What the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict Says About Justice in America

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  • The A.M.A., on the Power of Language

Jurors appeared to be swayed by Kyle Rittenhouse’s claim that he had acted in self-defense when he shot three men, killing two.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

To the Editor:

Re “Self-Defense Is Difficult to Disprove, Experts Say” (news analysis, front page, Nov. 20):

Kyle Rittenhouse managed to convince a jury that he was acting in self-defense. Except he had placed himself in a bad situation. At 17 he was barely equipped to handle the responsibility of having a gun in a place of chaos and violence.

And Mr. Rittenhouse did not know how to de-escalate tension. When he felt threatened his solution was to shoot to kill. He could have put down his “cool” gun and surrendered after the first incident. But twice more, twice, he shoots to kill. As if that were his only choice.

Three times this boy used what should be the last resort of any thinking person. I am not sure a life in prison would have been the answer. He is just a kid making adult decisions with a kid’s brain. But he has paid nothing for his actions. The consequences of that will reverberate for years.

Jo Trafford
Portland, Maine

To the Editor:

While I understand that self-defense can be tricky for a prosecutor, I thought reckless endangerment, at the very least, might stick. Two people are dead and one maimed, with zero accountability.

Even drunken drivers who didn’t mean to kill anyone are held accountable. They got behind the wheel with alcohol in their system, and Kyle Rittenhouse walked down the street with a semiautomatic rifle over his shoulder.

Each scenario, a disaster in the making — this one proving, once again, that the law and justice are miles apart.

Debora Stein
Bronxville, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Kyle Rittenhouse may have prevailed in his claim that he acted in self-defense under Wisconsin law, but what does that say about the state of affairs in America? Is it really OK for him to march down the street with an AR-15-style rifle over his shoulder? Is it really OK for him to shoot demonstrators when they perceive him to be the threat and seek to disarm him?

Where does this all end?

And you can be sure that the extremists on the right will not be so quick to defend the use of semiautomatic rifles or the self-defense claim when it is a left-wing protester or a Black man who shoots someone because he believed that the person was a threat.

David S. Elkind
Greenwich, Conn.

To the Editor:

In “Self-Defense Is Difficult to Disprove, Experts Say” you write, “The acquittal points to the wide berth the legal system gives to defendants who say they acted out of fear.”

Wow. Yet another punch in the face to the thousands of women abuse survivors incarcerated for acts of self-defense. This verdict had nothing to do with justice. This verdict was a clear message about power and control, and exactly who in American society is permitted to hold it.

Valerie M. Field
Sea Cliff, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “Rittenhouse and the Right’s White Vigilante Heroes,” by Charles M. Blow (column, Nov. 22):

The verdict makes me more fearful and more concerned about the state of the country. I grew up in Mississippi under Jim Crow laws. Never have I been so afraid of white people.

My fear is based partly on the degree to which those with positions of authority, such as Judge Bruce Schroeder, coddle vigilantes. The judge went to extraordinary lengths to protect Kyle Rittenhouse. The verdict will embolden other white vigilantes, especially when they learn of the benefits inuring to Mr. Rittenhouse: job offers and potential speaking engagements.

God help us if an unintended consequence of the coddling of vigilantes is that those with reasonable fear begin arming themselves and shooting at the first sign of perceived danger.

Devarieste Curry
The writer is a retired lawyer.

To the Editor:

Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two young men as a teen, has the opportunity to deter gun violence through his public words and deeds, or to worsen it by the same. I hope he is mature enough to make the right decision. Either way he, and the country, will reap what he sows.

Francesca Turchiano
New York

The A.M.A., on the Power of Language

To the Editor:

Re “The Absurd Side of Social Justice Efforts” (column, Nov. 16):

Michelle Goldberg’s column about the American Medical Association’s “Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts” minimizes language’s power to build and maintain dominant narratives and exacerbate inequities in care.

Our intent is to challenge long-held narratives in medicine that harm historically marginalized people and communities. It is to promote equity and inclusion by helping my fellow physicians and me center the care we provide around our patients’ lived experiences, without reinforcing stigmatization or negative stereotypes. It is designed to stimulate awareness about language and concepts most of us didn’t learn in medical school, moving us closer to racial justice and equity in medicine.

Language, like science, must evolve over time based on new revelations and deeper understanding, evidenced by your own newspaper’s updates to its style guide to modify racial and ethnic identifiers. Similarly, our language guide grew out of a need to eliminate race as a proxy for ancestry, genetics and biology in medical education, research and clinical practice. It was created to help us become better healers.

The A.M.A. is committed to advancing racial justice and equity in health care and achieving optimal health for all. We believe that language plays an important role in reaching that goal.

Gerald E. Harmon
Pawleys Island, S.C.
The writer is president of the American Medical Association.

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