Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse. Racial Protests.

The state of Wisconsin is an open carry state. You do not need a license to carry a gun in public, but you do need to be at least 18 years old. Rittenhouse is 17.

He’s been quoted as saying that he went out on that fateful day to protect public property.

He has a right to do so. He doesn’t, however, have a right to carry the rifle he carried.

The video I saw has him shooting two men, one fatally and another in the arm.

Preceding the video, he acknowledged having shot a man who died later. Reportedly, a trash bag had been thrown at him and he shot in response. That is not captured on video.

In the video mentioned above, taken moments after the first shooting, Rittenhouse falls to the ground and is attacked by a man with a skateboard. Rittenhouse shoots and kills him. Then another man approaches while pointing a gun. Rittenhouse shoots him in the arm. Then he gets up and walks off toward police vehicles entering the area and the video stops. Apparently, he was arrested later that day at his home.

Rittenhouse shouldn’t have been at the protest site while armed.

He showed poor judgment, and so did all others who, knowing he was planning to do so, did not make an effort to dissuade him.

He is 17 years old. He is not authorized to carry a weapon in the open.

When tensions are inflamed, anything can happen. Whoever had any supervisory influence over Rittenhouse failed to exercise it, and so did a huge disservice to the young man and the victims.

No one has a right to destroy property. Anyone’s property. No matter how angry they might be.

We all have a right to protest, as vigorously as we see fit. But the moment we choose to damage property we are in violation of the law and likely to trigger retaliation.

Law enforcement must act to stop the destructive acts.

We have agreed on that as a people.

No matter how horrible the act that leads to a protest, damage to life and property should not be condoned.

In the course of our ongoing racial protests there has been a profound lack of firm leadership, from all sides, Republicans, Democrats and in between, who have failed to say to the rest of us, ‘you are entitled to protest, yes you are, we need to hear your complaints so we can better act to prevent these injustices from happening again, but as you protest, do not hurt others or damage what they have worked so hard to build. There are injustices in our system and protest plays an essential part in finding remedies, but there is no place for the injuring of others as we protest or for the damaging of what is theirs.’ These messages should be going out to the public every day.

As the protests continue throughout our land, it is this lack of political and moral guidance calling for restraint that is sorely absent. Our leaders must answer us.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.

The Racial Protests. When Will They Be Over?

Not anytime soon, judging by the forces we see in play.

On the one hand there’s a reckless defiance of authority in the black community, borne out of a very long history of injustice and mistreatment.

On the other there are police departments that are confused, overreacting, seemingly unable to grasp the complexity of the challenge at hand and lacking guidance.

There has been a lack of responsible leadership on both sides.

From the African American community, there has been a lack of leadership speaking out for restraint. Calling out loudly for people to protest peacefully and not burn or damage property. Calling out loudly for African Americans to not dare an officer who’s holding up a gun with a threat to shoot if you don’t comply.

Why can’t African American leadership step out and say, ‘we know you are frustrated, fed up with the systemic racism, but please do not dare someone who’s pointing a gun at you. We want you to live so you, too, will benefit from the changes that we are working on. We do not need you to be a corpse, or a memorial or in a wheelchair. We want you to value your life because you matter to our communities and the nation.’

Then there’s the police.

The present trend is to put all fault on them. But the police are us. They are a cross section of the society at large. If they are who they are today, flawed and problematic, it is because they are us.

Police has needed, for the longest time, to learn about the importance of having a social perspective on the work they do. Today’s officer, cannot simply say ‘I am a cop. I’m not a social worker.’ You can’t do that because that is not what the present work demands.

Today’s police work, particularly when dealing with the African American community, requires a special sensitivity. It calls for every officer to be fully aware of the history of mistreatment of African Americans at all levels of the justice system, from legislators to judges, prosecutors and on down, and the cumulative detrimental effect that has had on them.

We’re talking about mistreatment and unfairness that runs deep and dates back centuries. Mistreatment that is still present today in our jails and prisons, mistreatment present in laws that restricted Blacks from homeownership, that made for longer sentences, as when shorter terms were given to offenders charged with possession of powder cocaine because they were more likely to be white, as opposed to those charged with possession of crack cocaine, who were more likely to be Black.

For years we have known that if you’re Black you’re more likely to be stopped by police or face added obstacles for promotion or entry to graduate programs.

The cumulative effect of all those acts of aggression has resulted in an attitude of defiance, which sometimes has turned reckless.

But the shooting has got to stop.

Police have to understand what has led to the reckless defiance we see today so they, themselves, are not reckless in turn.

Police, like most of us, need to be thoughtful in addressing Black folks.

The right to carry a gun does not relieve police of that responsibility.

African Americans are simply asking the rest of us to not overreact. To be mindful that they, themselves might overreact and to, please, be patient with them.

They are saying to us, ‘do not forget that African Americans have internalized the hatred with which we have been treated, as when we grade each other on account of the lightness of our skin, the lighter the better.’

African Americans are asking the rest of us to breathe before we act.

So they can breathe, too.

Even if they are in the wrong, they are asking us, ‘please do not be violent.’

They are saying to us, ‘Be considerate, be mindful that some of us may be inappropriate.

They are saying to us, ‘We’re willing to learn. But please be fair. Be open. Be kind.

If we are wrong, then we are wrong and need to be corrected.

If we are violent, please stop us. But be mindful of our past, of where some of that may come from. Do not simply shoot us.’

They are saying to us, ‘Just be thoughtful. We want to value our lives like you value yours. So be kind. The great majority of us want to obey the law, but also want to live in a world that is fair to us.’

They are saying to us, ‘We welcome those voices that preach restraint, because sometimes, the accumulated rage we’ve lived with, impairs our judgment.

Please do not forget that the great majority of us want fairness.

Fairness in economic opportunity, in educational possibilities, in access to health care, and we will do our best to continue to contribute to this nation.’

That plea for life, lives deep in the heart and mind of every African American.

Will we hear it?

It is there when they ask for room to breathe.

Will our policemen hear it – those who don’t already do?

My hope is that they will.

Like I hope the rest of us will, too.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.

The Shooting of Jacob Blake. Kenosha,Wisconsin. Sunday 8/23/2020

Why didn’t you stop?

I watched the video recorded by a neighbor from across the street.

At first you’re behind the parked vehicle. Can’t see what is happening but you’re interacting with the police. Don’t know what was said but the police draw their guns.

Then you pull away, even as the policemen, their guns pointed at you, follow.

Why didn’t you stop?

Most of us would. Most of us would say to ourselves, ‘they’re pointing a gun at me, they can fire at any moment, they’re asking me to stop. So I stop.’

But you didn’t.


When the video recorder widens the angle I get to see there were neighbors standing by, looking on.  

You pull away from the police, go around the front of the vehicle, the police close behind pressing you to stop. Why didn’t you?

Where the officers scared of you? Did you think that? Scared of taking you on in a physical fight?

I thought they were scared but you’re a big fellow. And they have the weapons. You don’t.

Why didn’t you stop?

Did you not value your life?

One policeman pulls at your undershirt but you keep on moving away.

And then you open the door to your vehicle, your back to them, who knows what you were looking for, and they shoot you in the back.

Why didn’t you stop!?

Could they have tackled you, physically, as you moved away from them defiantly?

Yes, but maybe they were just too scared that you might overcome them, the whole lot of them, and hurt and embarrass them.

Don’t know yet what role you played in the original dispute that prompted the call to the police. But when a gun is pointed at you, you have to stop.

Did you not value your life?

I do not agree with the police shooting you in the back.

But it would’ve taken a courageous and enlightened officer to say to himself or herself,, ‘I will restrain this man who’s not heeding my command, I will restrain him physically with all my might, at the risk of me suffering an injury, and I will do that because these are not normal times and because we, the police, are on the spotlight for having used excessive force with African Americans in particular.’

I do not agree with the police shooting you in the back.

But it would’ve taken a courageous and imaginative officer to say to himself, ‘this person I’m dealing with, who’s walking away from me even as I point my gun at him and command him to stop, does not seem to value his life, so I will tackle him physically, even at the risk of my suffering an injury since he is a big and strong fellow, but I will tackle him physically anyway, because these are not normal times and we, the police force of this country, have abused our power too often with African Americans in particular.

But that kind of policeman didn’t show up on that call on Sunday.

And you got shot instead.

It is very sad.

Why did they have to shoot? Seven times!

Why didn’t you stop?

Madness. Madness. Madness.

It has got to stop.

Leaders from all sectors have been stepping up in the wake of ongoing police brutality. Leaders of the African American community in particular, must now step out to say, ‘we are working together to remedy long standing grievances and we will overcome but, please, when a gun is pointed at you and you’re asked to stop, please stop. Value your life.’

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.