In April, a 7-year old Black girl was shot and killed while sitting in a car with her father at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Chicago.
A few weeks earlier, a 13-year old Latino boy was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer at 2:30 in the morning. He was running away from the police and was shot just after tossing a gun he had been carrying.
Murder in Chicago is hardly breaking news. So far this year, the city has logged almost 700 victims of homicide. But this time a new element was added to the same sad story. This time, the CEO of a major American corporation weighed in. And what made his reaction to the deaths interesting is that he didn’t blame the usual suspects: systemic racism and rogue cops.
Chris Kempczinski, the president and CEO of McDonald’s, sent a text message to Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootChicago students protest for virtual learning, COVID-19 stipends School infrastructure is a children's human rights issue — it's time the US acknowledges that The Hill's Morning Report - Biden champions filibuster reform, but doesn't have the votes MORE that recently was made public, in which he said that the shootings were “tragic.” Then he added: “With both, the parents failed those kids.
No parent wants to be accused of failing a child, but let’s take a look at whether Kempczinski was needlessly insensitive or if had reason to conclude that “both parents failed those kids.”
The father of the dead girl reportedly has a long criminal record and acknowledged on social media that he knew he was a target for gang retaliation. But that didn’t stop him from letting his 7-year-old daughter sit in a car with him.
As for the 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a police officer: What was he doing with a gun? And why was he running around with a 21-year-old repeat gun offender at 2:30 in the morning? The two had been caught on video shooting randomly at moving cars when someone called the police. Gunpowder residue was found on the boy’s hand.
So, based on the information we know, it appears the McDonald’s CEO was onto something — that he did nothing more than tell an inconvenient truth.
But when his message to the mayor was revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request, a swift backlash occurred. Activist groups called the text “ignorant, racist and unacceptable.”
“You relied on lazy, outdated and racist stereotypes in order to uphold the status quo and avoid accountability for those in power,” the groups wrote. “As the leader of one of the world’s largest private employers and most iconic brands, you have a responsibility to do so much better.”
Perhaps Kempczinski should have seen the backlash coming. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. So, did he hold firm and stand by his words? Did he say anything about whether the dead children’s parents had a responsibility to do better? Of course not. Like so many CEOs these days, he apologized — over and over again.
In a letter to McDonald’s employees, he wrote: “I have not walked in the shoes of [those children’s families] and so many others who are facing a very different reality. Not taking the time to think about this from their viewpoint was wrong.”
In a video he sent to his employees, he added, “I let you down, and I let myself down.”
Then he met with more than 100 pastors and community leaders from Chicago and across Illinois and apologized again. As Jason Riley noted in the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Kempczinski was stating a plain truth, making an observation surely shared by an overwhelming majority of rational adults.”
But we now live in post-George Floyd America, where simply stating “a plain truth” has become a risky proposition. Uttering a reasonable opinion that is deemed “unacceptable” by the woke mob can get you smeared as a racist. It can get you “canceled,” especially if you’re talking about members of racial and ethnic minorities.
For quite a while now, we’ve heard serious people say that we need to have an honest conversation about important matters such as race. I used to think that was a good idea. Not anymore.
Now we live in a time when too many of us — including too many CEOs of major American corporations — have given in to the activists and have become afraid to tell plain truths. We’re afraid the woke mob will come after us.
But what happens when we become a nation of people who are afraid to speak plain truths? What happens when it’s easier to say nothing than to speak honestly about what we believe?
Not too long ago, we Americans proudly believed the final words of our national anthem, that we live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” In many ways, of course, we’re still a great nation — but those words don’t seem as obvious anymore. They don’t resonate the way they used to.
And sooner or later, the American people — the rational ones, anyway — will (hopefully) say, “We’ve had enough of this woke nonsense.”
For many Americans, that day can’t come soon enough.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.