Ahmaud Arbery was a black man. He was shot and killed in February by two white terrorists who felt he was a threat just because he was out for a run.
There are people who see a black man out for exercise as a threat—not bothering anyone, not asking for an interaction. They see him as a threat to their place in the world.
The thinking is they don’t know him, so he must not live here. He must not live here, so he doesn’t belong here. He doesn’t belong here, so he must be here to take something from me. He’s here to take something from me, so I must assert myself into his space and show him that I am stronger than he is. I must show him that I make the rules he must follow.
If he doesn’t follow my rules, I must take his liberty, his freedom, his life.
This terrorism occurred three months ago, but the video that shows Ahmaud’s death at the hands and guns of these self-styled guardians of liberty came to light during a time when we’ve seen many other armed terrorists in action.
Coincidentally, they’ve decided that our larger efforts to preserve the health and safety of the people of our nation are too much to bear. It should not escape our notice that the COVID-19 outbreak is disproportionately affecting black and brown communities.
But again, we see groups of white men enforcing their beliefs with the barrel of a gun at the expense of the lives of people of color.
It would be nice to think this incident can’t happen in an integrated neighborhood like ours. It would be comforting to think people near us don’t think like this. But, it could because they do.
We see it in the posts on Facebook groups that claim to represent our community. We see it in the words of those who say they’ll shoot first and ask questions later and in calls for “neighborhood watch” groups without training that inevitably escalate misunderstandings into violence.
Their words are meant to sow fear over who can and cannot walk through this world without threat to their bodies and lives.
Some respond with questions.
“Why don’t they just follow the rules? Why can’t they stay in their own neighborhoods? Why do I have to be the one to change? Why do I have to adjust my behavior or my thinking so someone else can live? It’s my freedom that’s being taken away! Who are they to tell me how I should live my life?”
The horror of Arbery’s murder fills me with anger. The thinking that led to it survives him, and this fills me with rage.
So, we’re still doing this, again. We’re making a black person’s name into a hashtag so his humanity can be seen.
Unfortunately, for some people, seeing a black person living his or her life freely is too much to bear.