Violencia policial y asesinato de Adam Toledo

Los Estados Unidos tienen una larga historia de violencia policial y brutalidad hacia personas de color. Debemos recordar que el actual sistema policial está vinculado a las patrullas organizadas por europeos que migraron a Estados Unidos y que ejercieron control sobre los africanos y nativo americanos forzados a trabajar en condiciones inhumanas y en esclavitud durante siglos. 

En el período colonial, un hombre blanco pobre a menudo no tenía la riqueza para esclavizar a otros, pero se unía al servicio en las Patrullas que controlaban y restringían el movimiento de los que eran considerados inferiores. A pesar de la abolición de la esclavitud hace más de 160 años, el legado y los impactos todavía están con nosotros hoy en día. Esta violencia policial se ha convertido en otras formas de terror contra las personas de color. 

El 29 de marzo, Adam Toledo, un estudiante de séptimo grado de 13 años de la escuela Primaria Gary, que vivía en La Villita de Chicago, se convirtió en una de las personas más jóvenes asesinadas de la ciudad. Un oficial de policía de Chicago mató a Adam sustentando que el adolescente tenia un arma. Adam no solo era “latino” – etiqueta que colocan a toda persona con nombre y apellido en idioma español-, sino que Adam además, era un joven nativo americano descendiente, posición que se invisibiliza y denigra, en una sociedad que solo valora a los europeos descendientes, como legado colonial. 

Según las imágenes registradas en el video de la cámara corporal del oficial, se observa al policía cuando le grita repetidamente al joven Toledo: “¡Policía! ¡Detente! ¡Para ahora mismo! ¡Manos! ¡Manos! ¡Muéstrame tus manos!”. Adam Toledo: se da la vuelta y levanta las manos. 

Es allí cuando el oficial Eric Stillman, de 34 años, dispara su arma y asesina a Adam, 20 segundos después de salir de su patrulla. El mismo video también muestra cuando la oficial estira las piernas de Adam, levantándole la camisa para comenzar a buscar un arma. Pero ¿por qué buscar un arma, si el oficial afirma que realizó el disparo al ver un arma en las manos de Adam? 

El asesinato de Adam refleja la realidad de los nativos americanos y visibiliza la verdad de que en la “comunidad latina”, la piel más morena y los descendientes nativos están excluidos y tienen más probabilidades de sufrir tiroteos y violencia relacionados con la policía. El año pasado, Andrés Guardado, de 18 años, murió luego de recibir cinco disparos en la espalda por parte de la policía en California; Carlos López, de 27 años, murió bajo custodia policial en Tucson.

Las manifestaciones en los Estados Unidos denuncian la brutalidad policial y exigen que los presupuestos de la policía se destinen a programas comunitarios. “No necesitamos oficiales enojados. Necesitamos trabajadores sociales y psicólogos que nos ayuden a superar el trauma social”, es la petición de las comunidades cansadas de la violencia sancionada por el Estado. Los agentes de policía reciben entrenamiento y equipo militar para responder a una situación de guerra y no asegurar ni proteger a las comunidades en las que vivimos. 

Estados Unidos tiene un problema de racismo normalizado y un profundo complejo de superioridad blanca. Muchos líderes eclesiásticos y políticos blancos afirman: “Esto no es lo que somos”; en respuesta a cada tiroteo policial o un acto de supremacía blanca. Desafortunadamente, la brutalidad policial es un fiel reflejo de quiénes somos como país. 

Estos atroces asesinatos son el resultado de una larga historia de vigilancia, control y destrucción de las vidas de nativos americanos y descendientes africanos. Hasta que responsabilicemos a todos los individuos que con traje policial se encubren para cometer asesinatos de odio y racismo, nunca podremos cambiar el rol de la policía que desde sus inicios tiene en su centro mantener la ideología de la supremacía blanca y terror en la comunidad.

Police Brutality and the Murder of Adam Toledo

The United States has been traumatized by a long history of police violence and brutality against non-European descendants for decades. We need to remember that the country’s creation is linked to Slave Patrols that exerted control over enslaved Africans and Native Americans for centuries. In the colonial period, a poor white man often did not have the wealth to enslave others but joined into a white supremacist through service on Slave Patrols.  Despite abolishing slavery over 160 years ago, the legacy and impacts are still with us today and have only evolved into other forms of terror against non-white people. 

On March 29, Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, became one of the youngest people killed on the city’s West Side.  A Chicago Police officer killed Adam while he was running away. Adam was not only Latino; but he was a native American descendant who once again is a victim of police brutality. 

The officer repeatedly shouts at Toledo on the video from the body camera, “Police! Stop! Stop right now! Hands! Hands! Show me your hands!”. Adam Toledo – turns around and raises his hands. The white police officer fires his weapon and murders Adam – 20 seconds after exiting his squad car.

Officer Eric Stillman, 34 years old, fired the fatal shot officer, heard on the body camera asking for an ambulance. The video also shows the officer straightening Toledo’s legs, raising his shirt to start searching for a gun. But why looking for a gun, he claims later was in Adam’s hands?

Adam’s killing reflects Native American’s reality and visibilize the truth that in the “Latin community,” the browner skin and native descendants are excluded and are more likely than Euro-Americans to experience police-related shootings and violence. Just last year, Andres Guardado, 18, died after being shot five times in the back by law enforcement in California; Carlos Ingram Lopez, 27, died in police custody in Tucson.

Demonstrations across the US denounce police brutality and demand that the police budgets are diverted to community programs that aid the community. “We don’t need angry officers. We need social workers,” is the request from communities tired of state-sanctioned violence.  Police officers receive military training and equipment to respond to a war situation and not secure and protect the communities in which we live.

The United States has a problem of racism and white superiority complex. Many white church leaders and politicians claim, “This is not who we are;” whenever there is a police shooting or an act of white supremacy. Unfortunately, police brutality is an accurate reflection of who we are as a country.

These heinous murders are the outcome of a long history of policing, controlling, and destroying the bodies and lives of African and Native American descendants. Until we hold all individuals who murder others accountable, we will never be able to change the culture of hate in the country.

Uncovering Indigenous Identities in the Latin American Community

As a result of a long European colonization process, indigenous people and their descendants in America have been forced to erase their heritage, language, and culture. Indigenous people have been denied self-identification and self-determination, first by Spanish colonizers and then under English/ United States rules. 

Throughout the American continent, the indigenous cultures shared a vibrant trade and development from the Andes through to the Rockies. However, the encounter in 1492 with European invaders forever changed their ways of living. The continent was inhabitant by over 100 million people living in different nations and communities. The Europeans forced indigenous populations to change their languages, customs, and religions – through forced assimilation into what was considered “Western Christian Culture.”  The colonizers saw an opportunity for wealth, growth, and possession in the “new world”; for the native population, the result was genocide, slavery, rape, and trans-generational oppression. In history akin to magical realism, the entire indigenous population transformed into “Latin Americans” rather than Native Americans. 

In the United States, which practiced its distinct form of white normative supremacy of “Manifest Destiny,” the government decided westward expansion was God-ordained.  The expansion west came after the war with Mexico and the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which led to most of the West’s addition, including Arizona, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas. However, this acquired land was not empty, but the native population who lived under Spanish rules for over 300 years were incorporated.  

The United States forced another round of assimilation. Based on census records, government officials perpetuated one of the most insidious acts of disappearance through a “paper genocide,” native were labeled as black, mulatos, mustee, or colored to justify slavery and deny land claims. This classification created an administrative archive of false documents to support the disappearance of the native population and appropriation of the land, and the practice continues until this day.

According to the United States Census Bureau, one in five individuals is identified as “Latino,” almost 60 million. The question remains: How an amalgamation of different indigenous groups conquered by Europeans develops into one pan-ethnic group? In the United States, government, academics, and industry designed the various labels to create a commercial and political voting block for disparate groups to increase governmental and economic power.  The forced labeling as “Hispanic” or “Latino” fuels conversations about identity among people who trace their heritage to the region called “Latin America” or Spain – Europe. Breaking down these terms can help to understand all these labels.  

Hispanic: Descendant of Spanish or Spaniards’ people 

Latin: A person who speaks a language derived from Latin

Spanish: A language and person from Spain

In the last years, the different labels have become synonymous with economic issues and crime. “Latinos” work in construction and landscaping, clean houses, and likely crossed the border without “authorization aka illegal.” Similar to the colonial time when the Europeans saw indigenous- native Americans as uncivilized and wild people, their descendants are treated in the same way -through being detained, raped, or killed on the southern border. 

Today, more than ever, young generations are looking back to their family history to find out more about their native heritage and start a process of decolonization. For many “Latinos,” identifying as descendants of native Americans is more accurate. Labels such as Hispanics, Latin, and Latinx hide and attack those on the path towards their real identity and decolonizing oppressive labels.  

To start this process, we must considerer the first step toward decolonization:

  • Recognize that even after five centuries of colonization, Native Americans and their descendants have the right to self-identification and recognized where our ancestors lived and worshiped. 
  • We need to understand that the language we speak today and the names and last names we have are colonization results. Spanish or English is not our ethnicity but a reflection of assimilation.
  • Lastly, we need to be ready for the tough conversations that set the record right regarding land theft, slavery, physical and paper genocide.

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Yenny Delgado-Qullaw

Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between faith, ethnicity and politics. Twitter @Publicayenny