Last week a video was released of Ahmaud Arbery being murdered in broad daylight. Arbery was killed on February 23, more than two months ago, and the release of this video alone immediately revealed the lies, corruption and cover-ups that usually come along with any examination of white people killing Black people in America.
Within days of the video being released two of the three white men—who had gotten away with murder—had been arrested and charged with that murder. People are hopeful to see justice for Ahmaud. That will not happen. Perhaps the killers will be convicted. They could be imprisoned for life or given the death penalty or whatever your idea of legal justice may be. They could repent, truly in their hearts and work the rest of their lives to make a better world for everyone, but there will not be justice for Ahmaud. It is not possible for Black people to have justice in America. Especially Black people killed by white hands.
My grandfather was born in rural Texas in 1890. He was the first Black person in my direct lineage to be born after abolition. He was just 26 years old when, less than 15 miles away in Waco, Jesse Washington, a 17-year old Black child was tortured, murdered and dismembered in front of 10,000 cheering, outraged white people. Before they dispersed, the cheering, outraged 10,000 whites would literally pick Jesse apart, stealing his bones for souvenirs.
My father was 10 years old when 14-year-old Emmett Till was mutilated and lynched by two outraged white men in Mississippi. The sign at Emmett Till’s memorial has been shot up by racists and replaced so many times that just last year—in 2019—the newest replacement had to be encased in bulletproof glass.
I was 19 when three outraged white men murdered James Byrd Jr. in Texas. Byrd was dragged behind a truck for three miles. The dragging decapitated him after a mile and a half. The white men left his torso in front of a Black cemetery.
My nephew was 19 when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered by a man outraged that a Black child would be somewhere a white man didn’t think he should be.
For the entire life of this country, through slavery to abolition, from Jim Crow to the Voting Rights Act, from segregation to the first Black president of the United States of America one thing about Black life in this country has not changed: at any moment of any day any outraged white man can hunt down and kill a Black person for sport.
Every Black person born in this country knows this. Our parents were forced to learn this and forced to watch as we learned. And we now watch as our children are forced to learn this unwavering American truth from the killers of Ahmaud Arbery. And of Trayvon Martin. And of Eric Garner. Of Sandra Bland. And Philando Castile. And Botham Jean. And John Crawford. And Walter Scott. And Kathryn Johnston. And on and on and on seemingly ad infinitum.
This country has made an example of Ahmaud Arbery. This example cannot be unmade and so there will never be justice for him, no matter the consequences for his killers.
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