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Say His Name: Ahmaud Arbery

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Jogging While Black


During the coronavirus epidemic, many African-American men have feared they could eventually become Ahmaud Arbery. Although the death of Arbery occurred before the quarantine, his death makes jogging while Black a real fear during the coronavirus pandemic.


Two White men in Georgia, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, killed Ahmaud Arbery, 25, while he jogged in his mother’s neighborhood because the two men said he fit the description of a robbery suspect.


When the McMichaels saw Ahmaud Arbery, they grabbed a .357 magnum and a shotgun and began chasing him down in their pickup truck.


Reports show that a third man was also involved in the unsuccessful attempt to cut off Ahmaud Arbery.


Moments before the men began chasing Ahmaud Arbery; a neighbor had called 911 to report an African-American man in a house under construction.


The McMichaels yelled to the man, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”


The father and son then pulled up to Ahmaud Arbery, and the son Travis got out of the truck with a shotgun to confront the jogger.


The police report states, “[Gregory] McMichael stated that an unidentified male began to violently attack Travis and the two men then started fighting over the shotgun at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot.”


Ahmaud Arbery died from the gunshots.


At press time, nobody has faced chargers in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery because Georgia law allows people to make a citizen’s arrest if they witness a crime in their presence and its self-defense law.


If one is questioning whether or not the McMichaels actually saw Ahmaud Arbery commit a crime they would be justified in asking because I have not heard of any statements that show that the McMichaels saw Ahmaud Arbery do anything but run through the neighborhood.


And last time I checked, jogging was not a crime.


But that does not seem to always matter when African-Americans find themselves on the wrong side of self-defense laws.


It happened to Trayvon Martin.


The only thing that a grown man like George Zimmerman had to say is that he feared for his life at the hands of a child, and the victim’s family caught hell in their attempt to get justice.


People like Zimmerman and now the McMichaels can lean on stereotypes of African-American males being aggressive criminals to make their stories (lies) believable to a justice system more interested in upholding injustices when it pertains to the African-American community.


The fact that a killing like Arbery’s could happen again in these unprecedented times is a real fear for African-American men.


In fact, many have predicted it will happen again.


Honestly, African-Americans cannot catch a break during this COVID-19 pandemic.


First, we die at a higher rate than our brothers and sisters of other races.


That reality is probably a combination of genetic factors like low levels of vitamin D, having to live in close contact with other people because of a lack of money and subpar healthcare because of that lack of money.


But when politicians and businesses announced that people had to wear masks, scarves or bandanas over their mouth and nose, many African-Americans got understandably afraid.


Unfortunately, the media has done a “terrific” job of convincing Middle America that a criminal or thug looks like a young African-American male wearing articles of clothing like bandanas and hoodies.


Therefore, for a person of a lighter hue, with preconceived notions about African American men, to see an African-American man wearing a bandana or a scarf over his mouth might cause them to lean back on old stereotypes of African-American men being thugs, rapists, murderers, muggers or robbers. 


To make matters even worse, with gyms, pools and parks shut down throughout the country, many upstanding citizens have had to get creative with their physical fitness.


Instead of going to an upscale gym everyday, many people have had to jog in their neighborhood or ride bicycles.


Therefore, if a person thinks it is unusual to see an African-American man run or ride a bicycle through an affluent neighborhood, with a covering over his face, the situation can get severely blown out of proportion.


An innocent exercise routine for an African-American can become an encounter with a police officer that goes astray or could lead to their demise at the hands of a trigger happy and racist neighbor.


Look at what happened to Martin in Florida because he supposedly fit the description of a burglar and wore a hoodie in February.


For the record, I have not seen anyone say that Ahmaud Arbery wore a facemask or a bandana.


However, the fear of wearing a face covering while performing everyday tasks for African-Americans is real.


To make justice more difficult to achieve, the fact that social distancing rules are still in effect in many parts of the country, means normal protests and boycotts cannot happen as easily as it did after Martin’s death.


Therefore, African-Americans have to lean on social media more heavily during this time to get Arbery’s story to the masses.


Understandably, mainstream media has their hands full keeping the public informed on new developments in the fight to stop COVID-19.


Therefore, mainstream media is probably out of the question.


As a result, African-Americans have to apply pressure to the Black press, from online platforms, to print publications to Black television and radio.


The COVID-19 crisis has forced us into a DIY (do it yourself) state of mind.


Therefore, when it comes to seeking justice for Arbery’s senseless death, we have to do it ourselves.


We did it ourselves after Martin’s death when the social media outcry led to criminal charges against Zimmerman and mainstream media attention.


Likewise, we will do the same for Ahmaud Arbery.


Just think of how easily it could be you next.


The next time you are exercising in your neighborhood, just think that a closed-minded neighbor might call the cops on you and the situation could escalate.


Even worse, imagine if that overzealous and bigoted neighbor decides to play cops and robbers and does not realize that life is not a child’s game.


You could become a coronavirus casualty simply because your color causes concern for the clueless.

This article was published on Friday 01 May, 2020.
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