For many, hopeless was a word that described 2020. From the shocking celebrity deaths to the arrival and escalation of COVID-19 and also, the dreadful number of killings of unarmed Black men and women, the year was equally taxing and devastating.
Many of us got through it and are re-embracing life again in 2021, but the licks and stings of the last year still remain and we’re reminded of it ever so frequently.
Last week’s verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the moments leading up to Julius Jones being spared from death sentence echoed that same hopelessness for me. It reminded me that the U.S. justice system continues to fail to uphold the sanctity of life for all people in this country. It reminded me that justice in America, ever so frequently, favors one side and that’s how they intended it to.
I can only imagine the wretched horror the Black community would’ve faced had Jones’ execution continued that day. However, I completely understood and embraced the same angst that we collectively felt at Rittenhouse going scot-free. America don’t love us.
When news of Ahmaud Arbery’s death surfaced last year, it shattered me. I was speechless every time I saw his face and would have several lapses throughout my days where I’d pause and get teary-eyed just thinking about him and how that could’ve been me or any of my Black brothers.
The fact that it took nearly three months for his killing to go viral and his killers weren’t arrested until 74 days after his death — yeah that’s sick. In addition, they weren’t initially charged because of association with the DA, meaning that if social activism didn’t fight for this, these men could be walking freely like Rittenhouse. It’s maddening to think about.
On Wednesday, November 24th, 2021, Travis and Gregory McMichael and William Bryan were found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
When I saw the news, that same wave of sadness and grief I felt so often last year thinking about Ahmaud, returned. This time they came coupled with a small measure of relief, a sigh, that for once, they got this one right.
I want to be grateful and happy but how? A Black man, the same age as me, who liked doing something I like to do, won’t be joining his mother and father for Thanksgiving dinner. He won’t be going Black Friday shopping with friends and cousins. And he won’t get to see 2022.
Black men deserve to grow old.
I hope you’re resting. I’m sorry they took you away from your mother and father, your family and friends, and from a world that you barely got to know and explore. I hope that this victory eases your soul and helps your loved ones. I hope that this can serve as a catalyst of change in the justice system. But more importantly, I hope we don’t have to have another “case of Ahmaud Arbery’s death.” I don’t know you but I love you, man. You deserve to be here.