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According to NBC News, a school district in Dallas, Texas has apologized after a student in an online class complained to his family about an assignment that left him in utter shock.
An unnamed teacher at W.T. White High School handed out the non-district-approved writing assignment to their students, which asked them to write an essay about a “modern-day hero” — then included Kyle Rittenhouse on a list of possible people to write about, the young man who shot three protesters, two fatally, during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Students were tasked with writing a half-page biography of any of the people on a list that the teacher provided, which also included Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, George Floyd, and Joseph Rosenbaum, one of Rittenhouse’s victims. The inclusion of Rittenhouse is made all the more bizarre and horrifying by the appearance of George Floyd and Rosenbaum on the list, since it puts an equals sign between a victim of police brutality, someone protesting police brutality, and a police-obsessed 17-year-old who murdered people for protesting police brutality.
Now, if you heard that and felt a little sick, you’re not alone. I had a hard time saying it, honestly. But we do need to face the fact that Donald Trump has created an atmosphere of violence that has permeated even the unlikeliest of places and turned people who might normally have been someone you could have a normal conversation with into defenders of the indefensible.
Almost 9 years ago, when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood after merely suspecting the teen was up to no good, there were a handful of people who celebrated him. He even auctioned off the murder weapon for a quarter of a million dollars and parlayed his disgusting act into a kind of sub-fame, becoming a b-list celebrity for racists and white supremacists.
But as horrifying as this is for me to say, that kind of perverted embrace of violence is more tied to racism than anything else. When Trayvon was shot, President Obama said that he looked like he could have been his own son, and that was honestly enough for American racists — they hated the president and they were glad that Trayvon was dead.
But Kyle’s crime in Kenosha, while it is rooted in the systemic white supremacy of rooting for violent cops over peaceful protesters, was of a more Trumpian variety. It is enough for Trump’s followers to simply hate anyone and everyone of an opposite view than them politically or socially, and to want them dead.
Simply put, it is fascism. Or, if fascism is what Trump is implementing — and it is — then for his supporters, it’s at least an embrace of authoritarianism.
To say that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense is one thing. To say that he was “protecting property” is one thing.
But to call Kyle Rittenhouse a hero after murdering two people and wounding another for being on the opposite side of a protest from him — when he didn’t need to come to Kenosha at all and it wasn’t even his own property he was “protecting,” and especially knowing what we know about him — is just plain gross.
Featured image via screen capture