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Last week, there was a man preparing to die and another one that did die. One man knew his death was imminent; the other had no idea that today was his last day walking this earth. One man was contemplating his life…the good times and bad. He was thinking of his loved ones. He was self-reflecting on the life he lived and preparing his mind for what comes next as he most likely contemplated what the next life is…or if there is one... The other man woke up and probably, like most of us, took his life for granted. He did not think twice that this could be the last time he got up out of bed, brushed his teeth, took a shower, and hopped in the car. One was on death row for the murder of 1999 murder of Paul Howell. The other was a famed Memphis rapper. These two men are: Julius Jones and Adolph Robert Thornton, Jr. better known as Young Dolph.
At this time we know that Julius Jones’ sentence was commuted, and his life was “spared” but without the possibility of parole. True, a small victory in the sense that Julius lives to see another day, but he will live the remainder of his life behind bars. If you have been following Julius Jones’ story, then you know that Julius did not receive a fair trial. He did not testify nor did his family. His defense team never referenced his alibi and built their case on the words of the co-defendant. Now, as an Arkansas governor is telling Julius Jones and his family that there is enough evidence for him to remove Julius from death row but not enough for him to be afforded a fair trial and the chance to walk out of that prison, the governor is in essence telling Jones that fairness and justice do not apply to him. Basically, being told that his life is not worth having the chance to live freely.
We know that Young Dolph was gunned down inside of a store while trying to purchase cookies for his mother. This was done in broad daylight in the very city that he raised him, that he called home. Young Dolph was revered in Memphis. Growing up without much but believing in and betting on himself, he became a talented rapper and successful businessman. He was a man who gave back to his community and invested in his people. Then his life was suddenly taken away in a senseless killing that has left two children fatherless and a community without their hero. In essence, that gunman told him that his life was not worth it…to live.
As if all of this is not already hard to swallow, last week we also saw another man’s life being reaffirmed by the judicial system and society. His fate was left in the hands of 12 people who ultimately determined that his life was worth it…to live and to live freely without major consequence. He was white. These events that have tragically transpired make me ponder the question: Whose life do we value in this society?
I think the above referenced examples from last week are pretty telling and can answer that question. One man will not be afforded a fair trial and will spend the rest of his life in prison. One man cannot walk the streets in his own city to even purchase desserts for his mother without taking his last breath. And one man can walk the streets strapped with an AR-15 type rifle, kill two people and injure another and suffer no consequences thereafter and exist in this society as a free and breathing man. What is wrong with this picture? Excuse me…this reality.
It is evident the legal system and society as a whole, need to change because it is currently one that continuously benefits white over black. We already knew this at the core, but it has not been on display to this magnitude in a long time. It was a tough week.
Kyle Rittenhouse is a killer. You don’t need a jury of 12 people to define or confirm that. Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal is more than just a non-guilty verdict. It is permission to start hunting season on anyone who has a differing opinion than you. Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty because the people he murdered could not testify in court. He took that ability away from them. He was reckless and his reckless behavior endangered the safety of anyone he encountered. The problem was that the actual threat was Kyle Rittenhouse himself. He was a threat to society, and he was on a mission that night that he accomplished (just check his social media profiles). And now this verdict has opened a door and granted permission for specific types of behavior. The permission to start hunting season on protestors. The permission to leave your home, cross state lines (with assistance), arm yourself and then “defend” yourself against a perceived threat. The laws must change and account for this and for the lives of those defending others from a perceived threat such as Kyle Rittenhouse.
The laws must change to reflect that Kyle’s life and freedom is not the only one that matters. Julius Jones matters. Young Dolph matters. Joseph Rosenbaum matters. Anthony Huber matters. Sadly, the list could go on and on and sadly, the threat is still walking amongst us.