Jogging while Black: The killing of Ahmaud Arbery exemplifies systemic racism in our society.

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The video will make you cringe in horror.  25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery is seen jogging on February 23rd near Brunswick, Georgia. He is confronted by two white men, Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, blocking the road with a truck.  As Arbery tries to run around the truck, he is grabbed by one of the men and shortly thereafter you hear two gunshots, leaving him dead on the ground.

The killing occurred nearly 3 months ago but neither of the two men was arrested until camera video was released last week.  Both were charged with murder and aggravated assault, two days after the graphic video of the shooting of Arbery became public.

If you haven’t seen the video, you should.  It will sicken you to your core knowing Ahmaud was unarmed and had done nothing to deserve this except that he was Black.  The McMichaels argue they killed Arbery in self-defense while trying to confront who they thought was a burglary suspect.  Surveillance video of a house under construction shows Arbery inside the home prior to the shooting but the owner of the house said nothing was taken.

One narrative that the McMichaels are using to defame Arbery is by insisting Arberry wasn’t truly jogging because he was wearing “baggy shorts”.  Asked why he was so suspicious about Arbery, he told ‘He wasn’t out for a jog, put it like that. You don’t go jogging wearing saggy pants, saggy shorts.’

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 Arbery became public and more than two months after the killing itself.  “I do believe that Ahmaud was just out for his daily jog,” Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, said. “I have believed that since day one. He’s been doing this for years.”  Ahmaud was also training to become a boxer so jogging is consistent with his aspirations.  But even in having to defend his “job” is a result of our society’s conditioning that ethnic minorities have to explain and defend why they’re in a particular neighborhood just because it raises a local person’s suspicion.  

The killing has rightfully generated a wave of outrage and raised concerns about persistent racial inequalities in the justice system.  The McMichaels were never arrested or charged until after the video emerged.  I believe this is because local authorities will take the McMichaels word of self-defense as the truth without much scrutiny because there’s a political motivation for local authorities to chalk it up as self-defense than endure the negative national attention of racism that comes from a potential race-based, hate crime.  

In addition, the McMichaels were known in the community especially as Gregory McMichael was a former police detective for the Glynn County Police Department and the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, both of which have jurisdiction over the neighborhood where Arbery was killed.

Jackie Johnson, the Glynn county district attorney, refused to allow police officers who responded to arrest the two men, Glynn county commissioner Peter Murphy told the Guardian in a phone call on Friday.  The police department was put in touch with one of Johnson’s assistant district attorneys after the shooting, but Johnson made the decision not to charge the father and son, the former having worked in her office for more than 20 years, Murphy said.

Georgia’s attorney general, Chris Carr, announced that he had asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and federal authorities to investigate the local prosecutors initially involved in the case.  “Unfortunately, many questions and concerns have arisen” about the actions of the district attorneys, Carr said on Tuesday in a statement. As a result, the attorney general asked the GBI to review the matter “to determine whether the process was undermined in any way”.

In any event, the killing is now also being investigated to determine if this was a hate crime.  Unfortunately, hate crimes are hard to prove but if you ask any African-American they will tell you this was nothing short of murder simply because he was Black. 


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