I planned on writing about something else today, but given recent events, I’m compelled to go in a different direction.
This week, we all learned of the story of Ahmaud Arbery. He was 25 years old, out for a jog. He was tracked down by a father and son. They were armed. They called out and ordered him to stop and, when he declined their directives, they assaulted and shot him to death.
The only thing more tragic about this event is the frequency with which it occurs. The black members of our community are angry, grieving, hurt, and tired.
While I applaud the action taken to arrest and charge Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, with murder and aggravated assault, their indictment is only the first step in a long journey toward justice. This story will, no doubt, be fraught with legal maneuvering, leaked stories, and other distractions from the matter at hand.
One Facebook group advocating for the two men attempts to defend them, stating, “These 2 God fearing [sic] men were only trying to protect their neighborhood. This area has had a string of break-ins and this man fit the description and did not comply with simple commands (emphasis mine).” I doubt this will be the last time we’ll see such foolishness.
Others are, as is often the case, saying that we just need to stop seeing this as a race problem. Just this morning, someone wrote this wasn’t two white men killing a black man. This was only two men killing another man. We just need to see people as people and love everyone.
No. Time out. Bullshit.
I was having a conversation with my dad recently. He was talking about growing up in San Antonio how he never really experienced any discrimination. Then he went on to talk about how, as a teenager, he wasn’t allowed to go to Alamo Heights, an affluent bedroom community of the city, because of his ethnicity.
He had white friends who would remind him not to speak Spanish in their home because it made their parents uncomfortable.
He talked about going to the movies at the Majestic Theater with black friends who had to enter from the alley at the “colored entrance” and could only sit in the mezzanine.
But, no. My dad never experienced any discrimination.
Fast forward to the early 80s. I’m in college, and a white girl would not go out with me because I am, in her words, a “greasy Mexican.”
In 2016, I was working for a city councilman here in San Antonio. I saw firsthand the systemic discrimination at play. So many in my city believe certain parts of town with high minority populations have infrastructure challenges because the residents just don’t take care of their neighborhood. All one needs to do is look at the original city plans to discover why some communities have historically received more attention over others. It was intentional and, thanks to our current City Council, there are plans to, hopefully, lay groundwork to correct the problem.
I agree we should see people as people. But we can only move forward when we see things as they have been and as they are. Otherwise, we are only turning a blind eye to the reality others live daily. To love them means to acknowledge their stories and to advocate and walk with them in their collective pain.
It’s easy to feel helpless and at a loss for what to do. But, there are always options.
Twice in the last two days, I heard black men state they are weary of talking, that it is time for non-POC to come alongside them and advocate. It’s time for me to step off the sidelines.
Not sure what it means for me exactly, but I sure as hell intend to find out.