I trust that my readers are having a wonderful Thanksgiving 2021 weekend!
As I am sure everyone knows, all three men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia are now convicted of that crime and all face the prospect of life in prison as they enter the sentencing phase. This blog post will not recapitulate the trial or the events that led up to it. Instead, I wish to take the time to simply express my thoughts regarding the outcome of the trial, contrast that with the recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin, why both verdicts were the correct verdicts, and what the verdict in the Arbery case says about our justice system in the 21st century.
You can read more about the Amaud Arbery trial and its outcome at the link below
Many were concerned about the racial makeup of the jury who decided the fate of Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan on the eve of Thanksgiving 2021 (24 November 2021). There were eleven white jurors (9 women and 2 men) and only one black juror (male). The concern was obviously the notion that an overwhemingly white jury could not render a proper or just verdict against three white defendants in a southern state, especially when the victim is a young black man (Mr. Arbery was just age 25) in a racially charged case. Visions of Jim Crow justice, where white defendants were routinely found not guilty for lynching and killing black people, dominated the underlying narratives in this case and this trial.
As naive as what I am about to type may come across, I did not share the general public’s media-driven concerns about the racial makeup of the jury. What might have been cause for concern during the Jim Crow era, or even 20 or 30 years ago, is not a concern now in our modern society, in my humble opinion.
What I not-so-affectionately call the “racial grievance industry” (a different post for a different day, I promise) would have you believe that it is still the Jim Crow era in many parts of our country. The other side of the coin in the grievance industry plays upon the racial fears of white people. This dynamic obviously played a crucial part in the concerns over the racial makeup of the jury.
This is not to say that these concerns were not legitimate. The defense attorneys for the McMichaels and Bryan certainly tried to play on what they perceived and hoped were the racial biases of the mostly white jury. I will spare my readers and myself the indignity of citing the numerous examples of how the defense attorneys in this case tried to appeal to what they assumed were the racial fears and biases of the jury. My only point in mentioning this dynamic is to highlight my next point…
It is my belief that in a civil society such as ours, that people are fundamentally good and fundamentally fair; most people will do the right thing most of the time.
This is not to say that racism doesn’t exist.
This is not to say that racism doesn’t go both ways (so-called “people of color” being racist towards so-called white people).
This IS to say that it says something about us as a society that this verdict seems to have subverted the expectations of many.
Racial stereotypes most certainly still exist and still have an effect on people. It is incumbent upon each of us to challenge these stereotypes because the stereotypes can and do lead to dangerous assumptions about people, such as the dangerous assumptions that the McMichaels and Bryan made about Ahmaud Arbery on 23 February 2020.
Perhaps this verdict will serve as a caveat for those who use racial stereotypes to draw such dangerous assumptions and I certainly hope that it makes people, such as the McMichaels and Bryans of the world, stop and think before they act on such dangerous assumptions.
That said, let’s remove the racial aspects of this case and just look at what actually happened without the emotional lens…
Three men took the law into their own hands and took the life another man based upon dangerous and unfounded assumptions.
It’s as simple as that.
Nothing more to say.
This verdict and the Rittenhouse verdict are the correct verdicts if one takes the emotional and media-driven aspects of the cases out of the equation and just look at the facts of each case the way a jury is supposed to. The “court of public opinion” doesn’t have the benefit of looking at facts and the law the way a jury has to.
One must take the time to look at any case that the media covers with a “third ear” and a “third eye” (both are metaphors for your mind and your mind should always be open). One should never assume based on conjecture and innuendo that they absolutely know someone is guilty or innocent based upon anything other than facts. By “facts”, I mean real facts, not opinions stated as fact, as we so often find on social media posts and even blogs.
I try to make it clear on my blog that my opinions are just that, “my opinions”. I state facts to highlight how I formed my opinion on something, but I guard against conflating my opinions with the facts or try to characterize my opinions as being facts.
I think the juries in the Rittenhouse and McMichaels/Bryan cases based their verdicts on the law and the facts. Many people would like to think that Rittenhouse was absolutely the aggressor because he injected himself into the middle of a riot, armed with an automatic rifle and shouldn’t have traveled to Wisconsin (coming from Illinois) armed with a rifle to “defend property” that didn’t belong to him. All of this is really beside the point.
He was attacked by people who were in the midst of committing crimes and also armed. He had the natural right to defend himself. Why he was there in the first place doesn’t negate this fact. People looking for trouble will often find it, but simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if it is for a specious reason, is not against the law.
In the case of the McMichaels and Roddie Bryan, they were not injecting themselves into a chaotic situation to defend property. They themselves created the chaotic and dangerous situation that led to a man’s demise at their hands.
Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt that they simply saw Ahmaud Arbery as a suspicious person, they could have simply called the police and reported Arbery from the comfort and safety of their homes rather than take it upon themselves to violate Arbery’s civil liberty in an attempt to “question him” for even being in “their neighborhood”.
Juries are supposed to be objective and impartial. I participated on a jury as a foreman five years ago. Being objective and following the law is a point is greatly emphasized when the judge charges the jury on the law in a case before deliberations begin.
It is a point that I hope my readers are able to see.
I am genuinely impressed with the professionalism and acumen with which both these juries rendered their respective verdicts. This is another point lost in the emotions that the media actively stirred up in both cases, before, during, and now after both trials.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, racism in the 21st century doesn’t have the same effect that it had in the 20th century. Just ask the McMichaels and Roddie Bryan as they prepare to spend the rest of their lives in prison for letting their racial biases get the better of them, which in turn motivated them to commit a heinous crime.
They will have the rest of their lives to reflect upon the irony of their malignant vigilantism and that they will likely die in prison as a consequence of incorrectly assuming that a mostly white jury would be their saving grace.
That, my friends, is justice.
-The Rational Ram