Ahmaud Arbery is a small piece of a bigger issue
**Disclaimer** We do not recommend the viewing of the video of Ahmaud Arbery which surfaced on social media a few days ago. It is disturbing, and we must warn a viewer discretion advisory if someone decides to do so.
A video from February 2020 surfaced on the internet a few days ago showing the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man jogging in his neighborhood, by two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael. The shooting took place in southern Georgia while Mr. Arbery was on his “daily jog” according to his mother.
It’s haunting, not just because he was gunned down, but because he was hunted. As he was jogging, Mr. Arbery was tracked down by two men in a pick-up truck and shot. It’s also absurd that neither Gregory or Travis McMichael were arrested on the scene, and it took until yesterday for them to be arrested.
These men were walking free in Georgia every day, while Mr. Arbery’s blood still stains the street.
This isn’t the first shooting of an unarmed black man. We have seen the same horrors with Trayvon Martin in 2012, Michael Brown in 2014 and Botham Jean in 2018 as well as hundreds of others. According to Mapping Police Violence, police killed nearly 104 unarmed black men in 2015. Those numbers are likely skewed due to underreporting. Unarmed black men were also five times more likely to be gunned down than unarmed white men by police. This is also a perfect time to note Mr. Gregory McMichael was a former police officer in Glynn County and a “former investigator with the local district attorney’s office,” according to The New York Times.
The trend of black men being murdered doesn’t seem to be shifting downwards, as we see this happening time and time again.
We have seen structural and systemic violence against black men and other people of color. It’s time to address this.
I am a middle-class white man writing this. I am not blind to that fact. I am also not blind to the systemic problems we face in America and the white privilege that courses through it.
According to the LA Times, being killed by police is the leading cause of death of young black men. “About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police, according to a new analysis of deaths involving law enforcement officers,” writes the LA Times. “That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with cops.”
The systemic problem also seems to be only in the United States. Racism happens everywhere, but the amount of gun violence in the United States is staggeringly higher than any other country. According to Gifford’s Law Center, someone is 25 times more to die from gun violence in the United States than any peer nation. Though we only make up 4% of the world’s population, we make up 35% of the global firearm suicides and 9% of the global homicide rate.
Roughly 31 in one million people die from gun homicides in the United States. Compare that to Poland and England where only one in one million people die from the same violence. Japan has an even lower number where only one in every 10 million dies from gun homicides. We, US citizens, are uniquely prone to die of gun violence.
Americans also own nearly half (46%) of all civilian-owned guns in the world. Americans love their guns. We also pay the price for it.
So what do we do?
Strict gun policy is the one thing other nations have over the United States. Canada just implemented a new assault weapons ban after a mass shooting took place. We saw the same implementation happen in New Zealand just weeks after a mass shooting took place. The same hasn’t been done here because of the strict reading of the Second Amendment, as the Right to Bear Arms.
A ban on assault-style weapons, however, isn’t against that amendment, according to a federal judge. CBS News writes about the judge’s decision, “Assault weapons are military firearms and aren't protected by the constitutional right to ‘bear arms.’ Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.”
Am I saying we ban all military and assault-style weapons? No. But it is something to think about.
We also need stricter background checks. We have background checks in gun stores, but not pawn shops, online or gun shows. We must have background checks in every store where guns are located, or ban gun sales in such stores without a background check system.
We also need to work hard to address gun violence in America as a whole. We also need to address the systemic racism found in society. Black men are targeted almost 2.5 times more than white men. It isn’t only violence, it’s everything from job/wage growth, marriage and divorce statistics, college statistics and voting rights.
Back to Mr. Arbery: he’s a victim. He’s not only a victim of a terrible tragedy but a systemic and racially-driven tragedy. He’s not only a victim of a shooting but a victim of failed gun policy.
This all could be prevented. Imagine if your brother, spouse or family member simply went on a jog in the middle of the day, and was gunned down by two people who, months later, are still walking on the street.
Imagine how furious you would be. Imagine if the whole situation could have been prevented.
Imagine the pain of your family.
Now imagine if we did nothing about it.