SAN DIEGO — As a Mexican American who feels left out of the national conversation on race, I have to ask: Do brown lives matter too?
I bet that question occurred to the family of the 70-year-old grandmother in Los Angeles who — in a bizarre story well-suited for America’s most multicultural city — was allegedly attacked on a bus by a Black woman who thought she was Asian. According to the local newspaper The East Sider, the victim — who was identified only as “Becky” — was badly beaten in the April 9 attack, which resulted in a concussion, broken nose, and the ripping of hair and skin from her scalp. Police arrested 23-year-old Yasmine Beasley on suspicion of the attack, and she is also accused of yelling an anti-Chinese epithet.
And I imagine the question is also top of mind for the family of Adam Toledo. The 13-year-old Mexican American boy from Chicago who went into an early grave as a result of what appears to be a “bad shoot” by a white police officer who had three misconduct complaints in five years on the job, none of which led to disciplinary action. According to officer body-cam video footage, Toledo complied with police commands to stop running and put up his hands. He did as he was told. Those who stand with the blue claim that complying with police commands will save your life. But it didn’t do much good for Toledo.
To be honest, Toledo made some bad decisions in the early morning hours of March 29. As a teenager, I made a ton of them.
Yet nothing justifies Toledo being shot by police. Officers are often trained by union lawyers to parrot specific language if they’re involved in a shooting. They’re supposed to say: “I thought my life was in danger” or “I was afraid for my life.”
Prosecutors are not bringing charges against Chicago police officer Eric Stillman. If they had, the so-called fear defense would have been a tough sell for the 34-year-old, given that — contrary to false initial statements by authorities and Stillman’s attorney — it’s now clear that Toledo was unarmed.
It’s true that there was a handgun at the scene. But it was scattered on the ground, behind Toledo, who appears to have tossed the weapon seconds before raising his hands. The shot comes immediately after the boy’s hands go up.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Hispanics say, in the last few days, something like: “If this had been…” or “Imagine what would have happened if…” They claim that, had Toledo been Black, not only would there be a mugshot of Stillman in an orange jumpsuit but that there would have been wall-to-wall media coverage, public protests, corporate boycotts ...
It’s as if many Americans only have so much bandwidth in their social justice consciousness, and it’s already filled with centuries of injustices inflicted upon African Americans. The fact that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of the murder of George Floyd fits that traditional black-and-white narrative.
Which brings me back to the question: Do Brown lives matter, too?
In a few weeks, the results of the 2020 Census are expected to be released, and one headline is likely to be: “Hispanics now account for 1 in 5 Americans.” America’s largest minority — which surpassed African Americans in number in 2003 — is sure to break the 20% barrier.
For decades, Hispanics have believed that, as their numbers grew, we’d finally get respect.
It didn’t happen. Changing demographics only yielded fear. Hispanics get ignored. We get targeted. And we still can’t get the time of day in a country whose imagination is stuck in the black-and-white paradigm of the 1950s.
On cue, last week, conservative white radio host Ben Shapiro flubbed the opening of a show tied to the release of the video documenting the death of Adam Toledo. Shapiro said: “A 13-year-old Black kid is shot by police in Chicago…”
The next time you hear Americans say they’re colorblind, believe it. When it comes to color, some people in this country are deaf, dumb and blind.