Friday, May 08, 2020

thoughts on ahmaud

Ahmaud Arbery.

I don't speak about a lot of social justice, because I personally think much of it is political and for show, and it drowns out the real cases that need to be seen.

Full disclosure... I actually am a half minority -- Mexican dad, white mom, and grew up in a tiny south Alabama town who had a small, but not tiny, minority. And while my town wasn't racist, it was a byproduct of the south in the 80s, much like most other towns then... and unfortunately, with some places, now.  But I spent five years in a larger town in college, a much more diverse town, and then the last 22 in the big city of Birmingham.

Back to Ahmaud... this is something I had to work through. It's easy to say "didn't you see the video? what more do you need?" but give me a little grace on this, if you don't mind.

I'm someone who tries to look at everything and figure out what happened -- I'm usually not quick to comment on an event like this until some time has gone by for me to figure out my thoughts. And I did this same with this... I mean, I've seen the video... or at least what I could find. There are uncut versions of it, but I didn't search too hard... what I saw was enough.

So let's walk through this together.

A guy who was jogging and was killed.

This wouldn't be news in our country, because this stuff happens, right?

Then you pull back a little.


He was a black man jogging. And he was murdered by two good ol' boys in a pick up truck. This is news in our country, and yes, this stuff does happen.

(by the way, I use "rednecks" and "good ol boys" here very loosely, because I know both rednecks and good ol boys in my own life who are amazing people... its just a nickname I've given the three men in question. Don't read anything into it)

Then you pull back a little further, as much as we can at this point to examine what we know. A video of a Ahmaud jogging through a predominately white neighborhood. Ahmaud comes across a parked truck, he cuts right around it, and someone (the son, apparently) gets out of the driver side, shotgun in hand, confronts him as Ahmaud comes around the truck.

We see this video because a third man is filming on his cell phone from a car that was seemingly following Ahmaud. The video is a little shaky, and it catches both the son and Ahmaud in a struggle, shotgun between them. We hear several gunshots, and the video that I've seen cuts off before he is shot. Again, there is an uncut version out there that shows him being shot and falling to the ground, but I didn't see it and don't care too.

Despite this looking as cut and dry as possible, there are some lingering questions that need answering...

First, didn't these guys think he was a suspect in a recent string of break-ins?
Okay, let's go with that. So instead of running away fast, hiding, Ahmaud is jogging -- not running -- jogging in broad daylight. Plus, even if he had been spotted climbing out of a window and was running with a handful of diamonds in his hand, that's a call to the cops to say "Hey, we think this guy is a suspect, come get him".

Wasn't one of those dudes law enforcement?
I heard it was former, but let's go with this too. Consider this - in our society, if you don't understand what a black man thinks when two rednecks in a pick up truck pull up and ask you to stop, you aren't paying attention.

I'm guessing they didn't say "Hey man, did you see The Last Dance?" or "Hey, can you tell me how to get the Super Walmarts?", rather I'm pretty sure they were yelling. From the video, I am presuming they were yelling at him as he approached. What do you do? You let him run right by you and then make a phone call -- "Hey, I used to work for you guys, I think we have a suspect, come get him." Right or wrong, racist or not, Ahmaud lives, and you are a douchebag racist for calling the cops on a black man because he looks guilty.

But wasn't it self defense?
If there was one guy, you might have a chance at that. We only see Ahmaud jogging, the truck stopped and the son fighting him over the shotgun. They shot him twice. If you want to subdue him, there are THREE country boys there - two in the truck, one filming -- to do so.

Yet, only the son went after him. And again, of course Ahmaud is going to fight back.


I'm no videologist, but my guy is wearing running shorts and a t-shirt and it's very, very obvious he's unarmed. If you argue he may have had a knife, remember there are THREE people to subdue him... or THREE people with phones to call authorities.

But no phone calls were made. They shot him twice.

Once, you can maybe MAYBE pass off as an accident... you back up, call the police immediately, and then give your story.

Far fetched, but maybe.

Twice, though... that's murder.

I'm even willing to believe they didn't initially intend to kill him -- but I am convinced they wanted to hurt him, maybe hurt him bad. And when they shot him once, they shoot him twice to make sure he doesn't talk. You can say I've seen too many episodes of Law & Order, but you can't keep him from talking unless you keep him from talking.

Aren't they innocent until proven guilty?
Yes they are. We see what the video shows us, it's what happened before and after that we don't see that is the question. But the fact is, these men shot and killed someone jogging through his own neighborhood because he looked like a suspect, so it's not whether they did it, it's the "why they did it" that will remain the question.

They had options. They had ways to subdue him if they felt like they should have, and then we are having a different conversation, one about assaulting a likely innocent black man and we get the fallout from that instead. And Ahmaud lives.

But you don't know what happened, what he may have done before you see this video?
This is true. We don't know. One side will portray Ahmaud as a choir boy angel, the other side will portray him as a gangbanger murdering drug addled criminal. Usually, I'd tell you the truth lies somewhere in between, but screw that. Not here. Not in this case. No "what you don't see" could truly justify lying in wait for someone to attack and then kill them.

It doesn't matter what he did, what his life was like, how he treated our rednecks in question. What mattered is if they truly wanted to capture him because they thought he committed a crime, there are 100 ways to do it where Ahmaud doesn't even get hurt. This was a murder.

For the record, I think Ahmaud was a regular dude with a regular life, a guy that most of us would probably hang out with...

This was a murder. A flat out killing. Would assassination be too strong a term?

Personally, I think they intended to get him, to hurt him. I think they waited for him, confronted him, and when just hurting Ahmaud wasn't enough, they murdered him. And it's abhorrent. It's disgusting.

We can also talk all day long about why this happened in February, and why the men were just now arrested here in May, and to that, I have no answers, mostly because I don't know those facts. I can give my thoughts on that later, when more of that part of the story comes out.

But right here, right now, these men murdered Ahmaud Arbery. Maybe they did it because Ahmaud was black, or maybe they did it because he just happened to be the guy they didn't like -- I lean towards the former - but make no mistake, these guys murdered him in cold blood. And its revolting. And disgusting. And this is a case that justice needs to be done with due process according to our laws -- and these men must be punished.

I've spent my life supporting the death penalty and over the last few years, have changed my thinking on it not because I don't support capital punishment but because I feel like we get it wrong too many times. But I don't think this would be getting it wrong. Sometimes the video doesn't tell the whole story. This video shows enough. The questions I've asked have no answers other than it was a premeditated crime.

I'm proud to see nearly everyone I know rise up for this. I surf Twitter and FB on the regular, and haven't seen one single instance of anyone supporting the rednecks in question (aside from a Facebook group that exists called Justice for The Rednecks -- they don't get the right of me mentioning any of their names) ... rather friends both liberal and conservative and in between all are behind this.

And let's be real here, whether you agree with this or not, or whether this statement makes you angry or not, the truth is that every death of a minority at the hands of law enforcement doesn't mean it's racially motivated, and in the case of law enforcement, doesn't mean it's unjustified... but anyone who agrees with that statement must also agree that sometimes it IS racially motivated and it IS unjustified.

By the way, this isn't an invite to send me a list of names that you think were innocent until they were murdered by authorities. I can write thoughts on those stories on another day. 

It saddens me that something like this either is, or will be, turned into a political statement by those who have the power to make changes, because sometimes it is a clear case of bad men doing bad things to an innocent man.

We as a culture, must be smart enough to recognize when the uproar is necessary.

In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, it's totally necessary. 

He deserves justice. And I think he's going to get it.