Ahmaud Arbery, 25 years old, was lynched in Georgia in February, and we might never have heard of his lynching if some video footage of it had not emerged.
I don’t believe in using inflammatory racial language, such as the word “lynching,” lightly.
For example, in late January 2019 my U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris referred to the then-fresh Jussie Smollett case as “an attempted modern-day lynching.” She might have waited a bit before she made that proclamation, which very apparently turned out to be very much not the case.
There is no other word that I can think of, though, for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was shot down in the street in broad daylight by a white man and his white son in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, which we apparently are hearing about now only because some video taken by a witness of the incident has emerged.
It is not clear to me which one or if both of the men arrested for the crime, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis McMichael, shot and killed Arbery, but their story, even if true, is bullshit.
The McMichaels’ story is that they believed that Arbery was the suspect in neighborhood burglaries. Therefore, they pursued him, with firearms in their possession.
How the fuck does this story exculpate them in any way?
Even if Arbery were indeed a neighborhood burglar — it is believed that he was simply jogging in the neighborhood, not running away because he was a criminal — you don’t get to chase down someone you believe committed or might have committed a crime (or was about to commit a crime or might do so in the future) and then execute him or her on the fucking spot. You call the fucking police.
Because Arbery was black and very apparently unarmed and had not threatened anyone with any harm, and because he was killed by vigilantes who did not kill him in anything remotely like self-defense, he was killed primary because of his race — he was, in a word, lynched.
This is what happened in the “good old days” in the South (and elsewhere within the U.S., but mostly in the South): Whites would accuse a black person, usually a male, of some crime, and then apprehend and publicly kill him. Maybe the individual had committed a crime or not; that didn’t matter. What mattered most was that the victim was black.
Ahmaud Arbery was not hanged from a tree while the white denizens of the Georgia neighborhood enjoyed the display as a form of entertainment, as they did back in the day.
But Arbery was lynched, regardless.
Kamala Harris had it wrong in the Smollett case, but I guess that I stand corrected on her attempt to get federal anti-lynching legislation passed. She started this effort, with Cory Booker and Tim Scott, back in 2018, with the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, and while at the time that struck me as a purely political, identity-politics move — a “solution” looking for a problem that no longer even existed — I am sad to apparently have to stand corrected.
Wikipedia describes the anti-lynching act as “a proposed bill that would classify lynching, defined as bodily injury on the basis of perceived race, color, religion or nationality, a federal hate crime in the United States. The bill, largely symbolic, aims to recognize and apologize for historical governmental failures to prevent lynching in the U.S.”
Yes, but apparently it’s not only symbolic anymore.
Wikipedia also notes that “On February 26, 2020, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, a revised version of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 410-4.” (This was just three days after the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.)
To my knowledge, this federal anti-lynching legislation remains unpassed by the Senate and not signed into law by the “president.”
This federal law needs to be enacted, and we could call it the Ahmaud Arbery Anti-Lynching Act just as well.
And while I’m generally opposed to the death penalty, I can’t say that the likes of Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael deserve to still draw breath.
The death penalty is an egregious penalty, but lynching — actual lynching, not Jussie Smollett-style “lynching” — is an egregious crime that calls for an egregious punishment.