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Deadly Exercise: Jogging While Black-Updated

Updated: May 12, 2020

Add yet another non-criminal offense to the list of things that black men can be killed for in America: jogging.

(Listen to the podcast.)

Though it happened in February, video surfaced just this week of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery a 25-year-old black man who was jogging a few miles from his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23.

More than two months after the killing, Georgia officials finally arrested and charged the killers, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis. Apparently authorities were shamed into action by the national outrage sparked by the video, shot by a bystander who didn’t know Arbery or the men who killed him.

“I will be looking into how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement to The Washington Post, reported May 9, “The family, the community, and the state of Georgia deserve answers. We need to know exactly what happened, and we will be working tirelessly with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Brunswick community and others to find those answers.”

Glynn County commissioner Peter Murphy said he also plans to call for an investigation into the prosecutors and police agencies that investigated Arbery’s shooting over the past two months, The Post reported.

Short and shocking, the video appears to show Arbery running at a jogger’s pace as he approaches a pickup truck parked in the street. There are two white men -- one outside in the street with a shotgun and the other standing in the truck's flatbed. Armed with the shotgun is 34-year-old Travis McMichael and in the flatbed is his father, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael.

As Arbery approaches the truck, he jogs around it and just as he clears the truck he is confronted by Travis McMichael and they wrestle with the shotgun. Shots are fired and Arbery tries to run away, but is clearly wounded and his knees buckle as he collapses to the ground. This is where the video ends.

The McMichaels’ Story

Travis and Gregory McMichael admitted they chased down Arbery believing he was responsible for a spate of neighborhood burglaries and they intended to make a citizen’s arrest, permitted under Georgia law.

They did not call the police. When the younger McMichael confronted Arbery, a struggle ensued and Arbery was shot and killed. Travis McMichaels said Ahmaud Arbery attacked him and he defended himself. He also told investigators that he rolled Ahmaud Arbery’s body over to view it after he had fallen.

Travis’ father, Gregory McMichael, is a former investigator for the local District Attorney’s (DA) office. When the video was presented to the local DA of the shooting, he punted the case to another local jurisdiction because he considered it a conflict of interest. That jurisdiction also transferred the case to a third jurisdiction for Grand Jury consideration.

Initially, it was expected the case would not be considered until mid-June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the announcement by a Georgia prosecutor that the case would be presented to a grand jury for consideration of murder charges against the two men came Tuesday. That was the day the video surfaced, sparking outrage and reigniting America’s debate about whether black lives matter. Two days later, the two men were arrested.

Ahmaud Aubrey Was Unarmed

Unarmed., Aubrey was jogging just a few miles from his home and the McMichaels didn’t call the police to confront the person they thought was a suspect. They simply took matters into their own hands, went out armed and killed a black man on suspicion that he might have been a burglar.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it happens all too often in America. An unarmed black man is killed by a white person because he is perceived as a threat. No weapon. Making no threat. And in this case, no evidence of any stolen items from the alleged burglaries. Nothing. Just the assailant’s perception that the black man was a threat.

Rights Stolen from Black Men

What’s agonizing and infuriating in this case and so many others is that unarmed black men are killed by white men because they are perceived as being a threat, whether they know the killer or not. Often, the killer’s sole defense is that they felt threatened. Even if there is no weapon.

Ahmaud Arbery likely felt threatened. Who wouldn’t be if accosted by an unknown assailant brandishing a shotgun? He struggled to save his life with the only weapon he had, his hands. He was shot and killed. For what reason? He was black.

Are Armed Whites Less Threatening Than Unarmed Blacks?

Juxtapose this case with the current protests regarding stay at home orders. It’s ironic that today, protests resulting from those orders are revealing a stark racial contrast in treatment of citizens in America.

As mass demonstrations at state capitals by white, armed protesters standing before law enforcement officers are televised, black Americans are noting the difference. The protesters are demanding their freedom to move about and that businesses be opened during the pandemic. Despite being armed, they stand in the face of law enforcement officers often with their teeth bared and their weapons visible, screaming for their "freedom".

These armed, angry protesters always walk away unharmed. They may be peacefully protesting, but the mere presence of weapons poses a threat to others and to law enforcement.

Conversely, an unarmed black man out for a jog near his neighborhood and minding his own businesses winds up dead because he was merely suspected of having committed some past crime, chased down like an animal by vigilantes, shot and killed.

There’s no clearer demonstration than this that black men – black people in America – armed or unarmed – don’t have the same rights and privileges as white people -- despite the Constitution’s assertion that all men are created equal. But equality doesn’t extend to black people. Especially black men.

So blacks are left to scream in rage at funerals for unarmed black men killed unjustly every year by white assailants.

When will it end?

Cries for racial justice may go unanswered, but we black Americans will never stop demanding it -- for Ahmaud Arbery and every other black man killed unjustly.

Today, Friday May 8 would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday. Supporters of Arbery are asking that people jog 2.23 miles, representing the date of his death to mark the occasion.

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