The judge presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, made a joke Thursday that critics slammed as racially charged and inappropriate at the expense of Asian people.
“I hope the Asian food isn’t coming ... isn’t on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor,” Judge Bruce Schroeder said as the court was preparing to adjourn for lunch, evidently referring to the supply-chain backlog at the California port.
A clip of the moment was viewed nearly 2 million times by Thursday evening.
John C. Yang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, a group that advocates for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans, said the remark could only be seen as a joke at the expense of Asians and Asian Americans.
“Maybe I’m supposed to applaud him for not saying ‘Oriental food,’” Yang tweeted. “During a trial that clearly has race implications, no less. Definitely not okay.”
Others said the comment’s effect was to suggest that food from Asian cultures comes in by boat. The beleaguered ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles handle a large amount of imports from across Asia.
Eric Feigl-Ding, a prominent public health scientist and Asian American immigrant, said the comment was racist and unnecessary. “He could have just said the lunch was late,” he tweeted.
Schroeder has been in the spotlight after Wednesday’s dramatic proceedings, during which he angrily admonished the prosecution and at one point had to silence his cellphone after it played his ringtone, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a song popular in conservative political circles that has been used as an entrance tune at Donald Trump rallies.
He also made headlines ahead of the trial when he enforced his longstanding rule that prosecutors could not refer to people as “victims” before the jury. They would, however, be permitted to call the people Rittenhouse shot “looters” or “arsonists,” he ruled.
Rittenhouse, 18, is standing trial on murder charges in the fatal shootings of two people at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha last year. He was 17 at the time and has maintained he was acting in self-defense when he shot the two. He also wounded a third person.