By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-founder and Co-President
Freedom From Religion Foundation
What’s wrong with this picture?
Give Send Go, which advertises itself as the “#1 Free Christian Crowdfunding Site,” has already raised more than $260,000 of a $200,000 goal created by “Friends of the Rittenhouse family” in Atlanta.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is the white Illinois teenager currently facing two counts of first-degree homicide, and one account of attempted homicide, for shooting to death on Aug. 25 two white protesters in Kenosha, Wis., and nearly taking off the arm of a third white protester. Rittenhouse was roaming the streets during protests after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back at close range seven times, leaving him paralyzed. Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and claimed he was with “a militia.”
The crowdfunding site, with a bizarre black-and-white makeover of the U.S. flag featuring one blue bar, contends: “Kyle Rittenhouse just defended himself from a brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group ANTIFA — the experience was undoubtedly a brutal one, as he was forced to take two lives to defend his own. . . Let’s give back to someone who bravely tried to defend his community.” This unusual site doesn’t just feature a “share” button, but a “pray now” link, so you can let the campaign owner “know you are praying for them.”
No news stories have yet suggested or corroborated that the men shot by Rittenhouse were Antifa members. Like many Americans, they all seem to have been active protesting racial inequality off and on since police killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, late May in Minneapolis. Prosecutors say that Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, who appeared to be unarmed, had followed Rittenhouse to a car lot, threw a plastic bag at him and attempted to seize his weapon before he was shot. Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, was shot in the chest apparently after trying to wrest the gun away from Rittenhouse after Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum. Huber had a skateboard in his right hand and had used it to “make contact” with Rittenhouse’s left shoulder. Hannah Gittings, his girlfriend, told the Chicago Tribune, “He took down an armed gunman with nothing but his (profanity) skateboard.” The wounded man, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, a senior at Northland College in Ashland, appeared to be holding a gun when he approached Rittenhouse after he had shot Huber but reportedly had both his hands in the air when he was shot. Exactly what happened remains to be proved by prosecutors, since a shot apparently rang out in the vicinity before Rittenhouse first fired and his backers are claiming self-defense.
Everyone deserves to have legal representation when charged with a crime. But the fact that a Christian crowdfunding site would raise these funds so quickly shows the active ties between the white supremacist and Christian supremacy movements. Several researchers have new books out showing the links between the two forms of supremacy, including Robert P. Jones, author of the just-released book White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, who will be interviewed this Thursday on FFRF’s Freethought Radio; Khyati Y. Joshi, author of White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America (who was interviewed on Freethought Radio, and will appear this fall on FFRF’s TV show, “Freethought Matters”) and Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, authors of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States (who have been interviewed on FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist,” Freethought Radio and will appear on “Freethought Matters” in the fall).The ties between white and Christian supremacy date back to pre-colonial America, of course, with “Manifest Destiny” justifying the usurpation of lands, forced migrations and genocide of Native Americans, and scripture justifying the brutal system of chattel slavery of Africans and their descendants. Christianity and the cross were closely tied to the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Reconstruction terrorism that ushered in nearly a century of Jim Crow segregation and racial discrimination againt Black Americans, setting back civil rights for a century after passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments that theoretically ended slavery, guaranteed equal justice under the law and gave Black men the vote.
Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake, was interviewed for PBS’ “News Hour” while at the commemoration of the iconic 1963 March on Washington in D.C. on Friday. Blake revealed his family’s long history of civil rights activism, including that his father had been at the original march in D.C., and also walked from Selma to Montgomery.
“He got whooped on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” Blake noted. “Chattel slavery was a powerful thing . . . They have taken the chains off only from around your ankles.”
In that interview, Blake also revealed the almost unimaginable: that his son, paralyzed and in immense pain recovering from surgery removing his colon and most of his intestine, had been shackled for most of last week to his hospital bed.
Since the national office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is based in Madison, Wis., we’ve been paying close attention to the crisis in Kenosha in our home state. President Trump has announced that he will visit Kenosha tomorrow. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is imploring Trump not to fan the flames and “to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma.” Let us hope that Blake continues to heal — freed of his literal shackles — and that public officials, Christian crowdfunding websites and others will strive indeed to be a calming presence.