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Chicago Urban League Issues Statement on Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo

Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson released the following statement concerning the homicides of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo:

What an incredible week. After reliving the death of George Floyd, the homicide of Daunte Wright, and the video depicting the homicide of Adam Toledo, many of us are exhausted.  There are some who will make a distinction between these deaths, and the circumstances are different. But there is one aspect of these cases that looms heavily throughout.  Black men and boys of color are often seen as more predatory and less sympathetic; therefore, they are rarely given the benefit of the doubt.  As a result, they are restrained to death while in handcuffs.  They are assumed to not comply even as their hands are going up.  They are perceived to be a threat even when running away.  They engender fear by their mere presence. 

The reality of everyday existence as a man or boy of color is that no matter how educated, well-behaved, compliant, or jovial you are, you are one encounter away from death.  That is every mother’s, significant other’s, and daughter’s nightmare.  That is why Darla ran to get Ralph Angel’s property deed in the April 13, 2021 episode of Queen Sugar.  That is why parents have “the Talk” with their Black and Brown boys often before the age of 10. And that is why there is an underlying anger in the Black community that some just cannot understand. 

We often speak about the lens through which people see things.  It is really one’s perspective, and there is no question that our point of view is influenced by our beliefs.  If I believe all people are good, then I will treat those I encounter accordingly.  If I believe that all people are bad, then I will treat those I encounter in accordance with that belief.  Most people use objective information to formulate these opinions—to develop a perspective.  Others are shaded by long-held biases about a certain race or gender.   If I am biased against another race, that can pose a problem for me when interacting with people of a different race or ethnicity.  If I am a person in authority—especially when that authority gives me control over life and death—that bias can be life changing.  That is where we are today.  That is what commentators seem to have missed.  That is the problem we must solve.

It is difficult to change people’s beliefs.  But we can certainly regulate behavior.  We can start by enacting and enforcing policies that value human life, preserve officer safety, and highlight the value of prevention and intervention as valid tools of public safety and community preservation.  The recent criminal justice legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly is one example.  Many of the recommendations outlined in the consent decree are others.  Every case does not warrant a foot pursuit.  How can we make de-escalation the default response of public safety personnel? How do we hire and deploy personnel in accordance with the needs of the community?  How do we place a greater value on prevention so that we never get to the split-second decision that results in an arrested Kyle Rittenhouse and a dead Adam Toledo? 

This past weekend, I was honored to join an entire community in a peace walk commemorating Adam’s life.  We add our voice to call for a full and fair investigation.  We also join those who acknowledge that Adam was failed by a myriad of institutions. We reiterate our position that during this time, we cannot afford another spectator. Either you are a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Through the efforts of our Youth Services, Workforce Development, and Research and Policy centers, the Chicago Urban League has worked to offer opportunities in our community.  What is your solution?

About the Chicago Urban League

Since 1916, the Chicago Urban League—through collaborative community, corporate and civic relationships—has helped people find jobs, secure affordable housing, enhance their educational experiences and grow their businesses. We are passionate advocates for economic and racial equity for Black Chicagoans. To learn more about the Chicago Urban League visit www.chiul.org and follow us on Twitter at @ChiUrbanLeague and Facebook at @ChicagoUrbanLeague.