The Double Standard: Kyle Rittenhouse vs Cyntoia Brown

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Urbana High School or The Hawkeye publication.

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Madison Mustafa

This article is part of a “Face Off” series. Read the opposing argument here.

It’s no secret that the United States judicial system plays favorites when it comes to those accused of a crime. Last Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man who murdered two protestors during a march against police brutality of summer 2020, was found not guilty. At the age of 17 during these murders, many feel it would be immoral to send a “kid” that young to jail. Despite what you may feel about his guilt, Kyle Rittenhouse’s case brings forth the question: Is there a double standard in the justice system?

Rittenhouse’s case alone cannot put this question to rest, so one must look further, towards a case nearly mirror to his own, the case of Cyntoia Brown. At just 16 years old, Cyntoia Brown was charged with the murder of an individual, which she claimed was in self defense. Now, here’s where their cases subvert. Brown was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was confirmed that she was a child victim of sex trafficking and that the man in question had paid to have sex with her. So, how did her case go so differently from that of Rittenhouse? There’s one major difference between her and Rittenhouse: Cyntoia Brown is a black woman and Kyle Rittenhouse is a white man. Despite being the more obvious victim to her circumstances, Brown was not acquitted of these charges until serving a 15 year sentence. Her case was a clear example of the miserable failing of the justice system.

However, this is how many systems in America have and still do work. No matter what you believe of the justice system now, it was built for white people. From keeping enslaved people captive to arresting civil rights leaders to the use of the death penalty mainly on black men, the justice system was made to assert white superiority. Today we are much more aware of how despicable these instances were, yet other than setting new precedence through Supreme Court cases, little to no reforms have actually been made to change a system so outdated. Unlike most developed countries of the west, the United States still actively uses the death penalty and has the highest incarceration rates of any country at 639 inmates for every 100,000 people. More horrifically, while 1 in every 206 white men go to jail, 1 in every 15 black men do (National Institute of Justice).

Yet these kinds of racially based injustices aren’t just confined to prisons. 

Many schools across the country hold a double standard for their white and non white students. Senior Kendall Larade commented, “There’s a clear difference between the treatment of black and white students at school. I notice that when given independent work time, white students are trusted to use the time responsibly, while my black peers are more heavily supervised to ensure they stay ‘on task’.”

Besides the fact that black students are less likely to have the resources they need to graduate provided to them, many administrative rules like the dress code hold them to a different standard. Senior Apollo Baldeh said, “There’s a difference in how we are allowed to express our culture. A white student can wear a durag or bandana, yet when a black student wears it to protect their hair, they are told to take it off.” What’s more, the administration makes it near impossible to feel safe when trying to report problems with these rules. They never differentiate between bullying and racism, despite the huge difference in how those situations should be handled. However, it’s not just the administration. Teachers are too scared of getting calls from home to call out a student’s racism and instead try to silence those who speak out against said students. Yet it is their job to ensure a safe learning environment, so they should realize that allowing a student to go on a tangent on their racist beliefs is not protecting that student; it is ensuring that every other member of the class feels uncomfortable and makes it so said students may never learn the error in their actions. This does not even begin to touch the surface of the racism ingrained into faculty and students alike.  

Kyle Rittenhouse and Cyntoia Brown are just one example in a nation full of similar news. One could go more into police brutality with cases like Travon Martin or George Floyd. But It’s not just something you see on the news, it happens right here right now. And this school is responsible for the double standard it exerts on its students.  So it’s time we the students and the faculty start listening when students express their discomfort or their culture. We cannot hope to move forward if we are always shackled to rules of the past in school and in the justice system. 

 

Sources

Gafas, Mallory, and Tina Burnside. “Cyntoia Brown Is Granted Clemency after Serving 15 Years in Prison for Killing Man Who Bought Her for Sex.” CNN, 8 Jan. 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/07/us/tennessee-cyntoia-brown-granted-clemency/index.html.