Arbery verdict a sobering success for racial justice in U.S.

By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer

On Nov. 24, a Glynn County, Ga. jury found Travis McMichael, George McMichael, and William Brady Jr. guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The three white men pursued the unarmed Arbery in trucks while he jogged through his neighborhood on Feb. 23, then physically attacked and fatally shot him.

Arbery’s death has clear racial motivations as he was a Black man in a predominantly white neighborhood. According to NPR, many Americans view the murder trial as a “test case for racial justice.”

One of an unfortunately high number of hate crimes against Black Americans in 2021, the verdict of this trial is a victory in the fight for justice. But the continued occurrence of such crimes is a reminder of the racism and violence still prevalent in American culture.

A key distinction of this trial was the demographics of the jury. According to Glynn County census records, African Americans comprise approximately 27% of the population, yet CNN reported only one Black juror sitting amongst their white peers.

Such statistics lead to the obvious fear that racial bias would interfere with a fair trial; the expectation was that white jurors would side with their white counterparts regardless of evidence. The outcome of this trial despite these obstacles speaks to a shift in cultural attitudes toward racially-motivated hate crimes and the prevalence of racism in America.

“Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said ‘black lives do matter,’” Rev. Al Sharpton said. “We’ve got a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important victory today.”

The Arbery case was particularly significant because it touched upon many of the highly contested topics in American politics and criminal justice: self-defense laws, gun control, and racial profiling. A guilty verdict serves as a condemnation of the leniency toward these issues that led to such violence.

While the outcome of this trial should undoubtedly be celebrated as a victory, the situation as a whole shows there is still work to be done. According to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the verdict will “help lead to a path of healing and reconciliation.”

In a nation where those who murder Black Americans have been declared innocent, the just punishment of Arbery’s killers seems like a step in the right direction. However, the fact that innocent people continue to be killed based on their skin color is a grave issue that demands rectifying.

According to President Biden, Arbery’s death was “a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”

Moreover, it was an avoidable tragedy. This country must continue to dismantle racist systems, be that on a personal or institutional level, to create a future in which innocent Black lives are not taken with such frequency.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: A mural of Arbery was painted on the side of the African American Cultural Center in Brunswick, Ga. In remembrance of his death.

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