Adam Toledo, A Story Swept Under the Rug

Adam Toledo BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of The Chicago-Sun Times.

Adam Toledo’s story followed the same structure like so many other deaths of people of color at the hands of U.S. law enforcement. However, the release of the Chicago police officer’s body camera footage last week seems not to have made headlines in the same way.

Adam Toledo, 13, lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s west side. In the early morning hours of March 29, two officers were responding to reports of shots fired in the area when they spotted two people in an alley and began chasing them, The New York Times reported.

Although prosecutors argued that Adam had a gun in his hand as he ran down the alley, body camera footage showed that the boy was unarmed as he attempted to comply with the officer’s commands.

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said at a news conference on Thursday that the video shows that Adam, who was Latino and a seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School, was attempting to comply with the officer’s orders.

“He tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”

At the moment, the officer, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot. Adam is raising his arms and appears to be empty-handed. At the moment before the shot, according to the Times analysis, Adam can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before raising his hands.

After firing the shot, Officer Stillman called an ambulance, searched for the wound, and began CPR with the help of another officer. “Stay with me,” he told Adam more than once.

The release of the Chicago video comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway, and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter has been charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.

And all this amid a wave of hatred against the Asian American community in every corner of the country.

It’s as if the epidemic of violence is morphing into a monster with a thousand heads.

The debate, which many argue was detonated by the white supremacist apologia spurred by the Trump administration, remains in force thanks to fractures in the social system and the media’s failure to see racism as an intersectional issue.

African Americans, Latinos, Asians, transgender… All those who have made a life on the peripheries of the white heteropatriarchal system seem to be subjected to the corners of the social interweaving by force.

Even as protests like the “Blacks and Yellows” organized by the group Stop AAPI (Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders) last Sunday attempt to close ranks against a unique threat, Adam Toledo’s story still doesn’t resonate as loud and strong as the other stories.

And the problem runs much deeper.

As the Americas News Network explains, Latino involvement in movements like Black Lives Matter is another way to try to get people to understand that systemic racism in education, wealth and housing affects them just as much as other communities of color — perhaps twice as much.

Nearly 25% of Latinos in the U.S. are of mixed race and identify as Afro-Latino, and the system of oppression affects them on several simultaneous fronts.

This is not to advocate a segmentation of the struggle, but to understand that for every George Floyd, there is an Adam Toledo and that a united front can do more against the “divide and conquer” of the system.