Rittenhouse Reflections: Eight “Upsides” and Eleven Forgotten Martyrs

The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is a declaration of open season for the hunting down of anti-racists. It is of course a despicable travesty, unsurprising given the conduct of the trial’s openly demented right-wing judge Bruce Schroeder and the revanchist Trumpism of the 90% white county from which the jury was pulled.

But terrible and ominous as the Rittenhouse trial is, I find it useful and even to some degree welcome in nine ways:

+1. It is yet another nail in the coffin of the frankly ridiculous and often cowardly fascism-denialism that has crippled so many left and liberal hearts and minds in the USA. The Rittenhouse murders were classic fascism: a wicked white Trumpist teen came to Kenosha, Wisconsin to wield a fully loaded military-grade rifle as part of a neo-Nazi paramilitary presence meant to terrorize civil rights and social justice protesters under the cover of protecting small business private property. The fascist thugs operated in coordination and cooperation with the local racist police state. As one of the paramilitaries’ and police state’s pawns, baby-faced Killer Kyle epitomized a classic fascist calling card: violent lawlessness in the name of law and order. A clownish old white male Republikaner judge helped rig the trial for the cop-worshipping Hitler Youth and the Amerikaner jury complied. People on “the left” who can’t see the fascism in this (and in so much more that has taken place in Amerika in recent years and months) are outing themselves as morons and bootlickers.

+2. It is another nail in the coffin of naïve liberal faith in bourgeois legalism in a savagely racist nation. The conviction of Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s white killer cop, earlier this year was the exception, not the rule. The video evidence of Floyd’s savage and brazen 9-minute lynching in Minneapolis was just too compelling and graphic for his racist murderer to go free. Rittenhouse’s acts of racist homicide were more complex, marked by superficially plausible (if absurd) claims of self-defense. And the formal inadmissibility of evidence clearly showing that the adolescent butcher came to Kenosha with racist and fascist intent doomed the prosecution. With Rittenhouse’s lethal white supremacist motivation deleted from consideration, the prosecution could not prevail. Clearly the narrow bourgeois legal process and system was inadequate.

+3. It should instruct liberal, progressive, and left whites that they can and will be targeted by white nationalist neofascism. They have a tangible self-interest as well as an altruistic interest in the interracial solidarity required to defeat the Amerikaner menace.

+4. It has been heartening to see Black activists in Kenosha and around the country stand up for two young white men who gave their lives in the name of racial and social justice. And it is appropriate: many millions of mostly young white people poured into the streets during the beautiful George Floyd-Breonna Taylor-Jacob Blake uprising of 2020.

+5. It is yet more graphic and important evidence that the Second Amendment is (as always) “for whites only.” As anyone with a shred of common sense knows, a Black Kyle Rittenhouse who showed up at a protest with an AR-15 would have been quickly shot dead by police or soldiers and no charges would have been filed for the killing.

+6. It is another useful reminder of the dismal, fascism-appeasing role of the Democratic Party and its friends in the corporate media. The liberal CNN talking heads and Democratic politicos like Joe Biden and Chicago mayor (and former federal prosecutor) Lori Lightfoot have played their standard fascism-normalizing role, saying things like “the system works” and people need to “stay calm” and “respect the verdict.” F that.

+7. It is instructive on the legitimacy of armed self-defense as part of progressive protest. We on the Left reject nihilistic violence and provocation and do not look for bloodshed. Still, we cannot afford the pathology of absolutist pacifism in a time of fascist reaction. We cannot count on the state to defend us against armed right-wing thugs. We have no choice but to follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a formal pacifist who was aware that he deserved and required protection from the gun-toting Deacons of Defense. We didn’t choose and do not want to live in an armed madhouse saturated with deadly weapons, but it would have been nice if an armed & trained comrade had neutralized Rittenhouse after his first kill at least. Redneck Revolt’s presence helped limit the carnage inflicted by fascist forces in Charlottesville in August of 2017.

+8. The Rittenhouse trial and exoneration has helped flush out the fash-grifting, shark-jumping vermin who masquerade as leftish populists online and elsewhere. Tucker Carlson’s buddies Jimmy “Boogaloo” Dore and the “libertarian” Nazi defender Glenn Greenwald both sided with the indefensible Rittenhouse, showing their true fascistic colors even more graphically than before (Greenwald has certainly gone on Carlson’s Fatherland News Hate House to defend Kyle by now – just a guess). Good! If that doesn’t finalize their overdue permanent eviction from progressive and Left circles, nothing will. And it’s not Dore and Greenwald with whom the final divorce papers need to be signed. Like many seriously portside people, I have found the Rittenhouse trial useful in smoking out dozens of supposedly decent “social media” “friends” as people in bed with the enemy. Good riddance to all these bootlicking white folks once and for all.

(It does feel like the country has split up into two nations, one part still clinging to bourgeois democracy and the other part going white-nationalist and neofascist. It’s been astounding to see numerous supposedly left folks choose the fascist side instead of joining in the project of re-polarizing the nation between the majority working class masses on one hand and the parasitic and imperial ruling class on the other.)

At least Rittenhouse got charged and had to hyper-ventilate over the thought of spending the rest of his life behind bars. Just for the record, Anthony Huber and Joe Joe Rosenbaum were 2 of at least 13 people killed for participating in the Great George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake Rebellion of 2020. If anyone knows about any of the killers of the other martyrs going to trial, please let me know. Say their names:

Calvin Horton

James Scurlock

Dorian Murrel

Jorge Gomez

David McAtee

Italia Marie-Kelley

Sean Monterossa

Robert Forbes

Tyler Gerth

Summer Taylor

Garret Foster

Joe Joe Rosenbaum

Anthony Huber

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).