Ahmaud Arbery is dead because he was a black man.
He was hunted down by two white strangers in broad daylight because he was two things: he was black and running, which was enough reason for them to grab weapons and get in their truck and chase him down and assassinate him in the road.
Being black and running was Ahmaud’s crime.
To some white people, you can’t be black and running,
you can’t be black and standing outside a convenience store,
you can’t be black and sitting in your car eating lunch,
you can’t be black and playing in a park,
you can’t be black and watching TV in your apartment,
you can’t be black and sleeping in your bed.
To some white people, you can’t be black.
For far too many white people, such things are probable cause for calls to the police and screamed threats and physical intimidation—and immediate executions.
This is the unthinkable reality of the America we still live in, and in this America there are only two kinds of white Americans: there are white racists and there are white anti-racists.
Not professed anti-racists, who click the roof of their mouths, feel an initial wave of sadness at news of murders of jogging black men—and then move on with their day.
Not anti-racists who endure grotesque racist dinner table diatribes from their uncles and mothers and husbands, and choose not to speak because they don’t want to deal with the blowback at home.
Not anti-racists who sit through incendiary Sunday sermons from supremacist pastors, and somehow find themselves in the same pew the next Sunday and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that.
Not anti-racists who absorb vile break room jokes and outwardly laugh along while internally feeling sick to their stomachs.
Not anti-racists who scroll past the most dehumanizing memes and videos from people they’ve grown up with and gone to high school with, not wanting to engage the collateral damage of publicly confronting them.
In the presence of this kind of cancerous hatred, the kind that killed Ahmaud Arbery, the kind that is having a renaissance here in America—there aren’t moderate grey spaces to sit comfortably and observe from a distance.
No, this is a place of stark black and white extremist clarity:
You oppose the inhumanity or you abide it.
You condemn the violence or you are complicit in it.
You declare yourself a fierce and vocal adversary of bigotry—or you become its silent ally.
White friends, we are being asked to be speak clearly because when we do, we place ourselves alongside those people who deserve to get up today and run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and relax in their homes—and we place ourselves across from the bigots who feel they will never be held accountable for not wanting them to do these things.
To be clear—this outward stance doesn’t erase our privilege or exempt us from our prejudices or remove the blind spots within us that perpetuate inequity. Those are realities we’ll have to continually confront in the small and close and quiet moments of the remainder of our lives. It doesn’t dismantle systemic racism or the institutional inequalities woven into our nation, which we benefit from.
But what our outward declaration will do, is to let other white people know where we stand: our neighbors and and pastors and co-workers and family members and social media friends.
It will place us decidedly on the side of black men jogging in their neighborhoods.
It will place us in unequivocal opposition to white men choosing to become judge, jury and executioner to a stranger, who have grown up never acknowledging the value of a black life—because so few white neighbors, pastors, co-workers, family members, or social media friends told them otherwise.
Whether Ahmaud Arbery’s killers are fully brought to justice or not, the malignant racism that engineered his death will be showing itself again today.
It will shout its inhumanity across tables and in pulpits and in break rooms and on our news feeds and in presidential tweets—and we who live with the unearned privilege of having children and fathers and sisters who can run and stand outside convenience stores and sit in their cars and play in the park and watch TV in their homes—without fearing the taunts and punches and bullets of irrational strangers, we have an obligation to speak explicitly and loudly now.
White Americans need to condemn white racism in America, or be guilty of it.
I want to be someone who condemns it.
For more information about how to engage in anti-racism, go to Antiracist Research and Policy Center.