Ahmaud Arbery was brutally murdered on February 23rd.
I’ve struggled to put into words the emotions I’ve been feeling about the last few days, and I didn’t want to speak much about it until now because I wanted to really think before I just shared how I felt.
I’ve spent this past week trying to understand all of my thoughts about what has happened following the release of the video. I remember hearing about the case briefly at the end of February and I was horrified but didn’t spend enough time advocating on the issue with midterms and COVID all coming at us. When I learn often about events like this, the first thing I usually do is just try to understand as much as I could and try to inform others about the issues that we as Black people face in America today. Racist attacks like these in our times are nothing new and have continued to happen since the inception of this nation. I am never, ever surprised that these modern lynchings happen, and I always feel the same horror every single time.
This past week, I was just scrolling through my Twitter feed and then I saw the video once. I never saw it after that and I refuse to see it again.
If I had to tell you what my worst nightmare is as a young Black man in America, what happened to Ahmaud is about as close to that nightmare as there is. While he was on a jog, two white men, along with another white man who filmed these events, hunted Ahmaud down and murdered him in broad daylight. Men who are connected through and through with law enforcement did this. And it took almost two months till an arrest and charges were made, in a state where there are no hate crime laws.
I did not cry when I saw the video; I was distraught when I saw the video. I was terrified to think and visually recognize once again that the deepest, darkest fears of mine continue to be a reality that I have to remind myself are never going to go away. It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter whether you wear your Ivy League sweater when walking or jogging, it doesn’t matter your reputation to many, it doesn’t matter whether you are the ultimate law-abiding. In the eyes of America and the eyes of many, you are a threat to existing. And on February 23rd, Ahmaud was that perceived threat.
Every day of my life, I jostle with these fears and think about how I can reduce whatever possible risk I put myself into. In many ways, this sort of coping results in either making jokes about the world, or other times it’s to just distract myself by playing loud music in my car, pretending that it doesn’t attract any more attention than my skin color does. But none of that even matters. Being Black in America and living with its racist foundation is something that no behavior, look, or speech will ever change.
After I got past those thoughts (or as best as I could), the next ideas that popped into my head were with me trying to process how so many had shared and posted about this story once the video released. The first thing that angered me the most was the number of times I saw people who were not Black having no regard for our thoughts or emotions of this situation feeling the need to just share this video of his lynching. Some of us have had scarring incidents with police or with racism in general that trigger some of the most awful physical reactions. Please, please, please if you are not Black don’t share this video, and of course, if you’re Black, please do us all a favor and put a warning before you do. Ideally, though, just refrain if you’re questioning the idea of posting. Some of us do not want to ever see this. It does often nothing except harm to have to face this reality and nightmare over and over again.
The second part of all of this that I didn’t know what to think about was how much people were sharing about his story. The awareness is what led to his arrest, and for that I am grateful. But the part of this that gets me the most is that I feel frustrated at the fact it continuously takes an indisputable video. It takes something like this, which happens too often, to be shown in such a direct way for there to be an outcry. Do I appreciate that people are becoming more aware of the story? Of course. But do I also know that these sentiments about supporting Black issues and Black people as a whole will vanish as they always do in the following weeks? Yes. I’ve grown numb to the fact that the vast majority of people never will care about Black issues and I think that’s just something that I know will take more than just a tragedy like this to make that change. The hypocrisy in the number of people I saw posting about this issue and also advocating for or accepting the racist policies that are pervasive in America is normal for me. It’s almost like there’s a weird social pressure that people feel that you’re complicit in this racist system if you don’t post about Ahmaud. And this should not be the case. If anything, to see those who are exposing this hypocrisy in their attitudes daily, who do not share any interest in learning about black issues, are only showing how you are willing to feel good about yourself when sharing this without taking any steps on Black issues. I do not care whether you post or don’t post about Ahmaud.
What I care about is whether you want to take the next steps to inform yourself of prison abolition, of police brutality, of redlining, and then using your voting power to make such change.
I found this great thread on Twitter about steps non-Black people can take to use this moment as a time for a change that I will link below for everyone:
If I were to tell you the one overall sentiment I feel about Ahmad’s modern lynching, about the current state of Black affairs, about this all right now, it’s hopelessness. My pessimism about the world and our standing in America is the lowest it’s ever been. I am devastated and do not know what to do next. We are in the midst of one of the worst wealth redistributions in American history, with Black businesses being denied loans and us dying at exponentially higher rates than everyone else. It seems like everything is being stacked against us.
But, there is nothing I believe in more than Black people.
Black people built this nation to what it has become, been able to actualize and bring forth the values of our constitution. I believe in us to rise and continue to fight for our humanity because I know we always have. We have to be crazy enough to believe that there is hope because no one else will do that for us. That is what we must do. And that’s what I hope to continue to do and try to actualize in my life. I don’t know where we will be after Ahmaud’s trial. There will be no justice because justice should be him continuing to go out for jogs and to be with his family. But, we must believe in our collective power to get closer and closer to the future that we want.