I just got off the phone with a number of local and state government offices in Georgia. And by that I mean, I wasn’t able to speak with more than a single human after encountering one overflowing voicemail after the next via RunWithMaud.com. That itself is a good thing, an indication that advocates are beating down the lines with messages. The reason for all the calls? Not so good.
On February 23rd, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in broad daylight in Brunswick, Georgia. The people responsible for gunning him down are former police officer and investigator Gregory McMichael and his son Travis. The pair were convinced that Ahmaud was the perpetrator behind a string of robberies that had taken place in the neighborhood. It triggered them to take action, to hunt down the man – who was later found to be unarmed — and shot him to death.
The McMichaels are white. Ahmaud was black.
It was only hours ago that the news reported the McMichaels had been arrested, months after the incident occurred and after an explosion of outrage on social media following the release of the murder video — which tends to be the usual series of events that galvanizes law enforcement to take action.
Fury over the unwarranted death of yet another innocent black life manifests itself in protests, in the streets, on social media and countless online stories. The only reason this case is now taking its first small step towards action is not due to the injustice of it all — no, that could have taken place months ago. It is in response to the rage that spread like wildfire in the digital realm that lends itself to bad publicity. It does nothing to address the root of the problem: racism. The racism that permeates our systems and leads us to regularly murder black people without batting an eye. A system that refuses to acknowledge the exorbitant levels of discrimination that occurs at every stage of life for black people. A system that would rather continue the vicious cycle than take the appropriate steps to break and reverse it. A system that simply devalues black and brown bodies.
A system that goes further back than most of us are even aware: to the early days of colonization. Discrimination against darker skin can be found in countless cultures. Fair and Lovely is a skin lightening product introduced by India, a country once conquered by the British. A nation whose people learned first-hand what undue hardship was simply because of the color of their skin. Decades after gaining sovereignty, India’s attitude remains, evidence that it takes a long, long time to rid ourselves of this deeply engrained and baseless condescension towards pigmented skin. An attitude that can effectively determines one’s quality of life — if one is able to have a life at all.
So what do we do with all this anger? How do we eradicate centuries of racism that were literally woven into our laws, the effects of which can still be found in the way education systems are segregated? How can we expect to stop this violence when many are still unable to wrap their minds around the root of the cause? How do we reverse this?
I don’t know if I have the answer, but I do know that persistence is key. The first step is to acknowledge the real evil that is taking place. The second is to continue learning the roots of our history from authors that do not bend the past to the favor of the victor, and to keep educating others — do your research. The third is to stay angry, stay woke. The fourth is to never stop fighting for the cause — whether its by way of protest, through advocacy, by inserting uncomfortable topics of conversation to groups who need to hear it the most, by bombarding politicians and government offices with phone calls, or all of the above and more.
Hold on to that rage, but don’t let it eat you alive — use it.