaker has already submitted a list of 850 books that he may wish to be purged.
This is the re-write of American history to pave the way for white minority rule by any means necessary. America will be a country where all standards, rules, norms, and institutions will bend to accommodate, rationalize, and mollify white rage, anxiety, and violence. Democracy, and the country, will burn, but at least Rittenhouse and his conservative defenders will be standing on top of the raging fire using offensive books as kindling, holding their assault rifles, smiling with the delusion that they truly are the masters of a crumbling empire.