In What World?
In what seems a script from FX’s Justified, we have just now, in May, learned of a murder committed in February! If, somehow, you have missed the details of this case, here’s a summary from the May 9th NY Times:
Ahmaud Arbery loved to run. A former high school football standout, he had been jogging near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga., when he was shot and killed after being pursued by two white men with guns, according to the authorities.
The men, Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, were charged on Thursday with murder and aggravated assault — two days after a graphic video of the shooting of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, became public, and more than two months after the killing itself.
For anyone left in this nation who doesn’t believe that the deep-seated malevolent racism sprouted in 1619 does not still exist, take note. We surely know that if two armed Black Men had hunted down a White jogger and shot him in the middle of a suburban neighborhood street (in Georgia!) it would not have taken almost three months for a video to surface to prove that such a heinous killing occurred. Yet in a world where we have a President who has preyed upon the soft underbelly of white resentment and a misplaced sense of white victimization, we have a videotape that shows a 21st century lynching!
In what world does this happen:
Gregory McMichael (one of the assailants) told the police that he thought Mr. Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area.
In fact, only one burglary had occurred in that neighborhood since January but, more to the point, in what world does your average citizen pick up his guns and follow someone he believes looks like a suspect??? Is this commonplace in Georgia? Do citizens, on some kind of regular basis, patrol their own neighborhoods, armed and ready to assassinate anyone they believe LOOKS LIKE someone suspected of committing crimes there? This is wrong on so many levels --- and speaks directly to the legacy of white skepticism about Black claims of racism, discrimination, and unspeakable violence throughout our history.
We have seen, over the past decade in particular, video after video of white violence (sometimes exacted by law enforcement officers) against black citizens. This is in keeping with the violence that began with the ownership of Black humans by white people and has continued, unabated over 400 years (1619-2020). As anyone familiar with United States history knows, the Civil War may have ended slavery but it replaced with a vicious apartheid system that has been maintained, at least to some degree, right up to the present day (please note housing patterns, urban public/private school attendance, the Confederate statue & battle flag “debate,” etc.). The Arbery case is just the latest example of why Black people have to give their children “The Talk.”
It took years for me to begin to understand the full weight of the stress, uncertainty, and concern Black citizens have lived with throughout the history of this country --- and I will not claim that I’m even close to deeply understanding what that weight feels like. It does not take a brilliant critical mind to see that much of the support for Donald Trump was based in a backlash against the Presidency of Barack Obama. Rather than smoothing the way to a “post-racial” future, Obama’s election and two terms (Remember Mitch McConnell dedicating himself --- in 2008 --- to making Obama a “one term President?”) incited a segment of the white population of this nation to rally behind an aggrieved malignant narcissist seeking revenge against Obama for being made a laughingstock at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. The conspiracy addicted reality show host tapped into a dark and sinister vein of our body politic and continues to ride its wave --- decrying “enemies” and “fakes” when, in fact, he has proven himself to be an enemy of the public good and entirely a fake as a “deal-making” executive. As he watches two thousand citizens die each day, all he cares about is his re-election. And would we be surprised if, at some point in the coming weeks, this “President” declares that the McMichaels are “good people?”
The Arbery case highlights, once again, how awful the stain of institutional racism is but also how empowered this “President” has made “aggrieved” (?) white people feel. The armed “patriots” who stormed the Michigan legislature (“good people”), the Nazi’s who demonstrated in Charlottesville (“good people on both sides”), the sycophant Republicans in the House and Senate who swear their fealty to this dangerous and corrupt fraud, all contribute to not only increasing division in this country but also to perpetuating the now-blatant racism that exists in our nation.
I’m sorry I couldn’t muster a light and cheery Mother’s Day BLAST on this Sunday but, as we shelter-in-place amid a grotesque pandemic and receive more and more information about a murder that occurred more than two months ago I can only feel sad for the situation we find ourselves in. I can’t help thinking about Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother today --- and the loss visited upon her by hateful racism. November cannot come soon enough but I honestly dread seeing how many more of our fellow citizens will succumb to this deadly virus by then, as well as how many more innocent people of color (let’s not forget all the people in cages along our southern border) will also fall victim to the plague of racism that inhabits far too much of our world.
In the meantime, stay home, stay safe, and Happy Mother’s Day.