Every time a police officer takes a life, it is a sad and traumatizing event for everyone involved. But it is not, as the ADL contends, evidence of a system that “target[s] and devalue[s] Black, brown, and Indigenous lives for centuries.” An ADL press release opined that Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old shot by Chicago police, was killed because of “systemic racism,” not because police were responding to the presence of an armed individual fleeing the scene of a “shots fired” call. The shooting was tragic, but it wasn’t the result of systemic racism, and a group that seeks justice when churches are burned should know that.
The SPLC has done no better. Their recent press release lionizes Tony McDade, a black transgender man shot and killed by a Tallahassee police officer last May. McDade, a suspect in the stabbing death of Malik Jackson, pointed a handgun at police when approached, leaving the officers no choice but to shoot him. Investigators at the scene recovered a handgun, along with the bloody knife used to kill Jackson. Body camera footage corroborated the officers’ version of events, and a Leon County grand jury found that the use of force was justified. But none of this prevented the SPLC from citing McDade’s death as evidence of a “criminal legal system built on anti-Black racism and white supremacy.”
Many other civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which believes that “racism . . . pervades law enforcement,” put out similar damaging statements.