Unless you live under a rock and/or do not access social media, I am 100% sure my readers are aware of the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, shot by two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who confronted Arbery while he was jogging around his own neighborhood on 25 February 2020. Initially, the McMichaels were not charged with a crime for shooting and killing Arbery whom the McMichaels said they mistakenly thought was a burglary suspect.
The whole “taking the law into your own hands” concept aside, it didn’t help matters that the elder McMichael was once in law enforcement and worked closely with the county district attorney and other law enforcement officials (all kinds of conflicts of interest) who were initially seemingly accepting of his version of events leading up to Arbery being murdered.
Thankfully, the incident was captured on video by a bystander and that video was released to the public, resulting in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation getting involved after a social media and traditional media firestorm. The McMichaels were subsequently indicted, charged, and arrested and are currently being held without bond.
As outrageous as the Arbery killing is and as outraged as all of us should be that this sort of thing is still happening in 21st century America, the tweet that opens this post (shared by a great friend on Facebook) exposes a very uncomfortable truth that I feel deserves as much attention as the attention we are giving to yet another senseless killing of a young black man at the hands of (ostensibly) racist white men…
The senseless killing of young black men at the hands of other young black men.
I know what many of my readers might be thinking, but Officer Brandon Tatum’s tweet indeed brings up a valid point.
You can read about the Lee murder here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/17/us/chicago-tyshawn-lee-murder-trial/index.html
Many of my readers will construe bringing up the senseless killing of 9-year old Tyshawn Lee in 2015 by black gang members who targeted and killed him in his own neighborhood, as a deflection from the racially-motivated killing of Arbery. However, this is certainly not the point that I am making.
Speaking for myself, comparing and contrasting the two murders does not in any way minimize either murder.
I am not bringing up Tyshawn Lee’s senseless murder by black gang members in an effort to take anything away from the senseless murder of Ahmaud Arbery by white men using the typical stereotypical “blacks are inherently criminal” justification defense. The point that Tatum’s tweet and my post speak to is with regard to how we Americans reacted to the Arbery murder compared to the lack of public reaction to the Lee murder.
I fault our media’s penchant for sensationalism and sowing the seeds of controversy and racial animus when it is convenient as well as our own selective outrage as a society.
A very powerful quote regarding the media illustrates the problem I speak of most succinctly:
If a dog bites a man, it is not news, but if a man bites a dog, it is.Charles A. Dana
Intrarracial crime is often treated in the media as “dog bites man“ stories that should not concern us very much, whereas interracial crime is “man bites dog” and deserves outsized attention and outrage. This is the crux of the uncomfortable perspective that Officer Tatum’s tweet highlights, at least in my mind.
To be fair, the Arbery murder speaks to centuries of racism in this country and is reminiscent of a time when racist white people could kill black people with impunity because white Americans who murdered blacks and other minorities out of pure racism could count on the malfeasance of an all-white law enforcement and judicial system to either look the other way or acquit them.
Arguably, one could say the we are still living in such times right now as the Amber Guyger case and other cases involving the shooting of unarmed and innocent black people by whites attests to.
Case in point, if not for the collective outrage and the irrefutable video evidence of the crime, the McMichaels might very well have gotten away with Arbery’s murder. It is horrifyingly disconcerting how willing local law enforcement and local prosecutors were to look the other way in this case before it became untenable for them to do so. People should absolutely be outraged not just at the circumstances surrounding the Arbery murder, but that duly elected and/or appointed officials were willing to give Arbery’s killers a pass.
White people getting away with killing innocent black people is still an unfortunate and legitimate concern that all Americans should work to eradicate in this country once and for all. However, the Tatum tweet is correct in that virtually no one cared about the Lee murder, least of all the people who live under the terrorism of street gangs in our largest cities.
In fairness (again), Lee’s killers were caught and convicted. There was no one in law enforcement or the judicial system in Chicago willing to let Lee’s killers slide, unlike Arbery’s killers. However, the zealous and emotional response on the part of the public to see that the McMichaels answer for their crimes was virtually nonexistent for Lee’s killers.
Like any white supremacist group or individual racist criminal, street gangs are terrorists too. Like the aforementioned white supremacy groups and Islamist terrorists groups in the Middle East and parts of Africa, street gangs use appeals to unity and brotherhood (tribalism), fear, and murder to hold entire neighborhoods in abject terror.
Oftentimes, law enforcement and prosecutors look the other way with regard to drug dealers and street gangs for many of the same reasons the law enforcement officials and prosecutors were willing to let the McMichaels slide. Racial indifference towards the victims or the communities being victimized.
For the public to be outraged by the circumstances surrounding the Arbery murder and not the Lee murder is an egregious incongruence that I am glad Officer Tatum is speaking out on. That “don’t snitch” is seen in inner city communities as a protective measure speaks to a lack of efficacy within those communities as well as a major impediment to law enforcement efforts in those communities.
We as a society should be just as outraged at the circumstances that led to Lee’s untimely death as we are at the circumstances that led to Arbery’s death.
It is during times like these that we should stop and reflect upon all of the voices that speak out on tragedies like the Arbery murder and not just the voices we agree with or that fuel our outrage.
If we as a country truly valued human life unconditionally, “man bites dog” would be news for an entirely different reason. If we had the same energy for Tyshawn Lee that we have for Ahmaud Arbery, Chicago, Illinois and Brunswick, Georgia would be safer places for everyone.
It’s time we held our officials at every level accountable whether “man bites dog” or “dog bites man”.
-The Rational Ram