While many Black Americans continue to grapple with the impacts of systematic racism under the coronavirus pandemic, our community simultaneously is dealing with the traumatic events of Ahmaud Arbery’s death in Brunswick, Georgia.
Though there are many inquiries surrounding this case, an important question central to Arbery’s death is what makes a Black man jogging both suspicious and threatening enough to deserve an extremely violent “extrajudicial killing” from his neighbors, as professor and activist Marc Lamont Hill says on episode 8 of theGrio‘s “Dear Culture Podcast.”
The answer to this question is neither new or surprising, but rather cruel and rooted in the history and memory of slavery in the United States.
This week on the Dear Culture, co-hosts Blue Telusma and Gerren Keith Gaynor tackle the hard questions and truths surrounding the casualness of police and citizen brutality on Black lives with Hill, whose 2016 book “Nobody” touches on these issues as well as public health emergencies that predominantly impact Black Americans like the Flint water crisis.
As Ahmaud Arbery’s case continues to unfold, we are reminded that the pattern of abuse Arbery and other Black people face at the hands of police or “citizen’s watch” brutality is an indication of our nation’s truest problem: being entangled with white supremacy.
So Dear Culture is left asking, how do we, as a Black community, protect ourselves, health, and peace during this time?
“The problem is, because we live in a world that has normalized and internalized white supremacy,” says Hill, a former CNN contributor.
Many have compared the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery to the 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon’s shooter, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of murder after claiming self-defense.
Both the cases of Trayvon and Ahmaud involved white shooters with a “heightened sense of citizenship,” Hill points out.
“White supremacy is seeped into our imaginations, laws, criminal proceedings. People who think they’re being neutral, are still smuggling in fear of Black folks at an intensity.”
He adds, “Because we live in a world that has normalized white supremacy and internalizes white supremacy, it was easy for a jury to say, ‘Yeah if I saw Trayvon Martin walking down the street with an Arizona iced tea and some Skittles, his big Black ass would’ve scared me too and I might have wanted to kill him. The standard is not universal — it’s based on history.
Putting it more plainly, Hill says, “The will to say someone is not guilty is when white people kill black people.”