The Contrasting Cases of Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse

Seated+on+his+bike%2C+a+young+boy+gapes+at+the+long+line+of+law+enforcement+officers+in+front+of+him+wearing+helmets%2C+riot+gear%2C+and+shields%2C+standing+by+the+Kenosha+Courthouse%2C+WI%2C+on+August+24%2C+2020.%0A

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Bell

Seated on his bike, a young boy gapes at the long line of law enforcement officers in front of him wearing helmets, riot gear, and shields, standing by the Kenosha Courthouse, WI, on August 24, 2020.

Rija Sabeeh, Features Editor

In the midst of what could be this century’s greatest social uprising, a videotape of law enforcement deploying excessive force on Jacob Blake, a twenty-nine year old Black man, has gone viral. 

Despite this uprising being revitalized by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, not much seems to have changed months later. Blake was reportedly unarmed when shot in the back seven times—in front of his three sons—by an officer responding to a domestic incident call. Witnesses report that this incident was between two women, and Blake was solely trying to break it apart. That wasn’t the assumption Kenosha’s police officers jumped to, though. They instead assumed he was the perpetrator and shot him at the scene, setting off weeks of protests and civil unrest in Wisconsin. There, in stark contrast with Blake’s case, Kenosha law enforcement failed to arrest Kyle Rittenhouse, until he turned himself in hours later. He was not only armed at the time with an AR-15, but additionally opened fire on protestors, injuring three, and killing two right in front of them. One of the protestors killed, Anthony Huber, was allegedly trying to disarm him with nothing in his hands but a skateboard when he was shot in the chest by Rittenhouse—who claims he acted in self-defense. 

When asked about the reasoning behind the difference in outcome of their respective situations, many say racial profiling is to blame. State High junior, Linsey Huynh, stated: “Their color is why it turned out different…compare it as a white boy getting charged and arrested [hours later] for the shooting of TWO people versus a Black man fighting for his life after getting shot trying to SOLVE a simple dispute.” Throughout America’s ever-changing history, two parallels have remained constant: White men getting away with, or getting peacefully arrested following, crimes they did commit and unarmed Black men being met with relentless violence based on assumptions of crimes that they did not commit. 

Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Antwon Rose are just the names of a few recent victims of police brutality. Even within State College, which many believe to be a bubble, a ‘happy valley,’ Osaze Osagie was brutally murdered by police within his own home. Ever since, local activists have worked tirelessly to bring his family justice and peace, but the officers responsible remain unidentified. “I don’t really know how seriously we are taken,” Huynh said. 

This all leads the average American to wonder: What would have happened if Jacob Blake’s encounter with police wasn’t recorded by witnesses? How will America get to a stage where a Black man’s tragedy doesn’t have to go viral for him to get a shot at justice? And when will America be a place where this tragedy is an outlier, and not an expected, a feared, outcome?

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