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Our Conscious Bias on Kyle Rittenhouse, Ghislaine Maxwell & Ahmaud Arbery

by Tom Wiermann | Dec 6, 2021 | Media, Politics,

In court, we’d expect the jury to hear all the facts of a case before coming up with a decision. However, in the court of public opinion, this is rarely the case.

This can be seen in the Rittenhouse trial, the results of which either drew the ire of those who felt he was guilty or joy by those who believed he was innocent. Many people, relying solely upon video footage, thought he was innocent and could not understand how he was even charged in this case. They believed it would be an easy victory for him and that anyone who saw the video should’ve reached the same conclusion. That was hardly the case as users of social media and pundits on TV and radio engaged in verbal battles that indeed showed how far off people’s thoughts were on this case. How could this be?

We can also look at the trial of Greg and Travis McMichael, the father and son who were found guilty of killing Ahmaud Arbery. There were those around the country who celebrated their guilty verdicts while others thought they should’ve walked free. Millions all saw the duplicate video footage yet still came to different conclusions. How is this even possible?

What about the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking case? For this, there doesn’t seem to be any differing opinions on her guilt or innocence, but there do seem to be divisions around the parameters of the case. It appears some groups want specific people to be outed as participants on Epstein’s island. Let me repeat that. They want certain people to be caught up and found guilty of doing some heinous acts to young girls because they know, if true, it will harm them. I have seen people giddy with anticipation of the possibility of Donald Trump being implicated and, at the same time, others hoping beyond hope that Bill Clinton will be found as being a partaker in what went on there as well. This is like hoping Tom Brady gets injured because if so, the Patriots will lose, and the Jets will have a better chance at winning the division. (I know he’s a Buccaneer, but as a NY Jet fan for most of my life, the scars run deep.) 

Then we have the school shooting in Michigan and the Christmas parade massacre in Wisconsin. Both have yet to be adjudicated but will, without a doubt, bring a host of views and differing opinions that will leave people scratching their heads in disbelief. What is it that makes so many of us think in such diametrically opposed ways? 

The past few weeks have provided some very intense news stories. The Rittenhouse trial and verdict, the Christmas parade massacre, the school shooting in Michigan, and the Ghislaine Maxwell case. The connecting force in all these stories is the controversy they create at the water cooler. The American people have strong opinions about how these cases should turn out.

There is a particular element within us that hopes the protagonist either is or is not a specific sex, nationality, political ideology, or even race. Deep down, we want the identity of the accused to fall in line with what our desired outcome might be.

This desire for a specific outcome could be viewed as an “unconscious bias,” where one is unaware of what’s driving their cognitive processes relating to what they want an outcome to be. I beg to differ, though. I believe it is a conscious bias in that we want a specific outcome for a reason we may not be willing to admit. Sometimes we may even want negative things to happen if it bolsters our point of view.

Racial politics play a huge role. If a person is taught from an early age that many negative things that happen to them are race-related, they will look at things from that perspective. They are not necessarily lying or deceptive about their reasoning, even if those reasons are not valid. It’s been taught to them by those who either experienced elements of racism or were taught to view the world in the same light. This is how we get things like critical race theory, where the focus is how race plays a role in all aspects of life. Because this is a learned behavior, it is challenging to look at things unbiasedly. It is ingrained within and not easily let go of. Especially when some make their living creating such thought processes, this can be seen as some community leaders and media outlets intentionally reporting through a specific racial lens to create an “us vs. them” mindset. A perfect example of this was when Rev. Al Sharpton prayed to God, thanking him for delivering a guilty verdict against the defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery case. Outside of the courthouse, he led the crowd in prayer, saying, “even though the jury was stacked against us,” God was able to bring them a victory. This is an apparent reference to the all-white jury and how they only judged the way they did because of divine providence.

This can also be seen as some media outlets have and continue to ignore the clear racial component behind the massacre that just happened at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, WI. It simply doesn’t fit their narrative, so they won’t report on it. The power of the media and community leaders cannot be understated as those who control the message control what people think. Breaking that cycle is an arduous task. That’s not to say that negative racial instances do not ever play a role in individuals’ life experiences.

Putting up false flags of racism does nothing but skew the mindset of all who would be influenced, thus putting up walls and creating tension between the races. Those who immediately discount the possibility of a racial component when such an accusation is levied could also be doing so from a set of preconceived biases. For many, there is a belief that race never plays a role in any situation. That the nation is free of racial prejudice and that any such accusation is simply the result of people “playing the race card” to further benefit themselves. To an extent, there is an expectation this sort of “game” will be played, and they stand ready to deny the possibility of it being true even without having full knowledge of the situation. 

Too many, make their decisions purely because they fall on either the right or left side of the political aisle. Truth is arbitrary in these situations because the most important thing for them is getting a “win” for their team. This is why so much division exists within the United States.

Gaining political power for factions of our government is more important than bringing peace and stability to the country. To prove this, look no further than those who hold the highest office in Washington D.C. Then-candidate Joe Biden linked Rittenhouse to being a white supremacist while President Trump said he was innocent. Regardless of the outcome, both men should’ve stayed silent on the matter and let the justice system do its job. Biden used the power of his position to “tickle the ears” of his supporters while having no actual knowledge of the case. He and others of his ilk are a cunning group who can see truth yet will intentionally hide it to bolster their position among groups they deem will keep them in power. Country be damned. Trump, for his part, appeared to at least look at the facts available at the time but should’ve allowed justice to take its course without weighing in. 

We must stop aligning our thinking to what would “better” our position within specific groups. We must become independent thinkers. We need to honestly think about what has shaped our thinking and ask ourselves where our biases lie. We need to be critical thinkers and challenge those who try to do our thinking for us. Call them out and not give in when resisted. We also need to listen. Listen to those we find ourselves in opposition to and give them a chance to speak and vice versa. We need to be patient and not jump to conclusions. This requires maturity—something our emotions don’t always allow for.

Americans need to pray. Pray for discernment, clarity, and wisdom. If we include God in approaching these and all other aspects of life, we undoubtedly will find truth and be much better for it.

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