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  • Salina Mentor

Ahmaud Arbery Will Not Be Forgotten

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was out on a routine jog in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, not too far from his home. He jogged past the home of Gregory and Travis McMichael, who believed that Arbery resembled a burglary suspect.

The McMichaels hopped in their pickup truck with a .357 shotgun and a handgun and pursued Arbery. Arbery was also met by another male by the name of William R “Roddy” Bryan who recorded the pursuit and murder and at some point hit Arbery with his truck. The McMichaels continued following him and allegedly yelled, "Stop, stop, we just wanna talk to you.” Arbery and Travis fought over the shotgun, until Travis fired the weapon once at Arbery, then again a second time only seconds later. 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery received the death penalty for a jog.

After seeing the video and reading the police report, sheer anger and sadness filled my mind, as another unarmed black man lost his life at the hands of racist white men. Numerous questions flooded my mind, such as, if the McMichaels only wanted to talk, then why did they arm themselves with guns? Did the McMichaels fear for their own lives just as much as Ahmaud Arbery feared for his own?

According to the police report, the McMichaels armed themselves because they “didn’t know if the male [Arbery] was armed or not,'' and the “‘other night they saw the same male stick his hand down his pants, which lead them to believe the male [Arbery] was armed.” Guns were not only involved because the McMichaels had to prepare for an encounter with a potentially armed male, but they were also involved because Arbery was a black man.

As a young black woman in America, I can recognize events that are racially motivated. White peoples’ privilege blinds them to the struggles of black people. The McMichaels armed themselves based on an event that did not occur on the day of the murder. They also could not confirm that Arbery was armed. They did not fear for their lives as much as Arbery, let alone did they fear for their lives at all.

How could they fear for their lives when they were armed and dangerous? How could they fear for their lives as armed, privileged, white men in the South? How can one justify these actions as self-defense? As I continue to think about this racially motivated murder, I refuse to believe that Ahmaud Arbery’s death was justifiable. This murder was rooted in immorality, racism, and a sheer disregard for human life.

The video of Arbery’s death did not surface for months after it occurred. It took two months and fourteen days of protests, petitions, and national and international outrage for the McMichaels and Bryan to be arrested for Arbery’s murder on May 7, 2020. Why is it that the white privileged people of America never have to be held accountable for their actions? Why are black people always the targets of such violent and racist encounters with the police and their white counterparts?

I am so grateful to everyone that demanded justice for Arbery and the other innocent black lives like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. However, it also saddens me that the whole nation had to be upset in order for the McMichaels and Bryan to have been arrested. These men were arrested because we were outraged, not because of the justice system. What makes matters even worse is that Bryan recorded the murder thinking he was helping the McMichaels justify their actions, and this shows that white privilege truly does exist.

As I continue to live life as a young black woman, I constantly live in fear of my own life. No one should feel this way. In this day and age with the numerous resources available to learn about racism toward black people in America, ignorance is no longer an excuse; if you choose to stay uneducated, you are a part of the problem and do not see an issue with the way this country has and continues to treat black people.

With all the momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few months, now is the time for everyone of all races and backgrounds to inform themselves about this country’s faults and try to make a difference. Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered and still does, so I hope his story and the countless other stories circulating social media help you open your eyes, see the problem, and stand in solidarity with the black community to make long lasting changes.

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