The vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) claimed in a campus email that the verdict in the Rittenhouse trial conveyed a message that “Neither Black lives nor those of their allies’ matter.”
Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted last week of felony charges stemming from a riot in August last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during which he fatally shot two men and wounded a third in self-defense. Rittenhouse said he was at the riot to protect local businesses from rioters as well as administer first aid to those who needed it.
Violent and chaotic riots broke out in Kenosha over the lawful shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man. Blake had ignored police orders and was reaching into the driver’s seat of an SUV with several children inside when a police officer shot him in the back seven times. Authorities said Blake admitted that he had a knife, which was found inside the vehicle after the shooting.
UCI vice chancellor Douglas Haynes, UCI’s chief diversity officer, sent a campus-wide email after the verdict claiming that Rittenhouse’s acquittal was a sign of “anti-Blackness.” All of the men Rittenhouse shot were white. The email, obtained by The Daily Wire, said:
The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse versus the State of Wisconsin concluded earlier today. The jury returned not guilty on all five counts of the original indictment (a sixth count was previously dismissed by the judge), including the murder of two people and the wounding of a third on August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The relief of the Rittenhouse family in this verdict was met by the heavy burden of the families mourning the absence of loved ones and the continuing trauma of the lone survivor.
The conclusion of this trial does not end the reckoning about systemic racism in the United States. If anything, it has simply made it more legible. Kyle Rittenhouse did not live in Wisconsin, but in Antioch, Illinois. He traveled to Kenosha during protests against police violence in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake while in police custody. Blake was shot seven times in the back. The Kenosha event continued protests in response to the killings of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor…on March 13, 2020 in Louisville. These multi-racial protests were grounded in a call for racial justice and the end of police brutality. Rittenhouse imposed himself on the protests in Kenosha. His assistance was not requested. It was as much about resisting the calls of protestors as it was to defend property and render first aid.
For this reason, the verdict conveys a chilling message: Neither Black lives nor those of their allies’ matter.
UCI will continue its whole university approach to recognizing and responding to anti-Blackness as an existential threat to our mission as a public research university. Learn more on the UCI Black Thriving Initiative website.
Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Pronouns: he/him/his)
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Director, ADVANCE Program