Why These Text Messages Sent By McDonald's CEO Have People Furious

In March, a Chicago police officer shot and killed Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Hispanic boy, after a chase (via Block Club Chicago). A few weeks later in Chicago, a 7-year-old Black girl named Jaslyn Adams died from gunshot wounds after two men fired into the car where she and her father sat, at a McDonald's drive-thru, according to WGN. Police aggression and street violence take the lives of too many innocent children. Any explanation of why this happens would require a long account of the history of systemic racism and the plight of poor people in the United States.

The top corporate executive at McDonald's oversimplified it for us, however. McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski blamed the children's parents, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kempczinski's insensitive comment came to light after a text message exchange between him and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was made public. The texts followed Lightfoot's visit to McDonald's headquarters in Chicago. Part of their exchange was posted on Twitter after someone had obtained it in a public-records request. 

Community groups blasted the McDonald's CEO's text as 'ignorant, racist, and unacceptable'

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski made his comments about the shooting deaths of a 13-year-old Hispanic boy and a 7-year-old Black girl in a texted "p.s." to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (via Twitter). Kempczinski had just told Lightfoot he had a new cell number, as animal-rights and union activists had gotten ahold of his previous number. "p.s. tragic shootings in last week, both at our restaurant and with Adam Toledo," Kempczinski texted. "With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can't say. Even harder to fix."

The mayor's office issued a statement critical of the CEO's text after it became public, per Chicago Tribune. "Families do everything they can — moms, dads, grandparents — to love and support their children, and tragedies can still happen," the mayor's statement said. "Victim shaming has no place in this conversation." Community organizations wrote an open letter to Kempczinski, blasting his text as "ignorant, racist, and unacceptable coming from anyone, let alone the CEO of McDonald's, a company that spends big to market to communities of color and purports to stand with Black lives."

The CEO said in an email to McDonald's employees that he needed to do better. "I have not walked in the shoes of Adam's or Jaslyn's family, and so many others who are facing a very different reality," Kempczinski said. "Not taking the time to think about this from their viewpoint was wrong and lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families."