Ahmaud Arbery: Different Murder, Same Injustice

As I sat watching the news with my family, I was shocked to hear the story of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot by a white father and son while on his usual jog in a predominantly white neighborhood.

As I sat watching the news with my family, I was shocked to hear the story of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot by a white father and son while on his usual jog in a predominantly white neighborhood.After two months with no repercussions or charges against the McMichaels—the two men who killed Arbery—media outlets flooded with news of this tragic event, and people over social media came together to fight against this injustice. The activism, however, cannot erase the disturbing nature of this case. Arbery’s murder eerily resembles many others in history and illustrates how racial inequality and division remain a serious problem in the United States; but, his story more so highlights that we have grown complacent with our progress on racial equality even as there is a constant presence of racial violence in our society.

The men who killed Arbery were not charged with murder until last week on Thursday, May 7, because they claimed self-defense, saying that they only shot the victim because he attacked them. However, such justifications are not unique in history, as George Zimmerman used the same excuse when he was tried for murdering Trayvon Martin in 2012. Martin was a young, black boy who was walking back from a trip to the store while wearing a hoodie when Zimmerman, the local neighborhood watchman for the night, shot him. Later, Zimmerman claimed that he was afraid for his life and thus acted out of self-defense. Despite being arrested, Zimmerman was later acquitted of his charges in shooting Martin because of the “stand your ground” law—a law that states that a person may defend him/herself or others against threats or perceived threats through lethal force, even if there was an opportunity for a peaceful resolution. The judges took Zimmerman’s word over the death of a black child. Many perpetrators like Zimmerman and the McMichaels are able to get away with their crimes not just because of this self-defense law but because the justice system is still extremely biased in America, allowing for the murders of black people to continuously slip away. In all of these cases, the justice system consistently failed African Americans and prioritized the word of white suspects over the black victims, even if it had no empirical or valid basis. Arbery’s case is not an outlier. It is the norm. His murder shows the inequality in America’s justice system that has been proven over and over. This isn’t a new problem; rather, it is a problem that has persisted in our society for years. When and how will it ever end?

Arbery’s murder also reveals the rampant problem of racism in 21st century America. He was not killed because he attacked anyone or resembled a car thief, as the perpetrators claimed. The video captured of the shooting clearly revealed that Arbery did not pose a threat to himself or anyone around him. He was killed because he was a black man in a predominantly white neighborhood. Arbery was killed because of the segregation that still exists that makes it so that a black man finds it incredibly difficult to live among white people or enjoy the same pleasures as white people. Arbery simply wanted to run in his neighborhood, and he could not even relish a simple leisurely activity. It is important that everyone realizes that racism is not something to be equated with the past. It is a living, unnerving issue within twenty-first-century America, causing the deaths of innocent people like Arbery and Martin. Arbery should have had the right of any citizen; he should have been allowed to run in his neighborhood and he should have been allowed to live in peace. Instead, he was killed.

The issue of racism and racial violence is not resolved and is still very noticeable, especially in the Deep South. Racial injustice and inequality are larger and more important issues than most acknowledge, and we cannot stop or slow down our fight for justice just because we’ve made progress over the past few decades. Nevertheless, the death of Ahmaud Arbery revealed that our voices matter and that we have the power to make a difference. A number of people expressed outrage online, sparking a massive media response that demanded justice. Some protested by running like Ahmaud. Since the protests and posts began, over two months after the shooting, the two perpetrators have been arrested. While it’s not a full victory, it’s a step in the right direction. From these protests, we can see that spreading awareness of the injustice of the justice system does help bring about change. Thus, we must resist growing complacent and continue using this power to push for change. Nothing will be significantly different unless we push the justice system to reform and be based on fairness and equality rather than placing the word of a white person over the word of a black person. In order for true reform, black people must be included fairly and justly in U.S. law. Black people should not have to protest to be able to run in their own neighborhoods, or buy Skittles at a store, or get justice in the U.S. courts. Otherwise, the cycle of violence and death without consequences will continue indefinitely.

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