On February 23, 2020, unarmed Ahmaud Arbrey was gunned down in broad daylight by two armed men while taking a jog in Brunswick, GA. There were no arrests. It was not reported on the major news outlets. There was no outrage about it at all until the video of the incident went viral and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was forced to get involved. After public outrage and news coverage, the men who murdered Ahmaud were finally arrested on May 7, 2020.
It seemed unreal, like an old slave tale or something that happens in an undeveloped country. But it wasn’t. It was right here in Modern day America. As the mother of black boys who are becoming men, the incident deepened an existing wound of helplessness. I cried, not just for Ahmaud, but for all the black boys and men and women that have been killed and the pain that their families have experienced. I cried for my own sons who I feel powerless to protect or empower against someone deciding that their complexion is a threat. Rage brewed at the audacity of the judicial system in this country to casually decide our worth and recklessly take lives.
In my conversations with white people they seemed clueless at the perpetual damage to the psyche of being in an environment where your life is so fragile and ill regarded. Someone said the chance of something like that happening to my son’s was ‘ infinitesimal’ and I laugh-cried. Why would my son’s be special? Because I raised them right? Because they aren’t criminals? Because they somehow make white folk with guns comfortable? None of those things can protect my son’s lives.
While there is no extensive data that details vigilante or civilian killings of Blacks by whites, The available data is disturbing. Studies show that the single greatest threat to a black man in this country is an armed white man. “Multiple studies have shown that black men between the ages of 15-34 are between nine and 16 times more likely to be killed by the police than any other people”(The Atlantic,2016). Additionally, because of how young we are killed, our median life expectancy as a people declines. The median life expectancy of a slave was 36 in 1850. The life expectancy for whites was about 40. While the ages for both groups have significantly increased (71 and 78 respectively), blacks are far more likely to die at the hands of violence before 40, taking us right back to a slaves existence.
There have been marches, organizations and protests, but the beat goes on. The only relevant question has become how do we stop the killing of unarmed blacks? People have belabored language and posture, etc. But this is a systemic issue. A policy issue. This is a melanin issue. Blacks aren’t doing anything to warrant death, those with guns are just afraid of Black skin. The innards of our police and judicial system have to be churned, vomited out and restructured anew. We need a dedicated review of all police department hiring, training and shooting incidents. (Insert Unpopular opinion) Departments should be stripped of lethal weapons and have to undergo mandatory community police training. Finally policy needs to be implemented issuing a mandatory minimum sentencing penalty for unarmed shootings. Part of what fuels the killings is that there is no consequence. It may all sound so drastic, but isn’t a mother burying her child for no good reason with no one being punished drastic?
The change starts with policy and accountability through enforced legislation. Who will truly use their privilege and access to protect our future?