Johns: The Reality of Systemic Racism

This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.

Systemic racism is no myth. The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery leaves no doubt.

My apologies for the delay on this story. I was waiting for more information to come out (I didn’t want the MAGA hat kid thing to happen all over again). The following article does an excellent job investigating any doubts you may have about the facts of the case:

thedispatch.com/p/a-vigilante-killing-in-georgia?fbclid=IwAR0hZQrXDU4I6BofL8dL4IdlD6g32jCYK9cK-7AKJbg_7cKt8p4LBplWv_w

At one time, I was a big denier in systemic racism. For me, the proof was in my reality; if you harass a black person, you get your butt kicked in a very real way. Cars with Confederate flags get keyed in parking lots around me. My last job had a guy say something casually racist and then get stabbed on his way out of the door. But after examining and travelling to places outside of my bubble, I could see that my case was not all cases. There are areas of this country, even nice, wealthy areas, where somebody can shout the n-word at a black man. And if you object on behalf of the black man, eyes will not be on the racist or the black man; they will be on you. Objecting means you become the threat.

I understand the mind of a skeptic. Even after accepting the truth, it’s hard to fathom anybody, even one isolated person, could still operate that way. And even more unbelievably, systemic racism is more than just an individual case. I grant that eliminating racism from the hearts and souls of every person is too lofty (though noble) a goal. For a system to form, there have to be multiple pieces. And the murder of Mr. Arbery gives us four distinct and clear points of racism that acted together.

1. The 911 caller. It’s embarrassing to see anybody trying to defend the 911 caller. Even if he’s not racist (which flies in the face of how he described Arbery to the dispatcher), he’s the ultimate Karen. After seeing Arbery go through a construction site for an unfinished house, he decided not to let it go, but instead to call 911. I used to play games with my friends at vacant lots like these. I still cut through them when I walk around the neighborhood. I have done so for a long time. Never have I once felt like I was being examined with suspicion or up to no good. The caller is specific; this is not just a man jogging in a construction zone, this is a BLACK man jogging in a construction zone.

2. The shooters. Anyone with common sense getting in the face of an unarmed man with a loaded shotgun on the street had better be an overwhelming reason to do so. Even by their own statements, these men knew nothing about what Arbery was up to. They claimed that somebody had been robbing houses and so they wanted a word with this jogger. If somebody wants a word with you by jumping you with guns ready to fire, that somebody is a psychopath. If they were really all that concerned, they could have called the police or followed him or taken a picture. Instead, they got in his face with a gun. If self-defense ever applied, it applied for Arbery.

3. The prosecutor. Public prosecutors are only supposed to drop cases if there is absolutely no evidence of crime at all. Even if the chances of conviction are slim to none, they have an obligation to work as hard as they can to represent justice for their side. In America, usually the problem is the opposite of this case; prosecutors tend to over charge and convict. Their resumes are filled with pride in being able to charge cases that seem hopeless. In this particular case, the prosecutor not only dropped the case, he made excuses on behalf of the defense. He claimed the video showed Arbery starting the assault (it didn’t) and that another account detailed Arbery robbing a house moments before the shooting (it didn’t). The prosecutor covered for the shooters; his literal job was to cover for Arbery.

4. The media. Don’t get me wrong, I understand most media is insanely left wing. Honestly, had the media, both news and social, not gone off about this, Arbery would have gotten no justice. But this does not excuse the media that vilified him. You’ll remember Botham Jean, shot in his own home by an officer, was criticized in the media because he had marijuana in his home at the time he was murdered. Trayvon Martin, also killed by a vigilante, was revealed to have drug paraphernalia. Regardless of how you feel about ANY of these shootings, the defamation was completely unrelated to the case. Arbery apparently had a criminal record 5 years prior to his death. The only reason to bring it up in the context of this case is if you are more interested in a smear campaign than the truth. It would be bad enough if just one news source went after Arbery’s character following his murder. But it was a whole series of outlets that decided on this tactic.

Many of us, myself included, are tired of talking about race constantly. I believe that this is because, personally, we’ve put it past us. We don’t change our values based on skin color. But this does not mean that this system of equality matches other existing systems of racism. We are getting better about getting rid of the dark history of racism in this country. But as Mr. Arbery’s innocent blood will tell you, it’s not good enough yet. So we keep fighting and keep demanding justice. To end on a positive note, the system of equality eventually overwhelmed the system of racism in this case. These guilty parties are being destroyed in the media and, after far too long, the legal system caught up with them. Sadly, stronger systems don’t make weaker systems disappear entirely. It takes effort and awareness. But the work is worth it. Arbery’s life would have been better had he been allowed to continue jogging. And our lives would have been better as well.

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