We Shall Overcome, Black Power, No Justice-No Peace, Say Her Name, I Run with Ahmaud and Daddy Changed the World. The preceding words are just a few chants, pleas, memes, and cries for help from black mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers over the years. I have chanted some of those words myself. I participated in marches for social and racial justice, peace, and women’s rights. Shouts and what may have seemed like joyous chants and cheers for prosecuting attorney [Linda Dunikoski] rang outside a Brunswick, Georgia courtroom after the multiple guilty verdicts for the three men and no longer accused brutal murderers of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Seldom in what to the world appears to be a celebratory moment are black people honoring justice when black children are routinely murdered.
What you watched was the moment stress lets go of your heart and gut. Retaking a breath, releasing it, and the scant relief that maybe, just maybe, the actions of a court may save my child from being the next evening news story. It took a little over a year to convict a former police officer of George Floyd’s videoed tortured death. This past Wednesday afternoon was the conclusion of another video murder saga, with race at its center point. If you have doubts about how race played a role, the words used by one of the defense attorneys for Greg McMichael erased any questions. “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” said Laura Hogue. Addressing a jury made up of eleven whites and one black, the implications were obvious. Her effort at a hung jury was apparent; as if to say, if he was not guilty of a crime, he was undoubtedly guilty of bringing his filth to your white neighborhood. And I know one of you good white folks agrees.
It is hard to celebrate a so-called win when the prize is despair and continuing injustices mar those victories. Even with the pseudo rejoicing by supporters, Ahmaud Arbery’s mom and father went to their respective homes without their son. Carrying with them the knowledge that their son died because a group of white men decided his life was not worthy. Compliance, defiance, pleading, begging and explanation have all been failed strategies to preserve the dignity and lives of black and brown victims. George Floyd begged for his life, and Ahmaud Arbery ran for his. Trayvon Martin fought for his life, and Amadou Diallo cooperated. Oscar Grant was face down, and Jacob Blake survived seven bullets to the back. I have two sons, both six foot two or more, healthy and robust, and I worry.
They are educated professionals, cloistered, one would think from harm in suburban bedroom communities, but then I think, so was Botham Jean. There is no safety behind black skin, only split-second decisions that may or may not save your life and the hope of a video for your remaining family if you do not make a decision that helps you to survive. Without the cell phone video, ironically from one of the convicted killers, Mr. Arbery would be just another black man described in animalistic terms by an attorney without even the minimal benefit of the doubt.
Continue to Vote for Change.