Adam Toledo, human being

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Adam Toledo illustration by Thumy Phan

Adam Toledo is dead. A 13-year-old boy. I haven’t watched the video and I won’t, but I read descriptions and saw the still. He was running down an alley, a cop yelled at him to stop, he raised his hands and turned, then Adam was gone.

I’m not the person to offer an authoritative take on Adam Toledo’s death. I can hear the cat fountain running as I type this. The type 1 diabetes that has kept me from attending protests—I’ve afforded it. All year I’ve had my insulin. The year I was radicalized was the year I gained forty pounds from depression and inactivity. Diabetes, depression, sitting—all killers, for sure—don’t threaten my life today.

I’m safe. I’m numb. I’m pissed at a mayor, press, police captain, and city council that dehumanize my neighbors as a matter of course like it’s doing the laundry.

All of the people I trust said not to watch the video. A part of me wanted to, because I knew Adam didn’t have a gun like the cops claimed and I wanted proof of just how craven they are, even though I already know. Even though, if he had a gun, who cares? Nothing justifies killing a child, or any human being.

Those are the words I keep returning to: human being. Because they take long enough to say and break up the natural rhythm of speech more than “kid,” “boy,” “person.” Because the thing about privilege is it surrounds you and pops you out of the flow of humanity, like a drop of water getting separated from a stream. Saying “human being” when these things happen reminds me they’re real.

This was a real person. This real person had an inner life, just like me. What was it like to be them? What was it like to them to die? What is it like for their family and friends to have a hole? When I have a hard time connecting to such an avoidable, unsurprising, unspeakable tragedy, I say “human being” to get closer.

Police were created to harm human beings, and because we love human beings, we must abolish policing and the entire prison industrial complex. These things have not always existed, nor will they. Privileged or running, numb or pissed off, we can destroy them and build what’s new.


My guest: Actress, writer, comedian Niccole Thurman (Shrill, The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, Superstore), whose most famous tweet is this:

But my favorite tweet of hers is this:

We covered: death is embarrassing, “making it,” she listened to Korn!, smart entertainment career planning
Extended version on Patreon: “And That’s Embarrassing! with Niccole Thurman





  • Donate to GoodKids MadCity to provide on-the-ground support to people protesting this weekend for Adam and all victims of police violence.

    I donated $25. Reply with what you donate, and I’ll report our total next week.

  • Celebrate! Last week, we donated $10 to Alternatives to provide counseling, crisis support, and youth leadership programming to young people.

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Promises—the new Pharoah Sanders/Floating Points album with the London Symphony Orchestra—is the full album I’ve listened to the most these past couple months. It’s hard to recommend one track (just listen to the whole thing), but the opener is, naturally, a good entry point.

It’s the breaking through and ringing out of Sanders’ saxophone at 1:23 that gives me shivers of soul, sadness, and sweetness. It’s so memorable I can play it in my brain on command at this point. I want to live in the world that Promises promises.