I'm a Black Ex-Felon. I'm Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free | Opinion

Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old found not guilty on all counts for killing two men and injuring another at a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, believes we need criminal justice reform. "I believe there needs to be change," he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. "I believe there's a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It's just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone."

He's right. As a Black man who spent two and a half years in federal prison, I have personally experienced the injustice in our criminal justice system. But as the political divide over Kyle Rittenhouse demonstrates, we seem less intent on effectively addressing our problems and more concerned with creating narratives that reinforce our preconceived views.

You can see this in the response to the police shooting that sparked the protests that led to Rittenhouse's trial: the shooting of Jacob Blake. After watching the full video of the police shooting, I was left with more questions than answers about how his story was being portrayed. Jacob Blake was harassing his girlfriend, a Black woman who had previously accused him of sexually assaulting her. She called the police, and when they arrived, Blake physically fought with them. Then he went to his car and reached for a knife before being shot—four times in the back and three times in the side.

The Left saw Jacob Blake as the victim of a racist police force hunting Black men. The Right saw a guiltless officer unworthy of investigation. Both stories lacked the complexity of reality.

Watching the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, I observed the same pattern: Everyone saw injustice, but the two conflicting narratives also lacked nuance.

rittenhouse tucker carlson
Kyle Rittenhouse looks back as attorneys discuss items in the motion for mistrial presented by his defense during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 17, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse has accused his former lawyers of keeping in jail for longer than necessary in an interview with Tucker Carlson. Getty Images

The Right saw a hero being dragged through an unjust court system, a victim of media demonization. The Left saw a white supremacist who drove "across state lines" to kill peaceful protesters demanding dignity for Black Americans.

The assumptions of both sides were proven false in the courtroom: Rittenhouse certainly made poor decisions, but that doesn't make him a criminal. Criminals are convicted in a court of law by a jury based on the available evidence. That is justice.

Huge amounts of time, energy, and money have been spent on a dysfunctional conversation that is encouraging a violent reality, instead of what we need: a better future. We should be having serious discussions about gun laws, self-defense laws, and the ability of our system to keep law and order on the streets. Because in a reality where civilian teenagers can legally walk the streets with assault rifles while the rioters loot and burn cities, people will die.

Our national conversation shouldn't be limited to high-profile cases such as Rittenhouse and Blake. There are vigilante murders happening every day in America, most occurring in Black communities, with innocents getting hit in the crossfire.

From the facts presented at trial, including video evidence and the eyewitness testimony of a man he shot, it seems clear that Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense as defined by the law and received a fair trial. One shouldn't be labeled right-wing for affirming the legitimacy of the court's decision.

An innocent man walking free after his trial is something that we should all celebrate. It is our criminal justice system working as it should.

And I—a person who has suffered personally from racism in the justice system—am cheering it loudest of all.

I am cheering not despite the fact that many Black people in this country do not get fair trials. It's because of that: I want them to experience the same justice system that acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse. And now we have a standard to demand, one that is very public. The argument that Rittenhouse's acquittal is unjust because many Black people do not receive fair trials is saying that the only way to help the Black community is to hurt the white community. And that is a fallacy.

I know what it is like to be mistreated as a young Black man. But putting Kyle Rittenhouse in prison will not solve the problems of Black America.

David Ben Moshe
The author David Ben Moshe

I don't need Kyle Rittenhouse to be mistreated as well. I need us to work together to fight the real injustices of our society.

There are plenty of injustices happening in the criminal justice system. There are solitary confinement cells built for one man but housing three inmates. There are halfway houses that don't provide adequate food to ex-cons. There is a lack of adequate educational or vocational training to prepare men to work for a living after their release.

I know about these realities because I have personally experienced them. And when I see the frankly ridiculous debate over Kyle Rittenhouse, I am pained over the wasted energy. We seem to care more about our side "winning" than we do about creating a better future.

But if we divide America and tear apart liberal democracy, then we all lose. Instead, we should unite over a simple message: Rittenhouse got justice. Let's make sure Black men do, too.

David Ben Moshe is a writer, speaker, and fitness coach. His work focuses on race relations, criminal justice reform, fitness, Judaism, and Israel. He's currently working on a memoir of his journey from federal prison in the United States to Israel where he lives with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @RealDBenMoshe.

The views in this article are the writer's own.