“That child had every right to be where he was,” said the attorney. “That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him. … Did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
Although 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse had every right to be where he was on that fateful night in Kenosha and had every right to defend himself from the strange man/men following him, he was not the “child” spoken of above.
No, the attorney in question was John Guy, a Florida state prosecutor, and the child he spoke of was 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“Child” Trayvon was a half-foot taller than either Rittenhouse or the man he savagely attacked in February 2012, George Zimmerman. Had a desperate Zimmerman not shot and killed his attacker, Trayvon would surely have been arrested.
And yet the media and the state prosecutors consistently portrayed Martin, an aspiring MMA fighter, as a boy or a child.
Al Sharpton saw an “American paradox” in that “we can put a black man in the White House but we can’t walk a black child through a gated area in Sanford, Florida.”
Among the numerous charges the state levied against Zimmerman was the “non-enumerated felony” of “child abuse.”
Then, of course, there was the ultimate authority on semantics, the New Black Panther Party, which offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of “child killer” George Zimmerman.
Throughout Rittenhouse’s ordeal, no one has called him a “child.” He has been called a “kid,” but, as Billy the Kid and others have taught us over time, “kid” does not imply helpless victim the way “child” does.
Whether kid or child, Kyle and Trayvon have much in common. Besides becoming household names at 17, each of them endured family breakup when small.
Of the two, Kyle had the worst of it. His father was often unemployed, abusive and alcoholic. The mom scrambled to survive. She and her kids were evicted from time to time and once were forced to live in a shelter.
By contrast, Trayvon’s parents were both well-employed. His childhood pictures – and we saw tons of those – showed him skiing, riding horseback, playing football and flying on airplanes.
At 15, Trayvon’s life fell apart. His father abandoned the step-mom who raised Trayvon, and Trayvon began his long downward spiral into drugs, guns, fighting and burglary.
Coming of age among other fatherless boys, Trayvon fell hard for the gangster life, a life celebrated by the music he listened to and enabled by liberal prosecutors.
At that same age, Kyle took another path altogether. He joined the Explorers program at a local police department near his home, a program designed to “teach self-discipline, responsibility and other appropriate ‘life lessons'” to youths who “may have a challenging home, social, or school life.”
Kyle also participated in a similar cadet program through the local fire department. In addition, he earned certification as a lifeguard and found part-time work at a Y.M.C.A.
Although he took work as a fry cook to help support his ailing mother, Kyle’s goal was to graduate high school and then become a police officer.
The media have relentlessly dubbed Kyle a “vigilante,” but there was nothing vigilante-like about his motives for going to downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020.
When interviewed that night, Kyle said calmly, “So, people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business. Part of my job is also to help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle, because I have to protect myself, obviously. I also have my med kit.”
For all their efforts, the media could find nothing more sinister in Kyle’s background than he once pushed a girl who was abusing his sister. He was the aspiring good citizen he appeared to be on the witness stand. Had he not been, his attorneys never would have let him testify.
As adolescents, Kyle and Trayvon were getting different messages from the media and the people around them. In his excellent book, “Antidote,” black activist Jesse Lee Peterson explains how Trayvon’s death should have been a teachable moment.
“The media might have said,” Peterson argues, “that when a child is shuttled between relatives all his life, when he is trapped in a series of failing government schools, when he is instructed in ways big and small about the evils of the white man, bad things happen.”
Young white kids like Kyle, no matter how crappy their home life, cannot take refuge in their whiteness, at least not yet. For the most part, they still hold themselves accountable for their own futures, and if they don’t, the people around them do.
And once they go manfully into the arena, as Kyle did, no one dares call them a “child.”
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now on sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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