Usually, my Twitter feed is pretty evenly split along racial and political lines, but this week a video united us all. The shocking footage of Gregory and Travis McMichael, ages 64 and 34 respectively, pursuing and ultimately shooting 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in broad daylight as he tried in vain to outrun their pickup truck rocked the nation.
Our collective senses were stunned as we watched the father and son duo accompanied by a neighbor in another vehicle behave like they were in a first-person shooter video game as they confronted Arbery, whom they believed to be the perpetrator of a string of break-ins in their neighborhood. It was later confirmed that a single burglary report had been filed in that area since January 1.
The tragic incident occurred on February 23, but it took the release of the video on May 5 to ignite an avalanche of outrage.
Outrage that these individuals felt Ahmaud’s decision to check out a house under construction was enough of a pretext for them to engage in an armed pursuit.
Outrage that the victim’s family was not allowed to see the video of the incident for months.
Outrage that a lawyer from the district attorney’s office declined to bring a single charge against the McMichaels, citing a citizen’s arrest statute that clearly states a crime has to be committed in the citizen’s presence or they must have “immediate knowledge.”
Outrage that it took over 10 weeks for anyone to be held accountable.
Outrage that it took the leaking of the video to get the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the case.
Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and longtime detective with the district attorney’s office, and Travis, were arrested within 36 hours of the start of the GBI investigation and are being held without bail, but the situation has reopened a national conversation about vigilante justice and demonstrated that sadly, even today in 2020, justice can be circumvented (or at least delayed) because of who you are and who you know.
The subsequent release of the 911 calls further added insult to injury. They had time to call dispatch twice during the chase but decided to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for law enforcement to arrive.
In case you were wondering, Ahmaud was Black and the McMichaels are White. Even without knowing the ethnicities of those involved, the details of the case should raise serious questions.
Celebrities and social justice warriors have predictably piled on and tried to connect dozens of other incidents involving White police officers with Black suspects to this tragic murder. We must resist the urge to lump different cases with varying factors into a single narrative. This will sadly only encourage Americans to retreat to their political tribes rather than to see the facts of this incident clearly.
I have an interesting perspective on this phenomenon: I’m Black and my husband is a White police officer. I offered some of my thoughts in this video below:
As I explain in my video, we cannot ignore that race played a role here. It took external pressure for the McMichaels to have to answer for their actions. Ahmaud’s family will hopefully get closure but tragically they will not get their son, brother and friend back.
Sometimes it takes the case of Emmett Till to open our eyes to injustice. As William Wilberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Now we know. It is up to us to see the humanity of our neighbors, weep with those who weep and extend the respect to others we wish to have ourselves regardless of race, religion, color or creed.
In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”