MSNBC's Joy Reid explains how Kyle Rittenhouse fits into the long, brutal history of 'American vigilantism'

MSNBC's Joy Reid explains how Kyle Rittenhouse fits into the long, brutal history of 'American vigilantism'
MSNBC's Joy Reid
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MSNBC's Joy Reid is great at looking at the big picture during her commentaries, which can be scathing, humorous and clever all at once. And the liberal/progressive host was definitely looking at the broader picture this week during a biting commentary on far-right teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, who is on trial for homicide and attempted homicide after shooting three pro-Black Lives Matter demonstrators (two of them fatally) during an anti-racism protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020.

Reid delved into U.S. history during her commentary, stressing that American vigilantes were appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner long before Rittenhouse. And she unfavorably compared Rittenhouse to George Zimmerman, the Florida resident who fatally shot teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 and was subsequently acquitted of all the criminal charges he faced. Like Zimmerman, Rittenhouse has maintained that he acted in self-defense.

"Much like the Rittenhouse case," Reid explained, "the Zimmerman case was fundamentally about American vigilantism. And whether it is legal in America for a person not in law enforcement to take it upon themselves to arm themselves with a gun and mete out what they view as justice in the name of self-defense and investigating property crime."

Reid, in fact, pointed out that vigilante justice in North America can be traced back to the days when the United States was still a colony of Great Britain.

"European history on the American continent, from 1619 to today, is an almost unbroken record of vigilantism in the name of defending property rights — whether that property was human and African and enslaved, or in the form of wives or daughters who had no individual property or voting rights of their own," Reid told viewers. "Or whether it was physical land. America is a country formed by men who threw off the European kings to become little kings of their own, with land and slaves and women under their charge — and whether it was the colonizers' merciless enforcement of their own made-up authority to forcibly seize indigenous people's land, often wiping out entire tribes."

Reid continued, "Or the fugitive slave laws that authorized any White man to forcibly recapture enslaved people who broke for freedom. Or the religious fanatics who claimed the right to try and burn at the stake any woman deemed to be a witch. Or the more than 4,000 lynchings, from the Redemption Era to Emmett Till."

The many men and women executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, now a Boston suburb, in 1692 and 1693 were not actually burned at the stake, but were hanged. Burning at the stake was a method of execution used extensively in Continental Europe, whereas the religious extremists in Salem preferred Britain's most common method for "witchcraft" — which at the time, was death by hanging. But as Reid pointed out, religious extremists who accused women of witchcraft firmly believed in dividing, conquering and killing.

Reid told viewers, "Given that vigilantism is so steeped in American culture, should we really be surprised a 17-year-old Proud Boys fan believed that he had the perfect right to cross state lines and protect property with the AR-15 he got because he thought it was cool? Or that Zimmerman believed it was his duty to investigate property crime by following a 17-year-old kid and shooting and killing him, even after police told him to stand down?.... These two teenagers, Kyle Rittenhouse and Trayvon Martin, exist on entirely opposite sides of the American legal system."

Watch the video below:

Joy Reid: The Rittenhouse Trial Is Fundamentally About American Vigilantism

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