At this point, most Americans may be familiar with the tragedy of Ahmaud Arbery’s death as news of the incident continues to circulate. Ahmaud was a 25-year-old African American who was fatally shot while jogging through a suburb near Glynn County, Georgia, after being chased down by Travis and Gregory McMichael. While the shooting took place on February 23, extensive media coverage of the murder has only recently begun to circulate, and until just over a week ago, no arrests had been made.
This shocking lag of nearly three months between murder and arrest has become a source of great controversy. According to Attorney Barnhill, the Glynn County police had little reason to investigate the shooting because of Georgia’s civil arrest law stating that a private citizen may arrest a criminal offender if the offense is committed in his presence, and use fatal force if necessary for self-defense. Yet, the McMichaels’ initial report indicates that these criteria were not met. The McMichaels did not even claim to have witnessed Ahmaud committing any crime; they merely told police, though providing no evidence, that they had suspected he was the burglar responsible for a recent slew of neighborhood break-ins. These factors eliminate any justification either for the McMichaels or for the Glynn County police; Ahmaud’s death was a modern day lynching, which the authorities willfully neglected to pursue.
The whole gross affair is a testament to the sad reality of racial profiling in the American justice system and the real need for reform. Yet, almost as despicable as the murder is the way so many groups have attempted to justify the slaughter. For instance, a Facebook group of over 100,000 members called “Christians Against Google” that recently changed its name to “Justice for Gregory and Travis Michael”, defended the shooters as “God-fearing men” trying to protect their neighborhood. That such a morbid perversion of Christian values could be expressed highlights even further the power of underlying racism, and the necessity of uprooting it from our society and government.
One might expect that as the pro-life party, Republican administration would be at the front lines of this fight; after all, to be pro-life is to actively defend human dignity at all stages and all forms, regardless of age, race, or nationality. Unfortunately, the response of Republicans in power thus far is disappointing. While Republican Governor Kemp eventually described Ahmaud’s shooting as horrific, his statement was slow in coming, provided only when forced by the onslaught of activist media attention. President Trump seemed to suggest to reporters in an interview that incomplete footage made discerning the full truth impossible. Such hesitance to denounce corruption minimizes the implications of the incident and the police department’s neglect, and it encourages officials to turn a blind eye to injustice. If not for the release of the leaked video proving that Ahmaud was attacked without provocation, the case might never have resurfaced, successfully hushed up and pushed down by local authorities. It forces us to wonder how many similar crimes not caught on camera have been “let slide”, and furthermore, how many more innocent men will die before our leaders acknowledge the discrepancy.
Sympathizers for Ahmaud and his family have been organizing, to the extent possible within current quarantine restrictions, demonstrations of solidarity all over the U.S., with rallies and virtual runs. Yet these efforts will not remedy the gaping wound of racism and hypocrisy in American politics and society which this case has brought to light. Until there is a fundamental change in the standards for deserving justice – until people stop treating humanity as a trait that needs to be proved- racism will continue to ruin lives and destroy dignity. The right to life does not discriminate, and as the pro-life generation, it is our responsibility to lead this charge.