The public has now seen the troubling video of a Chicago police officer shooting and killing Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy who lived in the city’s Little Village neighborhood.
For Chicagoans, especially for those in Black and Brown communities, the shooting feels like another likely injustice in a long line of cases in which police have killed young Black people — the police killing and subsequent cover-up of the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald offers a high-profile example.
But just seven days after the murder of the child, popular Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote that the public should “wait before turning slain 13-year-old Adam Toledo into a martyr.” Zorn, who is White, criticized references to Adam as a “baby” and wrote “it’s not too early to stop romanticizing and infantilizing 13-year-olds” before listing crimes of teens the same age from around the country.
Many journalists, local and otherwise, immediately condemned the piece — especially for its lack of compassion for the young victim and the community still mourning his loss. “What about Adam’s humanity?” we asked.
“Columns are supposed to add thought-provoking ideas to the table, not strip the humanity of children of color,” one journalist told me.
“What is staggering about that column, among many things, is the utter lack of humanity,” another one said.
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote that the public should “wait before turning slain 13-year-old Adam Toledo into a martyr.”
As a journalism professor, a reporter, and a Black woman from Chicago, I was both hurt and ashamed at the implication that we need to step back and “but what about…?” the situation. To me, it doesn’t matter: You shouldn’t have to be a perfect kid or be a martyr for your humanity to matter.
My Northwestern colleague Steven Thrasher canceled his subscription to the paper and in a…