Deep divisions over Rittenhouse trial and what verdict means for racial justice movement

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While some may look at the Kyle Rittenhouse case and see a violent attack on the movement for racial justice; others see a clear-cut case of self-defense. While the jury debates the law -- a more impassioned debate is happening outside the door.

Inside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin -- jurors deliberated a third full day but still no verdict. Outside the courthouse, the emotionally-charged case was exposing deep American divides. A Rittenhouse supporter, with an assault-style rifle over his shoulder and a bullhorn, with a message for the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Black Lives Matter, the terrorist organization," the man said.

BLM protesters were right there, too -- calling for justice. Jurors inside deciding if Rittenhouse, with his AR-15, acted in self-defense when he shot three people -- all of them white like himself -- killing two, during a night of unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man shot by a white officer.

"These cases aren't new. These things are happening all the time. Sadly, I can say that," said UNC professor and racial equity instructor Dr. Deborah Stroman in a conversation with ABC11 about the divisions drawn by the Rittenhouse case -- divides over guns and self-defense; vigilantism and racial injustice.

John Eason, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin told NBC News this week, "I think the mood in Wisconsin, not just Kenosha, is that they're over the whole racial awakening. All signs are this is going to be the case that vindicates White people. If the peak of the country's social justice reckoning was George Floyd, then this is the pendulum swinging back."

Stroman disagrees.

"To believe that this could be the pendulum swinger, as in to move us away from that great race awakening. I don't think that's the case at all," she said. "I do not buy it.

"I'm encouraged by the number of people across our country who do want to go deeper, who are much more curious about race and racism in this country. "I would think instead of a pendulum swinging back and forth, I think it's a constant movement towards equity, a constant movement towards justice and equality."

Stroman said she's hopeful the national conversation about race and racism continues -- regardless of what happens in the courtroom in Wisconsin. Day four of jury deliberations gets underway Friday morning in Kenosha.
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