Liberal Professor Says Rittenhouse Case About "Fear Of Equity," Not Self-Defense

Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP

We won’t know what the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has to say about the charges against the teen until next week, but according to one college professor, the 18-year old has already won, no matter what verdict is returned. That’s a pretty bold assertion, given that Rittenhouse could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted on murder charges, but Professor Isaac Bailey seems convinced that decades in a jail cell would be a minor inconvenience compared to the “benefits” that the teen would accrue behind bars.

Kyle Rittenhouse, in an unusual move for a defendant, took the witness stand Wednesday. He cried. His defense team then made a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which means Rittenhouse couldn’t be retried. But whatever the court rules, he has already won.

He’s charged with ​​reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide for shooting three people (killing two of them) who were protesting the police shooting of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer. The protest followed many George Floyd-inspired ones that erupted across the world calling for police accountability and justice for Black lives. White allies, like the ones Rittenhouse shot, were among the protesters. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.

If Rittenhouse is convicted, he will likely stop being a right-wing mascot and become a right-wing martyr. If he isn’t convicted, he will set a precedent for others like him to pick up guns they shouldn’t have and thrust themselves into the middle of unrest they should avoid — confident in knowing that prison won’t be in their future.

This is so insane I almost don’t know where to begin, but let’s start with the idea that Kyle Rittenhouse will have won anything if he’s actually convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. Bailey’s probably right that many conservatives would consider Rittenhouse to be a martyr of sorts, given the weight of the evidence in the case, but how on earth would that be a victory for Kyle Rittenhouse himself?

As for Bailey’s assertion that people shouldn’t “thrust themselves into the middle of unrest they should avoid,” what about the obligation to not cause that unrest in the first place? Does Bailey really believe that as businesses are burning and mobs are in control of the streets that the correct response is to hunker down in our homes and pray that the rioters and looters pass us by?

Sure sounds like it.

To his supporters, and even many of his detractors, Rittenhouse isn’t a monster. Not really. He was a young, dumb kid hyped up on the Foxification or Fox News effect of American discourse on the Black Lives Matter movement in a country that fetishizes guns — for show, for sport and for killing — not a white supremacist, like, say Dylann Roof. Not really. He wore no hoods and didn’t wrap himself in the Confederate flag. He’s a patriot who tried to bring calm to chaos because, as Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson told us at the time of the shooting, the adults around him wouldn’t “maintain order.” He was so nonviolent that police officers greeted him and those like him like fellow guardians of the community before he killed anyone.

Does Bailey believe that Kyle Rittenhouse is a monster? Does he believe that Rittenhouse is a white supremacist? Apparently so, even though there’s absolutely no evidence pointing to that. That doesn’t matter to the college professor, who seems absolutely certain that the only reason anyone could believe Rittenhouse is their own bigotry and bias.

Predominantly white voters were trying to defend their freedom, so they flocked to an open bigot like Donald Trump and stormed the U.S. Capitol. Angry parents, most of them white, are storming school board meetings demanding an end to critical race theory lessons to protect white children from feeling “guilt” about America’s violent racist history and how it has created the foundation of inequity we still see today. Politicians and local officials — again, many of them white — have stoked this by framing the teaching of race and books that explore its context as something constituents should defend their communities from.

The truth is that too many white Americans probably see themselves in Rittenhouse — afraid of anyone, whether white or of color, who wants to live in a more equitable country — even if some don’t want to say so out loud.

Oh, so Kyle Rittenhouse wasn’t in fear of his life the night of August 25th, 2020, but was instead simply afraid of a “more equitable country”? I’ve got a question for Professor Bailey: are riots, arson, looting, and rampant destruction inherent parts of building equity, or those optional activities?

No matter how much Bailey protests otherwise, the Kyle Rittenhouse case isn’t about racism (virtually everyone involved in the incident, including the three men shot by Rittenhouse, are white). It’s not about Critical Race Theory. It’s not about Donald Trump. It’s not even about whether it was a good idea for Rittenhouse to head to Kenosha, or to carry a rifle with him that night.

This case is about whether or not Kyle Rittenhouse was in reasonable fear of his life when he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreuz. And the fact is that prosecutors have done a terrible job of demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse wasn’t acting in self-defense, in large part because the evidence just isn’t there. But many on the Left can’t acknowledge the weakness of the prosecution’s case. They’re too heavily invested in the narrative that Rittenhouse (and a huge swath of the American public) are racists, fascists, and yes, monsters. And if this is what they’re saying before the jury has rendered its verdict, imagine what their reaction will be if Rittenhouse is acquitted.

Dec 08, 2021 12:30 PM ET