Guest Column–Matt Rosenberg: McDonald’s vs The Woke Mob: If Parents Are Not Responsible For Their Children, Then Who Is?

By Matt Rosenberg

In Chicagoland, the CEO of McDonalds recently came under fire from race-hustling activists for inconvenient truth-telling in private text messages to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

Two children were killed. The CEO, Chris Kempczinski, dared to speak of the responsibility that parents bear for protecting their children from deadly gang violence that claims young lives.

WBEZ-FM reported that Chris Kempczinski is being called out by self-appointed racial justice czars for a variety of transgressions, including blame-casting, wealth-based cluelessness, and dangerous speech. 

But his true sin? He spoke his mind to the mayor of Chicago.

In a private text to Lightfoot, now made public, he said of the deaths of seven-year-old Jaslyn Adams in a McDonald’s drive-through shootout, and of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, fleeing police after 2:30 a.m. with a gun in hand, “…the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix.”

You can’t say it – except, it must be said. His remarks are on point, not racist.

After the tragic death of Adams last April, the victim’s grandmother said “…she was riddled with six bullets because of something that was going on between adults.” The victim’s father had been shot twice before. And the little girl was another victim in the city’s street gang wars.

There were two shooters and one driver in the Hitter’s car and 47 shell casings recovered. All the earmarks of a gangland hit. When you’re wrapped up in a nasty street beef with rivals, it’s nothing short of reckless endangerment to drive through Chicago with your children in the car, or to be in proximity to your children on the streets.

The story is common. Only the names change. 

What about Adam Toledo? In March of this year he was fleeing police in Little Village, carrying a 9 mm Ruger that police say had just been fired at cars by  a 21-year-old convicted felon named Ruben Roman, out on probation for a 2019 gun rap. With cops bearing down, Toledo stopped and turned around to raise his hands and surrender. But he waited until the last fraction of a second to chuck the gun aside. He was fatally shot by an officer who feared he’d be shot. 

How is the child even out there carrying a gun for an adult ex-felon in the wee hours? How is this not a failing by his parents?

If anything, McDonald’s boss Kempczinski was too limited in the scope of his remarks. All gang-related killings in Chicago – not just those of Jaslyn Adams and Adam Toledo – track straight back to lousy or indifferent parenting. Which includes not only tuned-out Moms and Dads, but also the fathers who don’t marry mothers in four of five births to Black women and more than five of ten births to Latino women in Chicago. This at least was the data for 1999 through 2009, the last years for which the city dared to publish such measures. 

Not surprisingly, the neighborhoods where births to single Black mothers ran so high were the very same ones where murders were – and still are – greatest. The study is here; see pages 25 and 27.

Latasha Fields of Washington Heights on the city’s South Side is the married mother of four. She told me across her kitchen table: “If the parents are not responsible, then who is? Society is responsible for these childrens’ behavior? The greatest youth program is the family…Nobody wants the police defunded. Because our greatest enemy is ourselves…My Black sons have more chance to be killed by somebody that looks like them, than a cop.”

Chicagoan Sandra Wortham lives in Chatham, on the South Side. She’s an African-American lawyer whose brother Thomas Eugene Wortham IV was a Chicago policeman, and Iraq War veteran. He was killed trying to stop an attempted theft of his motorcycle while off-duty and visiting their parents in Chatham. In a 2020 letter published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Sandra Wortham accented that no one in her black community wants fewer police; they want more. But she also noted, “Parents need to parent…Nothing in the entire world can replace parents teaching the basics of humanity and responsibility to their children.”

Chicago Police annual reports show that eighty percent of Chicago murder victims in 2020 were black, and fifteen percent Latino. In the three prior years those percentages were virtually identical. What about murder offenders? In a detailed twenty-one-year analysis of murder statistics that CPD issued in 2011, murder offenders in Chicago by race were roughly seventy to eighty percent black each year between 1991 and 2011. Between fifteen to twenty-five percent of murder offenders police identified by race in each of those years in Chicago were Latino. 

Inconvenient facts. So, Black-on-Black violence cannot possibly be called out. Excuses must be made. It is a way of saying, as Progressives now implicitly so often do, that Blacks are not capable of adhering to broadly-held community standards. 

Is this not racist? Of course it is.

Chicago murders, carjackings, shootings, and a particularly sociopathic outlier – expressway shootings – are all on track in 2021 to exceed stunning levels reached in 2020. Yet Lightfoot continues to play to the cheap seats, blaming racism and guns for the lousy choices made by parents and young men. Or boys. Like Adam Toledo. 

And now, McDonald’s CEO Kempczinski has been race-shamed into walking back his on-point remarks. 

Yet across the nation, November’s elections show voters have had it. The Left’s tone-deaf push for racial essentialism, to tear down statues, cancel merit-based admissions tests for top-tier high schools, to rename schools, excuse violent criminal behavior, and defund police – all of that – has started to boomerang. It’s shown by recent developments in Virginia, New York City, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and even Seattle, where a law-and-order Republican was elected City Attorney over a radical apologist for criminals.

The Left’s ceaseless Kabuki Theater act is looking weary and mannered. Cities including Chicago need to fix pressing problems like broken schools, strident racialism in public life, broken local courts, spiraling violent crime, and excessive spending and borrowing. 

It’s time to move fast and break things. One is the taboo against calling out parents who neglect their duties. Other cities and states are accenting the crucial role of parents, and see the need for smarter, better, more courageous political leadership. 

It’s not clear yet that Chicago and Illinois will do either. 

Matt Rosenberg is the author of What Next, Chicago? Notes of a Pissed-Off Native Son.” He also writes at ChicagoSkooled. He lived in Chicago for 30 years, and returns frequently. He has worked in journalism, public policy, and communications since serving on the undercover team of the Mirage Tavern investigation in 1977.


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