• Doug Most

    Assistant VP, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

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There are 24 comments on “White Skin Privilege” in Rittenhouse, Arbery Verdicts

  1. I think it’s also worth pointing out that the Arbery case was much more straightforward than the Rittenhouse one, if race is taken out of consideration. The prosecution evidently had a very easy case to prove in Georgia, and racism was really the only factor that could’ve prevented the defendants from going to prison. My question for Dean Onwuachi-Willig is not would Rittenhouse still be innocent if he were black, but SHOULD Rittenhouse still be innocent if he were black. Essentially, taking racial opinions out of it, was justice carried out properly in the Rittenhouse case? Ideally, there would be a correct verdict that should transcend race and solely be influenced by the defendant’s actions. Was that the verdict that was reached in Wisconsin?

  2. Well said, but Critical Theory cannot transcend race for this would violate it’s embrace of repressive tolerance. Everything is through the lens of the oppressed – race, sex, gender, proletariat, etc,.. the article points to the judge, juries, and even film as having bias. So, yes, in the liberal sense a ‘just’ verdict was reached. In the illiberal sense it must be questioned.

    1. I wonder if Dean Angela even watched the trial(s)… it doesn’t seem so… The author (Doug Most) correctly points out that “experts largely agreed with the verdicts”. Yet the “dean’s” comments appear to be full of pre-conceived hypotheticals and presumptions having little to do with the pertinent facts of these cases. Attributing racial bias to anything and everything seems to be the order of the day…

  3. Interesting of the Dean to accuse the witnesses of being alt-right plants because they were… filming ongoing events? Just how local news stations had on-scene reporters claim events were “mostly peaceful” while fires loomed in the immediate background, the idea of framing to push a narrative is certainly not unique to the right. In this instance, someone holding a video camera with no commentary seems to be injecting quite a bit less political narrative than a broadcasting TV station.

  4. There are numerous issues with the validity of this article.

    First, these two trials are not comparable due to the vastly different factual scenarios and relevant laws. To draw comparisons between them is a fallacy.

    Second, people, including those who wrote this article, want to use these cases to show that the justice system is broken and racist, even though, arguably, the justice system worked in this situation. The men in the Ahmaud Arbery case were rightfully convicted and **based on the law in Wisconsin and the facts of the case**, Rittenhouse was rightfully acquitted. If you have a problem with the verdict in Wisconsin, then get the self-defense law changed instead of crying racism.

    Third, it was stated in this article that “even though Blacks comprise more than 25 percent of the population in the country, only one Black person out of 12 people was actually seated on the jury. The remaining jurors were all white. This is a ridiculous statement for numerous reasons, but let’s just go with it. This was a state trial, not a federal trial, so comparing the percentage of black people of the population in the country to the percentage of black people on the jury in Wisconsin is irrelevant. A more accurate comparison would be comparing the percentage of black people in Wisconsin to the percentage of black people on the jury to see if it was representative of the black population. Turns out, it was. In Wisconsin, black people comprise of 6.41% of the population in Wisconsin and white represent 85.43%. Blacks were represented on the jury by 8.33% (1/12).

    Fourth, it was stated that Rittenhouse’s race (i.e., being white) was factor for his acquittal. Facts for this statement please? Jury interviews?

    Fifth, it is stated that jurors would not have held the same empathy for a black teenager, but then to support this assertion, the article discusses how the police would have reacted that night if Rittenhouse were black, which has nothing to do with proving whether the jurors would have held the same empathy for a black teenager.

    Sixth, it is stated that Judge Schroeder was biased in this case. To prove this point, it is stated that “he did not allow the prosecution to refer to the two men who were shot and killed by Rittenhouse as ‘victims’”. Yet in the same sentence, it is admitted that this “may be a practice of” the Judge. In other words, it wasn’t bias if he does the same thing in all his cases.

    Seventh, it is stated “the primary witnesses…were people paid by alt-right venues to film events.” Proof of this?

    1. Regarding your third point, she said that Blacks comprise more than 25 percent of people in the county, not in the country, so her point about the makeup of the jury is valid.

      1. I would also add that the Dean’s comments about the 1 Black juror out of 12 was in reference to the case in Georgia, not in Wisconsin. And as Jennifer pointed out, she noted that 25% of the population of the county in Georgia is African-American (not 25% of the USA), so her pointing out that the jury was not adequately representative of the local population was not, as John maintains, “a ridiculous statement” at all.

        1. Amy, you are correct, I misread. Although that kind if supports my first point then that these cases showed that the justice system worked. There were still guilty verdicts in the Arbery case even though the jury was majority white. That would seem to indicate that those jurors followed the law and did not judge based on race.

  5. Thank you Dean Onwuachi-Willig for this very informative interview. While I find some of the follow up comments disturbing I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given the prevalence of biases in our society. The first step to change is to acknowledge one has some form of prejudice. I suggest my fellow commenters join me in taking the self-test below.

    https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

    Let each of us do all we can, in prayer and action, to keep such tragedies from happening again. History need not repeat itself.

    1. Respectfully and out of genuine curiosity: What comments specifically do you find disturbing? Has anyone here said anything extreme or disrespectful not on the substance of the professor’s arguments? Can you sight an example of a gratuitous or derogatory comment?

      To me it looks like people are making valid points in a respectful way about the details and larger issues of the trials. Some of them disagree with the law professor on the substance of her argument. Is the disagreement itself objectionable? Are the law professor’s opinions about the two trials above criticism and scrutiny?

      It would seem to me one of the primary missions of a prestigious university is to teach critical thinking by subjecting ideas and opinions to open debate in the public sphere. While it would have been better to have the debate itself between two law professors with differing views rather than a one-sided article, at least BU to their credit allows different views in the comment sections.

      Challenging opinions with alternative opinions is what allows the rest of us to see the quality of those opinions. If all one hears is one-sided views, without challenge, they become insulated from valid criticisms of those views. That is how bad and harmful ideas become orthodoxy.

      1. I found the comments refreshing and stimulating.
        I spent my youth in a communist country (including its detention camps) and experienced the suppression of free speech and censorship, which led me to embrace dialog and free speech. This is what makes this country great and terrifies all its enemies.

      2. Hi Sam,

        While it would be great to have a debate between two law professors with differing views, sadly that would not be possible. Any BU law prof who disagreed with these viewpoints would be fired. Or even if they would not be, they would be too terrified to speak out because they would not want their reputation destroyed and smeared. That is the sad state of our academic institutions, and frankly society at large. Mass amounts of people self-censoring out of fear of retribution by the “activists” and the like.

    2. I, in turn found the comments refreshing and stimulating and there is no need to scold people who took time to offer their opinions.

      It would be troubling if all of us constantly applauded every BU administrator and every initiative.

      I would hope that your suggestion for people with opposing views to take the Harvard self-test would not be followed with invitation for a short trip to a gulag for a quick reeducation.

      And yes, we should do what we can to prevent such terrible events from happening again, but the first step is to start listening to each other again.

    3. Hi Ray,

      I agree with the rest of the responses to your comment. What do you find disturbing? No one has said anything on here that is derogatory or racist or anything. It seems you find it disturbing that people can disagree with a viewpoint and have debate, which suggests to me that you find the first amendment disturbing, which is disturbing to me.

      It seems we are getting to a point in society where there are the “right” opinions and the “wrong” opinions. And if you don’t agree to look at everything through the lens of critical race theory, identity politics, and white supremacy, then your opinion is disturbing and wrong and racist and etc. etc. etc.

      The suppression of different ideas and opinions and consequently the promotion of group think is dangerous. We must allow discourse to flourish and have the best ideas win out the day. This is the point of free speech. Maybe Dean Onwuachi-Willig’s ideas are the best. Maybe they are not. We should allow people to discuss and figure that out. Academic institutions such as Boston University are supposed to promote discourse, not unilaterally decide what is true and what is not.

      Let each of us do all we can, in prayer and action, to make sure the first amendment is protected, especially at academic institutions.

  6. Even though I agree with a number of the criticisms leveled at the Dean, I thought that her analysis was quite good. There is no doubt about the truth of her observation that if KR was black, he would have been arrested or shot dead by the police. Therefore, racism was a big factor. I will add to that truth by noting that if the protesters were armed, he would have been shot soon after he killed his first victim. In fact, he would never have provoked the protesters if they were armed because his idea of a fair fight is to be armed with an AR-15 assault rifle while his opponent is armed only with a skateboard. I would have voted him guilty because he provoked a fist fight and then killed his opponents with a gun.

  7. How broken is a judicial system when a self-appointed vigilante–i.e., a teenager who drives 30 miles from another state armed with a semi-automatic weapon–can walk into the middle of civil unrest, kill two people, and get away with it? It’s more than obvious that had Rittenhouse been black, the verdict would have been the opposite. (This assumes, of course, that he would not have been cut down immediately by police fire.) The verdict will inevitably encourage “Proud Boys”, “Oath-Keepers”, neo-Nazis, etc. to engage in similar activity in the future. It will be “open season” at other BLM-related events. White supporters of BLM have now been put on notice–you’re fair game, too. It’s no wonder that people in the rest of the world wipe their eyes in disbelief when they see news like that of the Rittenhouse verdict.

    1. People in the rest of the world “were wiping their eyes in disbelief” when they saw riots, burning downtowns, looted stores and Antifa thugs terrorizing elderly diners on their TV screens. The trial of Rittenhouse was barely noticed by anyone.

    2. You can agree or disagree on the wisdom of Rittenhouse’s actions (I am unsure myself). You can agree or disagree about guns and gun laws. But please before you comment on his actions at least get the basic facts straight and argue from there. Rittenhouse was lawfully carrying a gun according to Wisconsin gun laws. This should factor in to your assessment.

      Also: does the reason he was in the town and had a gun in the first place not matter at all in your assessment? Does the fact the city was literally being burned by violent protesters not matter? Does it matter at all that the city government and police were not willing or not able to perform the most fundamental task of government: to protect its citizens physical safety and property from criminal violence? Do you think that might have any bearing on a person’s feeling of safety and their need to carry a gun for self defense? Whatever your philosophy on gun rights you should first answer these questions for yourself then argue from there.

      Also lost in your comments is the simple fact that arson is a violent crime. Unchecked, mass arson is criminal negligence on the part of city and state government to protect its residence.

      How do you put more weight on one person’s legal gun possession and use of it in self-defense in the middle of mass arson than on the mobs of people committing the arson, and violence, destroying livelihoods and lives, and creating more poverty amidst already depressed areas?

      The “open season” as you call it is not on BLM supporters (other than this incident was there any one else defending their life or property from BLM rioters?) The open season is not on BLM but on cities and towns and the lives and livelihoods of the people in those towns, where a cop shooting occurs and the races of the people involved happens to fit BLM’s and Antifa’s racial narrative. Regardless of what the details of the shooting are, justified, unjustified, or undetermined, regardless of the fact that small businesses have zero to do with law enforcement incidences gone wrong, it does not seem to matter. If the person shot is of color and the cop is white you have very high probability regardless of the facts and details of the incident, that the city will burn. This is a profoundly disturbing development of the last decade.

      You mentioned broken judicial system. Broken how? Here’s something that should actually be profoundly concerning to every American: the potential and actual corruption of the judicial by major news media misreporting or omitting the most basic facts of the incident for over a year. Some quick and easy examples of this are: that Rittenhouse was a White Supremacist (zero evidence of this), that he carried a gun across state lines (false), that he attacked rather than being attacked (false). And there are others. These falsehoods were reported incessantly from the time the incident first occurred before any facts were in all the way up to and including the trial itself when anyone with access to YouTube and the televised trial could see for themselves that these things weren’t true. It is a miracle the jury pool was not polluted to the point where a fair trial would have been impossible. My opinion is the only thing that saved Rittenhouse from a life sentence was the fact that there was extensive video evidence overwhelmingly supporting his version of events.

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