Reviews | Guilty verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery case are welcome respite


The three accused of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of murder.

Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood in South Georgia. The men formed a group which became what has been described as a “lynch the crowd. “They stalked Arbery, stalked him, insisted on to possess him, then one of the men – Travis McMichael – blew him up with a shotgun three times.

It was filmed, ironically, by one of the men now convicted of the murder.

The guilty verdicts have landed strangely for me. It was the right decision, the way it should have been. There was an impulse to celebrate victory, but it was a bit like celebrating a mother who takes care of her children or respects her spouse.

If you are human, this is what you do, not because there is a need for fanfare, but because it is the right and honorable way to behave.

But that’s it: our justice system is so racist, so often allowing vigilantes and police officers to kill black people with impunity, that the mere fact that the system doesn’t work that way becomes extraordinary.

I want to applaud the possibility.

I want to clap and scream and dance because I need to be reassured that while the racism plaguing America can be chronic and metastatic, it doesn’t need to be infallible and terminal.

Like many black people and many people of all races and ethnicities who value justice and fairness, I had to be reminded that black life is valued in this country – at least on occasion.

We have seen so many instances in which these lives seemed to not matter. Trayvon. Tamir. Eric. Bréonna. There are so many names over so many years. The drum of injustice is relentless. At some point, despite your best efforts, your senses begin to numb. The mind, spirit and body move to protect themselves from the trauma.

You become conditioned to black pain. You adapt to its ubiquity.

It doesn’t mean that every case doesn’t destroy a little piece of you, that you don’t mourn every loss and protest every injustice, but rather that psychic survival becomes an act of self-regulation.

And in that vein, the verdicts in this case are a welcome respite.

That’s not to say that this case was not without its own issues of inequality and elusive justice.

Police initially did not charge the men and they remained free men for more than two months until the video was released. The former prosecutor in the case was charged with charges that she sought to protect the men from prosecution.

And when the jury was chosen, it was made up of 11 white people and one person of color.

But in the end, justice always prevailed. The system that gave so many black man killers a pass said that in this case you cannot hunt and corner a man like an animal and take his life.

Of course, none of this will change the fact that Arbery was murdered. Nothing can bring him back. Nothing can ease the pain in his mother’s heart. But at least the pain was not worse like in other cases.

I dare not say that this case alone teaches us much about the American legal system. I dare not say that this shows a trend or a change. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

I will only say that a shooting star that crosses the night sky, disturbing the darkness, is worth noting and appreciating. It does not affect the night. He does not convert it into a day. He comes without warning, a phenomenon on his own, not a herald for others to follow.

That is how I will view the verdict in this case: I will simply appreciate it.

I will pray that this gives hope to the dozens of other suffering families like Arbery’s family, that it is possible that justice will be served in their cases as well, that at least for a few precious families, the system works in their favor.

Ahmaud Arbery was a person, a man, a human being with a future and a family. With hunting rifles, his assassins destroyed it all. They stole from him. They stole the people who loved him. They stole the world.

Wednesday’s verdict goes a bit in this direction.


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