The protestors in Brunswick, Ga. were right to protest that the father and son involved in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery were not immediately arrested in connection to his death. On that point, I think allegations there’s a racial element to the case are not out of left field.
Ahmaud had been in trouble with the law, and was possibly — at least according to the men who chased him down and killed him — implicated in a rash of burglaries in their neighborhood. The failure of the police and district attorney to charge the McMichael men does resonate with the old divisions, well known in the South, that have race as an element in the death of a young black man who had run afoul of the law and his killers, two white men who had been understood as “respectable” members of society.
Ahmaud’s death was being swept under the rug. There’s little doubt about that.
But I’m not sure it’s fair to assume that the McMichael men hunted Ahmaud down and killed him because they were racist white men just looking to kill a black man jogging through their neighborhood. As I read the facts of the case (to the extent we know them), it looks more likely they were convinced Ahmaud was someone involved in burglaries in their neighborhood (we won’t know if that’s true until more evidence is made public). And they were determined to stop him, even if it meant overreacting and overstepping their authority under Georgia’s citizens arrest law.
And the consequences of that hubris and stupidity were the tragic death of one man and the end of normal life for the others.
One of the reasons I think the intent when the McMichaels and another neighbor chased Ahmaud wasn’t murder is because they filmed the whole thing and then called the police. If they wanted to kill him, they wouldn’t have recorded evidence of their crime and the body would have never been found.
It’s not much of a comfort, I realize. Certainly not to Ahmaud’s family. And not to the loved ones of the McMichaels, either. Because those two men are guilty of another man’s death. They have now been charged and it’s very nearly a done deal thanks to that video.
But sweeping the crime under the rug by failing to arrest the men who killed Ahmaud is unconscionable. And I don’t care if the video was released and used by those who want to stoke racial animus. Because Ahmaud — even if guilty of trespassing and burglary, as the McMichael men claimed — should not have been meted out a punishment of death; or any punishment without due process. And whether or not the act of looking the other way was overtly racially biased, it’s worth wondering if the same thing would have happened if the man they thought was trespassing and thieving was white. It might have, but it very easily might not.
It’s also worth wondering if an enterprising attorney would have released the video if the same thing had happened but the victim was a 25 year old white man with a similar criminal history. Same answer.
The problem here isn’t the races involved. It’s the fact that a justice system in South Georgia was willing to look the other way at — the video shows — an egregious crime of negligence and menacing and murder.
That’s disturbing no matter the color of the people involved. And investigations should commence immediately.
I cover it on today’s show, as well as give you an idea of what Georgia looks like as it loosens its coronavirus restrictions, and review a new Amazon Prime series, “Upload” (trailer below).