Ahmaud Arbery was an outgoing, funny, and friendly guy. 6’3 with chocolate-kissed skin, Ahmaud was a standout football player and played the sport throughout middle and high school. Ahmaud loved to exercise and made it a regular part of his life. He jogged daily-sometimes up to five miles per day.
One day, during one of his jogs, Gregory and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, began to chase Ahmaud. They yelled after him telling him to “Stop!” and saying that he fit the description of a burglar. Ahmaud was afraid as the two men chased him. He saw that they had guns and knew that they were probably judging him by the color of his skin. The men finally caught up to Ahmaud; they attacked him and shot and killed him.
Though Gregory and Travis had clearly killed Ahmaud, they did not arrest the McMichaels. They said that there was not enough evidence, but the truth is that they did not arrest them because Gregory was a former police officer. Two months after Ahmaud was killed, a video recording of the incident was leaked to the public showing what happened. It showed Travis shooting Ahmaud. Many people saw this video and began to demand for the arrest of Gregory and Travis. Because of this public pressure, the police arrested them a few days later. They are currently being held in jail and in a few months they will go before a judge and jury.
Why did this happen?
I would like to talk to you a little bit about why this happened. I know you are probably thinking that what these men did does not make sense. The simplest explanation is that these men assumed Ahmaud was dangerous, chased him down, and killed him because they were racist. A person is racist when they view others who are different from them as less valuable. When you view people as lesser than you are, it is easy to justify cruel things like killing them when they are out on a run. The men viewed Ahmaud as lesser and therefore did not hesitate to kill him.
As people of color, we do not need to be afraid of racism, but we do need to be aware. Racism is not always open and aggressive like this. It can be more subtle like someone making comments about how your name or hair are “so different.” Unfortunately, some people will not like you just because you have brown skin. They will not see how kind, funny, or intelligent you are; they will only see you as different and therefore they will treat you differently. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but it will happen.
You might be thinking what you can do to stop racism-and that’s a good question. While we cannot make people change their hearts, we can pray for them. We can share our different experiences and perspectives. We can also rally for change when we see injustice-just like all those who made calls and signed petitions to get the McMichaels arrested. Another important thing we can do is focus on building up people in our community so that we are supported by one another.
I want you to know that while these things happen and are terrible, you are special and your life is valuable. God made you, just like he made each and every one of us, and no one has the right to treat you differently just because of the color of your skin.