Introspection Life tips Parenting Society and Culture

This is not a political issue

August 31, 2020

I never took a stance on a political issue in my newspaper column, and I’ve carried that tradition forward into my blog.

But this time, with this issue, as a White woman with a (albeit very small) platform, I have decided to publicly stand in the gap. This is not about Right and Left, it’s about right and wrong.  

Last week, a White 17-year-old child shot three people in the street in Kenosha, Wis., killing two of them. Despite witnesses pointing him out to police on the scene, he managed to get home to Illinois before being arrested the following day. He will be given the due process guaranteed him by the Constitution of the United States.

The people he shot were protesting the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a police officer.

Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back. He was not a part of the domestic incident that the police were called upon to address.

Was Jacob Blake currently involved in the criminal justice system? Yes. But there has been a lot of misinformation spread about his crimes.

Specifically, Jacob Blake’s pending criminal charges are as follows: third degree sexual assault, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. All of these charges are under the umbrella of domestic abuse, since the alleged crimes were against Blake’s adult ex-girlfriend.

Contrary to many rumors spread on social media, and even suggested by some major media outlets, there is no mention of children being the recipient of any sexual abuse or assault by Jacob Blake, nor does he have any past allegations regarding children.

The definition of third-degree sexual assault varies by state. The graphic widely distributed on social media that is attributed to Jacob Blake’s charges is actually the definition of third-degree sexual assault in Rhode Island, not Wisconsin.

Someone intent on spreading misinformation actually had to take the time to seek out the wrong information, photoshop it next to Blake’s photo, and share it online.

In Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake committed the alleged crimes, third-degree sexual assault is against a victim over 18 years of age. In this case, Blake’s ex-girlfriend, the mother of his three children.

The charges against Jacob Blake are very serious, and I grieve for his victim. If found guilty, which he hasn’t as of yet, he should most certainly be held accountable for these crimes.

According to Wisconsin Penal Code statute 940.255, the maximum punishment for third-degree sexual assault is imprisonment of not more than five years, or a fine of not more than $10,000.

Nowhere in the statutes regarding these crimes does it say, “Perpetrator shall be shot in the back seven times.”

Nowhere in the Constitution does it say, “If you are accused of a sex crime you should be executed by the police in the street without due process.”

In the United States of America, police do not carry out executions in the street. Executions are carried out very rarely, very gravely, very painlessly by medical professionals, only after a criminal has received due process and fair appeals, for only the most heinous of crimes.

Jacob Blake didn’t die. But his life will be forever changed. Any hope of rehabilitation and renewal to a fully functional member of society is gone.

Let’s put this in perspective.

White clergy have been raping children and women for thousands of years with zero repercussions until very recently. So to the people who are saying, “Everyone who commits rape should be executed,” where has your outrage been before now?

Under this logic, White clergy who are accused of a sex crime should be taken out into the street and shot in the back seven times, all before facing trial for their crimes.

Of course, that’s not what happens. For centuries, White clergy members accused of sex crimes have been quietly transferred to other congregations, where they can continue to abuse women and children.

Yet a Black man gets what he deserves when he is shot in the back seven times and paralyzed before even receiving a fair trial? This just doesn’t add up.

Let’s back up from the emotion of the moment so you can be truly honest with yourself.

Imagine that the White couple next door are dear friends of yours. You gather weekly for dinner, laugh together, cry together, and support each other through tough times. They have a 29-year-old son that you’ve known for over a decade.

He’s made some very bad choices over the years, having multiple brush ups with the law, including a pending domestic and sexual assault charge against his ex-girlfriend. He has three children with the alleged victim, whom he has indicated no intention of committing to, and he does not pay child support.

Do you feel true compassion for his parents, his kids, his siblings, and hope upon hope that he will someday be able to pull his life together so they can all heal? Do you feel confident that with time he could be rehabilitated and deserves a second chance at life? Do you pray for his restoration?

photo credit Jon Tyson

Now let’s take it one step further.

One day your neighbors come over in tears. They tell you that their son was shot by a police officer seven times in the back. The police had responded to a domestic dispute in which their son had intervened. He is paralyzed from his injuries.

His parents call for justice. They expect the officer who shot him to be immediately arrested and fired. They make the choice to sue the city for expenses to pay for their son’s care.

Do you support their choice? Or assume they are just looking for free handouts?

So many things are being said about Jacob Blake that rob him of his humanity.

If he was the misguided White son of your White friends, would you still say these things?

Would you still think he should have been executed? That he deserved what he got because of all the bad choices he’d made? Would his children deserve a permanently disabled father? Would his parents deserve to bear the burden of his care for the rest of their lives?

Do you immediately think, “No, but…” and try to justify your feelings?

If you do not have the exact same response deep in your gut to these two situations, then your bias is showing.

It’s okay to own it.

In fact, it’s crucial that you do. Because until White people start acknowledging our own bias, we can’t fix what is broken in our society.

If you lack the imagination or the maturity to dig that deep and really ask yourself these questions, then I can’t help you.

All White people – myself included – need to be asking ourselves these kinds of questions.

This is at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement: White people’s inability or unwillingness to acknowledge their innate bias.

Why is a White man who committed the same crime treated differently than a Black man?

Why do White people get the benefit of the doubt, but Black people are always eyed with suspicion?

Why is it that my White teenage son could walk down the street with an assault rifle and be viewed as a patriot, but Trayvon Martin can’t safely walk down the street with a bag of Skittles in his pocket?

Until we acknowledge the existence of our own bias, we can’t answer these questions.

If we can’t answer these questions, things will continue to get worse. We will continue to become more divided. There will be more violence. We will all be less safe.

It won’t matter who is in the White House, what political party is in control, and what policies are created to address the issues.

Do I support police officers? Yes, absolutely.

My youngest son has wanted to be a police officer since he was a toddler, and I couldn’t be more proud. But it scares me.

We expect the impossible from law enforcement. We send them into the streets blind to navigate a broken system.

Police officers are faced with unimaginable circumstances and impossible choices every day. We expect them to enforce a system that is broken by bias, their own as well as the larger society’s.

I am grateful for their service. The best way I can support the police is to do my part in acknowledging my own bias, and use my small platform to help my mostly White audience to acknowledge theirs.

We have turned a human rights issue into a political issue.

I am raising my White children to ask themselves the hard questions.

I am raising my children to be aware of their biases, and the privilege that is their birthright.

I am raising my children not to be colorblind, but to truly see the whole person, all people, in all their shattered beauty.

I welcome mature dialogue on this issue, but I expect sources to be cited, just as I have done. Any contrary claims made without proper citation from reputable sources will be deleted, as will comments containing overt racism. Or, in some cases, you will be schooled, if I’m in the mood.


Denney, Andrew S., Kent R. Kerley, and Nickolas G. Gross. Child Sexual Abuse in Protestant Christian Congregations: A Descriptive Analysis of Offense and Offender Characteristics. Religion. 2018. 9(1)27

Downen, Robert, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco. 20 Years, 700 Victims: Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Spreads as Leaders Resist Reforms. Houston Chronicle. 02/10/19

MacGuill, Dan. Was Jacob Blake Charged With Raping A Child? Snopes. Online. 08/27/20

Rahman, Khaleda. Jacob Blake Criminal Record Details: Supporters Say Active Warrant Doesn’t Justify Kenosha Police Shooting. Newsweek. Online. 08/26/20

Schnell, Lindsay. Most priests accused of sexually abusing children were never sent to prison. Here’s why. USA Today. 11/11/19

Smith, Deneen. Rittenhouse charged with multiple counts of homicide. Kenosha News. Kenosha, Wis. 08/27/20

Wisconsin State Penal Code, Sexual Assault Statute Section 940.255. Third-degree sexual assault.

Copyright © 2020 Sara Beth Wald