Kyle Rittenhouse: Was The Verdict Fair?

Kyle Rittenhouse: Was The Verdict Fair?

In August 2020, a 29-year-old African-American man named Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times by police, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This incident resulted in Jacob being paralyzed from the waist down. On August 25, 2020, during the protests that followed, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse left his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, and went to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Armed with an AR-15 rifle, he fatally shot two men and wounded a third. Mr. Rittenhouse and the three people he shot were all Caucasian.

During the subsequent trial, Mr. Rittenhouse and his legal team argued that he had been acting in self-defense. Now 18 years old, he has been acquitted of all charges.

I must be honest and share that I was not surprised by the “not guilty” verdict handed down to Kyle Rittenhouse. I have learned through observing numerous courts cases that Caucasian males are seen to be innocent even when they are guilty.

When the judge threw out the gun charges against Mr. Rittenhouse, I knew that he was extending to him the judicial courtesy that so many Caucasian males in his position get. The Judge wouldn’t even allow the three men to be labeled as “victims” although the terms “protester” and “rioter” were permitted.

How can you charge a person with a crime when the weapon involved in the crime basically doesn’t exist and there are no “victims”? This judicial bias that was shown to Kyle Rittenhouse rarely gets shown to non-white males. This directly reflects the fact that even though non-white males represent approximately 29% of America’s population, they represent over 57% of the incarcerated population (Morgan, Smith, 2005).

Though I wasn’t surprised by the verdict, I was still enraged by it. The interpretation of law always seems to lean in the favor of Caucasian Americans, and that same law or rule is enforced fully in the cases of any male that is non-white. According to the United State Sentencing Commission (USSC), non-white males receive, on average, prison sentences that are 20% longer than those of their Caucasian counterparts.

I am enraged that a 17-year-old could walk around with an AR-15 rifle and not be stopped or apprehended by one of the many police officers present. This demonstrates the ongoing systemic racism that continues to plague our country. How are we ever going to correct a problem when the system that governs the problem is the problem?

Sources

Morgan, K., & Smith, B.L. (2005). Victims, Punishment, and Parole: The Effect of Victim Participation on Parole Hearings. Criminology and Public Policy, 4(2), p. 355.

Uggen, C., Larson, R, & Shannon, S. (2016). 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project. Available at:

https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felonydisenfranchisement-2016/

United States Sentencing Commission. (2016). The federal sentencing guidelines : a report on the operation of the guidelines system and short-term impacts on disparity in sentencing, use of incarceration, and prosecutorial discretion and plea bargaining. [Washington, D.C.?]: https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines/2018-guidelines-manual-annotated

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Dr. Denetria Brooks-James.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor

Amazon Prime released a series called “Them”. It is set in the 1950’s, and it tells the story of a Black family that moves into an all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles. Watching this show reminds me of the fact that my parents were the second Black family on our street. This was well before I was born but I’ve heard the story all my life.

The female neighbor next door told the other neighbor on the opposite side that since N-words lived there now she didn’t want “their” plums falling in her yard. So the other neighbor cut the plum tree in our back yard down in the middle of the night. My daddy, being who he was, burned the man’s storage shed down and cut his fig tree down. This kind of thing went on for a few years.

By the time I was born, there was another plum tree, fig tree, and storage shed. The neighbor who didn’t want the N-word’s plums in her yard ended up babysitting me after school, and her grandchildren who spent the summer with her stayed in our house and back yard most of the time. We played,fought, and got spankings together too many times to count. We even painted them black with charcoal and dog poop once and all ended up in the bathtub together.

Over the years, TWO men who originally hated one another got older and sickly, but by this time they both had spare keys to each other’s homes in case of an emergency. The man who had cut our plum tree down at one point had the pleasure of cleaning up after my dad after he had soiled himself, and he stayed there with my dad until my mom got home. He also cooked for him on dialysis days.

My dad would sometimes ride his wheelchair down to the other man’s house to take a plate of food my mom had made, or they would have a cup of coffee standing out on the property line they once cursed at each other over.

Both of those neighbors are long gone now. All I have are fond memories of them both. When my brother passed, the male neighbor was the first person to hug and kiss me and tell me he loved me. The female neighbor left me my favorite one of her tea cups that she used to use for sun-tea and allowed me to use for my after school snack. Until the male neighbor was well into his 80’s he helped my mom in any way possible without her having to even ask. His family still sends her greeting cards and gifts from time to time.  

The show “Them” is a trigger for many reasons, but from a cinematic perspective, it is very suspenseful, and this can make it easy for us to forget the advice to love thy neighbor. If we all put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes and committed to truly loving them, imagine how much greater we could become as individuals, families, and communities.

How diverse is the neighborhood you live in? Are your neighbors a big part of your family’s life?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Disha Ellis. Photo credit to the author.

World Mom: Kirsten Doyle of Canada

World Mom: Kirsten Doyle of Canada

Hi World Moms! We run a series titled “Meet A World Mom” to showcase our contributors from different parts of the world to share about who they are and what’s happening in their lives. We thought of featuring Kirsten Doyle today for her 11th year anniversary of joining the original World Moms Blog! So here she is:

What country do you live in?

I’ve been living in Toronto, Canada for 21 years.

What country are you from?

I was born in South Africa and lived there for most of my life until I moved to Canada.

What language(s) do you speak?

My primary language is English, and I can kind of speak Afrikaans because I had to learn it in school.

How many children do you have and what are their ages?

I have two boys. George just turned 18, and James will be 16 at the end of the year. George is autistic and mostly non-verbal. He is a Special Olympics athlete, and he raised the Special Olympics flag at the opening ceremony of the Youth Games in Toronto in 2019.

James is combining his dual passions of cars and the environment by building a hybrid-electric sports car. He is a motorsports journalist who at the age of 11 interviewed F1 Grand Prix legend Mario Andretti.

How did you connect with World Moms Network?

I came across one of the original World Moms Blog posts by chance many years ago and got in touch with our fearless leader, Jen. I signed on as a writer straight away, and the rest is history.

How long have you been a part of World Moms Network?

Almost since the beginning – 10 or 11 years.

How do you spend your days? (work, life, etc.) 

I’m a self-employed mental health and addictions writer, and I run two YouTube channels. One focuses on family and autism content, and the other is connected to my writing business. All of my work is done from home, which means I never have to worry about traffic!

I am an active advocate for people with disabilities and special needs. I am on the board of directors of Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario (CWDO) and I am part of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). I am also on the local Community Police Liaison Committee, where I advocate for an end to racism in policing and mental health education and training for police officers.

My recreational time is spent hanging out with my family, reading, working on my “fun” writing (novels and short stories), and putting in laps at the local pool.

What are the top 5 places on your travel wish list?

I love to travel, and I’m fortunate to have been able to see many parts of the world. But there’s still so much out there for me to see. I’d love to go to New Zealand, Norway, Antarctica, the Maritime provinces in Canada, and Ireland.

What is your best motherhood advice?

Try not to listen to people who judge your parenting choices. There is no magic formula for parenting – we’re all just muddling along doing the best we can, and learning as we go.

What is one random thing that most people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m on the autism spectrum! I always had a sense, growing up, that I was not the same as my peers. I had many delays and learning difficulties as a child, but very little was known about autism back then, and my family was not able to get the answers that we can get today. It was only after my own son was diagnosed with autism that I recognized the parallels between his childhood development and mine, and looked into it further.

How did you get through quarantine/lockdown (2020/21)?

With difficulty! I thought it would be easy – I’m an introvert, I’m socially awkward, I already work from home… I was social distancing way before social distancing became a thing. But I had a hard time, because all of a sudden 100% of my family was home 100% of the time. I love them all, but I need my alone time. So I got serious about YouTube – I revived one channel and started another. It gave me something to get lost in and learn about.

What’s your favorite social media platform, if any?

Facebook, because it helps me stay connected with friends and family members who are far away.

What brings you joy?

I always love spending time with my family. From time to time, we’ll take off on a drive and spend a night or two in a hotel – so much to see in Ontario! And I love spending time with my family in South Africa as well. Whenever I can (once a year or so in non-COVID times) I fly there to see my mom and my brother, and those trips are always amazing.

What UN sustainable development goal are you most passionate about?

I like them all! If pressed to pick one, I’d go with reducing inequality. I believe that most of the problems in the world are created by inequitable distribution of wealth and power, and discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. End inequality, give everyone fair access to opportunities and resources, and the world will be a much better place.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Child Marriage And HIV: How COVID-19 Is Hindering Progress

Child Marriage And HIV: How COVID-19 Is Hindering Progress

Last month, my county had its 32nd Annual AIDS Walk to pay tribute to those who we have lost, and to support those who are living with HIV/AIDS. Whenever I receive an invitation to this event, I remember a news story I did a decade ago about how child marriage and HIV have common drivers, and what UNICEF was doing to combat child marriage and HIV/AIDS.

Some of the factors that put girls at risk of child marriage also place them at higher risk of HIV infection. These include poverty, low education attainment, and gender inequalities, especially those that limit girls’ ability to make decisions about their own health.

And this year, there is one more factor—COVID-19.

With 25 million child marriages averted in the last decade, UNICEF issued a warning earlier this year that these gains are now under serious threat: 10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19.

According to the UNICEF analysis, school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in recent years. In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. This is the equivalent of some 25 million marriages averted, a gain that is now under threat.

“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can and we must extinguish child marriage,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.

And the AIDS Walk just reminded me of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently – their education, their health, and their futures.  

Here is the situation on our hands. When a girl turns 12 and lives in poverty, her future is out of her control. In the eyes of many, she’s a woman now. She faces the reality of being married by the age of 14 and pregnant by the time she’s 15. If she survives childbirth, she might have to sell her body to support her family, which puts her at risk of contracting and spreading HIV. Definitely not the life we would imagine for a 12-year-old.

There is a solution. Imagine rewinding her to age 12. Have her visit a doctor regularly, and help her stay in school where she’s safe. Then she can use her education to earn a living, avoid HIV, marry and have children when she’s ready, and raise happy and healthy children like herself. Now imagine this solution continuing for generation after generation.

COVID-19 is profoundly affecting the solution and the lives of girls in poverty. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing make it difficult for girls to access the health care, social services and community supports that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence. As schools remain closed, girls are more likely to drop out of education and not return. Job losses and increased economic insecurity may also force families to marry their daughters off to ease financial burdens.

Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half of those marriages occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria. To off-set the impacts of COVID-19 and end the practice by 2030—the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals—progress must be significantly accelerated.

“One year into the pandemic, immediate action is needed to mitigate the toll on girls and their families,” added Fore in the same statement. “By reopening schools, implementing effective laws and polices, ensuring access to health and social services—including sexual and reproductive health services—and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”

Is child marriage a common problem in your part of the world? What can those of us who live elsewhere do to help?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit: Raphael Pouget/UNICEF.

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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5 Reasons Moms Make Great Advocates

5 Reasons Moms Make Great Advocates

As the world struggles with the pandemic and increasing political division, it is more apparent than ever that government policies – local and global – greatly affect the fates of our families. Many moms have awakened to this reality and are trying to be strong advocates. Yet many don’t know what to do beyond protesting in the streets to get the attention of decision makers. They get frustrated to the point of throwing up their hands and saying, “Why even bother?”

I encourage every mother to engage in the next steps of reaching out personally to elected officials, because we have the motivation and skills to change hearts and minds! For over a decade, I’ve coached everyday folks to meet with members of U.S. Congress. I continually see the characteristics that mothers have that make us powerful advocates.

Here are five reasons that you should tell your government what’s on your mind: 

#1 Moms are powerful

Have you ever been reduced to a weeping heap after watching a news story or a movie about children in distress? In those moments, many of us think, “I wish I weren’t so fragile.” Yet those maternal moments of vulnerability are precisely what give you special strength to speak out for those who needlessly suffer. As mothers, we often find ourselves momentarily consumed by crushing empathy when we encounter stories of parents who can’t give their children what they need. But this emotional response isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, this ability to internalize another person’s story gives you great power because caring and empathy are contagious.

Your passion can incite a riot of emotion and resolve in your hearers even if—especially if—your voice cracks when you retell it. If your audience is a senator, a congressional aide, or anyone in the path of power, you are in a position to create change. Your emotional retelling is more likely to inspire action than a dry recitation of facts and figures.

Your vulnerability can be your strength. And the ability to turn your emotion into positive, constructive action can be your superpower. When you learn to combine your emotions with information and clear requests, you become dangerous to the status quo. You threaten systems that keep families stuck in cycles of suffering. And that is a very, very good thing.

#2 Moms explain things

If you can sit on the floor and explain a concept to second graders, then you’re speaking plainly enough to be understood by a member of Congress. That may sound like a joke, but I’m quite serious. Explaining concepts to kids means boiling your message down to its most basic parts and delivering it in an engaging way. Even though U.S. representatives might sit in high-level briefings all day, that doesn’t mean they relish listening to someone reel off a bunch of statistics out of context. Children love to hear clear explanations accompanied by stories, and so do adults! Never forget that they’re as human as anyone else. 

#3 Moms are persistent advocates

It would be nice if governments were so efficient that a single conversation could convince a policymaker to support your request. In reality, it usually takes time, patience, and more reminders than you give your children to get their laundry off the floor.

Unfortunately, no matter how urgent you feel your issue is, there will always be hundreds of other matters clamoring for a congressperson’s attention. Plus, if the office staffers are not already aware of your issue, they’re going to have to research and consider your request even if they don’t oppose it. A mother’s touch to provide helpful information and consistent reminders is an incredible advantage. 

#4 Moms are responsible

Once you’ve been the sole person standing between a happy family and total family chaos, you start to view your place in the world a little differently. Some moms are fortunate to have responsible spouses to shoulder a lot of familial tasks. But women in every part of the world bear the heavier responsibility for household chores and child-rearing. Moms are generally the ones making lunches, outfitting diaper bags, scheduling play dates, and making sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or cheese sticks. Moms are chess players looking two, three, and four moves into the future.

So, how does a responsible nature translate to successful advocacy? It allows you to stay organized and prepared to react to the needs of your volunteer groups. It gets you to meetings on time with all the materials you need. It helps you respond to emails from congressional aides in a timely manner. Moms are welcomed at advocacy conferences because we are low-maintenance, responsible, capable people who get things done.

#5 Moms are experts in the most important skills

I won’t tell you that everything I needed to know about advocacy I learned in kindergarten. But I insist that the most critical lessons were learned around age five, especially since the most successful advocates believe in strong teamwork. Advocates should always be prepared to:

  • Treat others with respect;
  • Share;
  • Give everyone in the group a turn to play;
  • Avoid calling anyone a hurtful name;
  • Apologize when you hurt someone; and
  • Say “please” and “thank you” (this is the number one lesson and the step that is most often forgotten when talking with members of Congress as well as other volunteers).

Moms keep all of these skills top of mind because we coach our kids to use them. We should be able to follow them even when our children aren’t in the same room. We can model these important skills for young college activists and aging senators alike.

Our mom voices need to be heard more than ever before in our political climate of nastiness that permeates cable news and social media. Mom advocates can be at the forefront of carrying a positive tone of reason, kindness, and respect into politics. Whatever the cause is that drives you to protect your children, put yourself forward. You are more powerful than you think.

Have you, or would you, approach your government with issues in your community? Has being a parent helped you in this quest?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cynthia Levin. Photo credit to the author.

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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A Forever Friend Brought Me Out Of The Pandemic

A Forever Friend Brought Me Out Of The Pandemic

I was on the road for my family’s much anticipated summer vacation when I received a text from my friend Amy, whom I had not seen in over a decade. She saw my post on social media about my destination, which is where she now lived, and asked if we could get together. Gracious and thoughtful about how family vacations can be, Amy left it up to me if I wanted to see her one-on-one, get our families together, or take a pass if it felt like too much during a pandemic.

It was June, just after my kids got out of school. While we were in some ways moving out of the pandemic, the inertia of it was still in effect. I wanted to see Amy tremendously, but I had to take a beat to assess my comfort level and that of my family. We determined we would be okay meeting up. One thing led to another, and we were invited to dinner at Amy’s home.

I knew in my heart it would be great. Amy was the first friend I made when I moved to Washington over 20 years ago. We worked together for a time and then stayed connected as we both got married and had our first children. Then she and her family moved, and while we remained committed Christmas card exchangers, we had not been in touch frequently. Yet the few times we did connect, it was like old times. There was never any weirdness or blame over who was supposed to call whom. We were just two forever friends picking up where we left off.

Excitement built for me as we drove to Amy’s home. Her family greeted us at the door. We got to hug each other and meet the youngest kids who have come along since last we visited. It was surreal. While my family had seen people in the past eighteen months, this was the first time we all went to dinner together inside someone’s home. I was overwhelmed by how good it felt to receive deep hospitality again, to be invited into someone’s intimate living space, offered a home cooked meal, and made to feel so welcomed and loved. It was like waking up out of a dream. And the best part was our kids all got along splendidly.

After several hours we took our leave, armed with recommendations of things to do on the rest of our vacation. Over the next few days, Amy checked in to see how it was going and if we needed anything else. Her care rippled forward. As I reflect back on this simple dinner, I am flooded with gratitude. It is more than the fact that Amy and her family showed us a wonderful time. This interaction helped me re-engage in the world. Amy was like guide welcoming me back to life. She reminded me of the importance of connecting after so long apart, and I am trying to pay it forward as each day leads us to the next phase of this uncertain future.

What has the pandemic been like for you? Are you able to have social gatherings in your part of the world?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Tara Bergman. Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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