I have intentionally allowed some space between this note and the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Friday. What we know is that Kyle Rittenhouse travelled 20 miles to a protest opposing police brutality following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times by police and who is now paralyzed. Rittenhouse, acting out a vigilante fantasy, armed himself with an assault rifle to “protect property” that was not his and to restore order—better known as the practice of white vigilantism—resulting in the murder of two people and the wounding of one—Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz, respectively. We hold them and their families in the light.
Personally, I had to take a moment to feel, but not be consumed by anger at the jury’s verdict. Sacred anger and righteous rage are effective tools of transformation. Audre Lorde reminded us in her 1981 keynote presentation, “… anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies.” The process of coming to see clearly is often a painful one.
Kyle Rittenhouse is a symptom. As a Black person, the coverage of the trial and the verdict painfully increased my already heightened awareness that white supremacy is enshrined in the criminal legal system. I am intentional here not to use the term ‘criminal justice’ because justice, like equity, is a process and an outcome; if the process is flawed then so too the outcome. For far too many people of the global majority, justice—true justice within a system saturated in white supremacist ideology—is a pipe dream. This appears even to be true for white men thought to be in alignment with the mattering of Black lives. Given the grand racial narratives that persist, we know all too well that if the shoe were on the other foot and Kyle Rittenhouse happened to be a person of the global majority this verdict and his treatment by the court would have had very different outcomes. In this country, racism denies people of the global majority permission to protect themselves from white people. We are trapped within a system that has no faith in our innocence.
Justice—the only justice—in my opinion is the living, breathing presence of the men he killed and the absence of injury to the person harmed. Justice is the eradication of deadly firearms in the hands of the civilians and the right to protest without the threat of vigilante justice. Justice is the complete transformation of the environments and ideologies that form the Mr. Rittenhouse’s of the world. It is Jacob Blake whole, walking, well, and enjoying the beauty of this life.
Kyle Rittenhouse cannot be our future. Unfortunately, this verdict may have opened the floodgates to vigilante violence at the hands of white supremacists within particular communities. This is why our work, as a community, is so critical within educational systems and the many other systems that dictate American life. Contemplative practice involves and allows us to slice through the delusion to open ourselves to the truth; allows us to understand that every action has consequences in a moral universe (karma); assists us in understanding our connection with and to every being; and helps us act in ways that diminish cruelty and increase compassion. Ultimately, practice manifests the understanding that the danger of losing our humanity must be met with more humanity.
Resistance is a practice. Anger is sacred. Our work is clear.
Friends, our work in this moment is to hold the intention for peace, to hold the intention for justice, and to hold the intention for more equitable practices in this country and then do what we can in our corners of the world to make our collective vision a lived reality. So, as you do and be with your respective practices, sit upon your pillows, at your dinner tables and desk chairs, I am imploring you to practice the courage of speaking truth; to practice the courage of challenging the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and/or homophobic remarks that spew from our colleagues and the very people we love so dearly. Resistance as a practice leads us toward transformative action, collective healing, and necessary liberation.
I believe very deeply that human freedom and human flourishing, our collective liberation, lie in our ability to restructure the mind, to think new thoughts, to conjure new possibilities, to dialogue across difference, and to revel in the grace of the good thing. Let this moment move you to deeper understanding, greater action, and the cultivation of becoming more of what we want the world to be.
Trust in the Infinite.
Remember our shared humanity.
Be of good courage.
David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
November 22, 2021