COLUMN: Societal dehumanization of people of color is deadly

Protesters+march+near+Mayor+Lori+Lightfoot%27s+home+in+Logan+Square+to+protest+the+fatal+shooting+by+Chicago+police+of+13-year-old+Adam+Toledo%2C+Friday%2C+April+16%2C+2021.++Video+of+last+month%27s+encounter+was+released+Thursday+and+provoked+an+outpouring+of+grief+and+outrage.+%28Ashlee+Rezin+Garcia%2FChicago+Sun-Times+via+AP%29

AP

Protesters march near Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square to protest the fatal shooting by Chicago police of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, Friday, April 16, 2021. Video of last month’s encounter was released Thursday and provoked an outpouring of grief and outrage. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Our racist, white supremacist society has dehumanized people of color to a fatal point. When America sees police brutality towards BIPOC communities, they respond by trying to justify why the victim deserves it rather than scrutinize or condemn the officer’s actions. 

After body cam footage of the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo was released last week, many saw the child as a deadly threat. How could we be so cruel to view a child as more lethal than our societal and legal systems? 

The Chicago Tribune published a column by Eric Zorn that spread hateful, dehumanizing language about Toledo. Many use the same language and reasoning when trying to defend the officer that shot him. 

I am highly critical and disapproving of the Tribune’s decision to publish this column. Despite the right to opinion, Zorn’s opinion contributed to the harmful rhetoric against the Latino community. Language matters when talking about BIPOC youth. 

A newsstand near Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. (Audrey Champelli)

How could Chicago grant the officer so much forgiveness and doubt while criminalizing young Toledo at the same time?

It’s because racism has allowed us to view white people as innocent, moral individuals while viewing people of color as corrupt groups due to race and ethnicity. 

Unlike Toledo, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was able to kill two protestors with an active weapon and go home, with his life. He was granted the benefit of the doubt on his actions and background. 

We can attribute white people as individuals not belonging to a racial group and as morally neutral. On the other hand, people of color are depicted as members of their group and morally biased. 

This is a key distinction to make because it gives us insight as to why Chicago is so divided on Toledo’s death. We have to recognize that our racist ideology is creating a deadly narrative about Toledo, when in reality, he was a boy whose life was taken by an officer. 

We don’t need to look into Toledo’s life to know that he should have lived. We don’t need to look at the officer’s history or personality to know that he should not have killed Toledo.  

If we continue to push this dehumanizing narrative for people of color, our society will become as outright racist as it was in the past. Our world will become more violent for people of color to a point where we aren’t seen as people. 

Our society needs to become better and safer for people of color. May we never respond the same way to instances of police brutality as we did for Toledo.