On Tuesday, February 22, the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of hate crimes. This is on top of their previous convictions of other charges including malice murder.
Two years ago, on February 23 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, an African American, was jogging in Satilla Shores, Georgia. Three white men, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael (a former police officer), and William “Roddie” Bryan, started pursuing him in their vehicles. They claimed that Arbery resembled someone who had been recently burglarizing the neighborhood. After a few minutes of pursuit, the three white men cornered Ahmaud Arbery with their trucks and Travis McMichael got out of his truck with a shotgun and advanced towards him. After a brief scuffle, McMichael shot Arbery with a shotgun three times, killing him.
It took over two months for any arrests to be made for anyone responsible for the killing of Arbery. By that time the release of video footage of the killing combined with the movement in support of Black lives forced the system to respond. Ultimately, the three men were charged with murder and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Was the killing of Ahmaud Arbery a racially motivated hate crime? Of course it was! Why is it that Arbery, a clearly unarmed man jogging in the middle of the day was seen as suspect enough to warrant being chased around by men with firearms? Could it have something to do with his skin color? One might think that Jim Crow racism never ended as these three vigilantes made it their duty to enforce the unwritten rules of “jogging while Black” or “being Black in the wrong neighborhood.” In addition, in this new trial plenty of evidence was displayed – in the form of personal testimonies of people that knew them and a trail of electronic communications – that the three men responsible for the killing held deeply racist views.
It is true that this verdict reached is indeed a victory of sorts. But it is not a victory of the American justice system, but rather a victory of the mass movement that exploded in the summer 2020 against racist police violence. It is also a victory of Arbery’s family and community that has rallied in support of justice. Ahmaud Arbery’s life did not matter much to the three men who ultimately ended it. However, in spite of this, it is precisely the movement that demanded that “Black Lives Matter” that forced the system to respond.