I am typically not one to hold my tongue. I am outspoken and seldom refrain from expressing my opinion when I am asked or when circumstances warrant my input.
That said I have been noticeably quiet about the Ahmaud Arbery tragedy and the outrage that has been mounting. Not because I do not care (which is absolutely NOT the case), or because I am too busy to comment. As with every significant issue I observe, I take my time, assess the facts, review the details, listen intently for input from all sides of the matter and most importantly bide my time until I have something of value to add.
Friends have asked several times since the video of the shooting gained national attention, what I thought. Many were surprised by my silence. Again, I do not throw my opinion around for the mere sake of doing so. I think that is a very presumptuous and rather discourteous practice. Not to mention, too many comments and speculative thoughts tend to muddy already murky waters and results in precisely what I am concerned is happening now; the bigger issue becomes overshadowed. Based on that, here is what I think:
I am devastated by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. As the father of a son I love dearly, this situation resonates with painful empathy. We raise our children to be good, honorable, respectful, law-abiding, God-fearing members of society. We sacrifice to give them the life we did not have. We educate and care for them and nurture their spirituality. Only to send them into a world where their lives can be taken in an instant for no reason other than the way they look or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am at a loss; completely, utterly speechless. I have no idea what I can tell a young man (or woman) who asks, “Why is it I do everything right, and I am still a target?” My son is a little older than Ahmaud would have been he not been gunned down. I taught him to judge each person on there own merit and character and not to fall victim to the preconceived notions that cause such rifts in our society. I encourage my son to work hard and keep God first and assure him that everything else will take care of itself. Ultimately, if you are not a menace you will be just fine. He has surely complied.
Yet, here I stand at this moment having taught him everything I believed would keep him safe when something like this happens. As a father who he still counts on to guide him through life’s challenges, I am at a loss. Honestly, if he were to ask me today what to do if he was confronted with the same way Ahmaud was I would have no idea what to tell him. It would begin: “The young man was just jogging. trying to get some exercise, …” and I would have absolutely nowhere to go from there because it does not make sense to me!
To think that could have been my son jogging breaks my heart. This could have been anyone’s boy; YOUR son, nephew, grandson, brother, student. We are all Ahmaud Arbery. That, in my humble opinion, is the ultimate point. We are ALL Ahmaud Arbery. And as I write this, teary-eyed and helpless, knowing that this could have been my boy I have to find the strength to say to the misguided: Stop muddying the waters of this tragedy with hate and misunderstanding and cries of racism. Open your eyes and see that a family is without their son and that another family (whether you care personally or not) is completely destroyed; see that a nation is divided, our children are at risk and we as parents need to do better.
I do not know what prompted Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis to murder this young, unarmed, defenseless young man. I do not dwell in the mind of men who clearly have a severely warped disconnect with reality. Do I believe they should be charged and face their day in court? Yes. Do I think this incident has racial undertones? Yes. Have I prayed and sympathized with Ahmaud’s family? My God, YES! But we are too quick sometimes to point a finger of racism without seeing that both men who killed this young man should be brought to justice not because this is a racial issue but because this is an attack on humanity; on our sensibilities as decent human beings. The McMichael’s took a life. They claimed one of our children before God, the ultimate arbiter, decided it was time to bring him home. The life of any of our children is worth so much more.
I do not think I will ever comprehend why people who have strong opinions about an issue as divisive as the Ahmaud Arbery case automatically earns them the label of “racist”. I am confused, angry, and utterly disappointed that some have suggested that my thoughts on this travesty of justice make me a racist. Really? I can only surmise that those who posed the question or boldly made the ill-conceived accusation obviously do not know me. But more importantly, they are so focused on their own skewed views on the issue they fail to recognize that I am not just a black man, I am a father. How sad to assume that I stand in solidarity with the family simply because of the color of my skin, and not because as a parent, I am heartbroken.
If you want to label me anything, label me a parent who now has to find a way to make sure his own son never falls victim to the business end of hate. Label me a victim…of a tragedy… that should never have happened. No matter why he killed this promising young man, the fact of the matter is Ahmaud is gone from us all too soon.
So yes; march, run, sign petitions, voice your outrage. Please! Ahmaud Arbery should remind us all, that humanity is in crisis. Lives are discounted. Our children are at risk.
Do not wait for another tragedy to take up arms. Fight every day, for the sake of our society. Let us not cry for another Ahmaud.