On the 23rd of February just outside of Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot and killed by 64-year-old retired officer, Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael.
With the footage of the of the killing cascading through the Twittersphere, people have jumped on the racial bandwagon, comparing it to a ‘modern day lynching’. Prominent figure and NBA Superstar, Lebron James, was quick to tweet out his anger – implying that black people are being ‘hunted’ by the white man.
The part that seemingly is corrected is the presumption of innocence because of the long-established friendship between Gregory McMichael and his fellow officers, tasked with investigating the case.
But is it true that racial biases played a role? In the case of Gregory and Travis McMichael, it very well could; we would have to see as more evidence comes through.
The pair have since been arrested and charged of murder and aggravated assault according to Georgia’s investigation bureau. But is there a defence for them?
They have a very strong case stacked against them as the video evidence is incredibly damning. Many, predominantly on the republican side of the aisle, have claimed that this is ‘citizens arrest’ and therefore somewhat lawful. This isn’t the case. In order to perform a citizen’s arrest, under Georgia state law, you must have witnessed a crime being committed. From the evidence, they hadn’t witnessed a crime taking place at all.
Also, under Georgia state law, the use of ‘deadly force’ can only be authorised in self-defence. In the video, Arbery does reach for the weapon. However, what is the natural reaction to someone pointing a gun at you? You’d assume it’s either to run or point the ‘business end’ away from you at all costs.
Gregory and Travis McMichael only have a strong self-defence or citizens arrest claim if they had witnessed a crime in action. Even then, it would depend on the severity of the felony that was witnessed and whether it warranted deadly force. The future doesn’t look bright for the father and son, and with the evidence we’ve seen so far – rightly so!
However, the politics of the issue and partisan pandering often takes hold in the wake of such a tragedy, and this is no exception. Hilary Clinton famously said in 2009 “never waste a good crisis” and this death is already being militarised to produce a damning, Jim Crow-esque narrative against traditional American institutions.
The myth of the ‘black hunt’
The narrative that’s coming out of this is that the America is a horribly endemically racist country that hunts and oppresses the African-American class and this shooting has been used to springboard that claim further.
The truth is that blacks are not disproportionately killed by police officers like some would have you believe. According to Statista, black minorities are shot nearly half as much as white Americans. This has been controversial because it’s still disproportionate to the population as black/African Americans only constitute 13% of the population. But this is because they commit a disproportionate amount of crime. The reasons for that are completely up for debate, but higher crime rates inevitably mean more run-ins with the authorities.
Black/African Americans aren’t killed disproportionately by whites in wider society either. Black men constitute about 40% of homicide victims. Even then, there’s a 93% statistical likelihood that their assailant was also black.
This type of narrative is horrendous for black and African American minorities. Imagine, for one second, being a black individual in the US. You’re constantly told by prominent, majority democrat figures in the country that you’re ‘hunted’, you’re going to be shot by cops, you don’t have a chance at participating in the free market as racism prevents you rising ranks. How is anybody supposed to thrive in an environment that tells them they’re innately oppressed under false claims.
Black/African Americans are awarded the same rights as whites in the United States; they should also be treated as such and not herded into a corner for other people to use as political leverage.
Going back to the shooting, the question is now over whether justification of racial profiling is acceptable in any facet. There are two sides to this coin; both can very much be true at once. Does the racial profiling come from an ingrained belief in Black inferiority and white supremacy or is it one rooted in statistical likelihoods?
The answer is both. Racism isn’t gone and anyone that says it’s fully eradicated is profoundly wrong. But to neglect the statistically increased likelihood of higher crime rates in some black communities especially as an officer maybe dealing with a firearm-related, life-or-death situations is idiotic.
Does this mean all black people are criminals? ABSOLUTELY NOT and anyone that says so is doing so from a place of malice and ill-intent. But if you’re an officer and relayed information about increased threats in certain areas, that just so happen to coincide with a statistical reality, are you a racist? Not necessarily.
In the tragic case of Ahmaud Aubrey, it’s highly likely the assailants will be sentenced appropriately given the damning evidence. Based on the evidence, it seems that Gregory McMichael is just an over-zealous cop taking his ‘duties’ too far – but we can never rule out race as a potential motivator until more details arise.
However, using him as another case study of racial oppression and racist police brutality is not only disingenuous given the statistics, but hurts hardworking, aspiring black men and women by instilling an anti-American, anti-establishment world view that hurts their chances of success – which is we what any compassionate individual wants for them, the chance to succeed.