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What the Discussion Over the Ahmaud Arbery Shooting Should Actually Be Focused On

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Courtesy of the Arbery Family

The tragic back road shooting of an unarmed black man by a former white police officer and his shotgun-wielding son in Brunswick, Georgia, has given the left a narrative they’re all too happy to run with, especially since blatant examples have been few and far between of late. Indeed, comparisons to Trayvon Martin abounded on Twitter by people ironically ignoring the fact that their “proof” that America is some sort of Klan-infested racist hotbed full of bigots just waiting to gun down hapless runners for the “crime” of “jogging while black” happened over eight years ago, in 2012, and was “justified,” according to one juror. 


This story, however, seems on the surface to be an entirely different thing. I’m not going to speculate too much this early in the process, but I will say that it’s hard to imagine any reasonable person taking weapons and following anyone of any color down the street, much less blocking a road and trying to initiate a “citizens arrest.” It was dumb, it was unjustified, and Greg and Travis McMichael should feel the full weight of the law. 

But there’s a difference between stupidly gunning-up and taking matters into your own hands because you believe a person may be a criminal, thus ending up in a deadly scuffle of your own making, and gunning-up to hunt down and murder a black man simply for being black. Both will land you in prison, of course, but with different sentences—sentences a jury will decide. 

Meanwhile, however, the ‘jury’ of American public opinion seems to be leaning heavily in favor of the version that puts America firmly in an era where lynchings were the norm and these men as no different from those evil vigilantes of old or even the racist scumbags who drug James Byrd to his grisly death in 1998. 

While plenty of people on both sides rightly called for justice for Ahmaud Arbery for weeks, especially in light of the fact that the shooting happened in February and there were odd conflicts of interest at play in the local district attorney’s office, a good percentage of comments bordered on inflammatory, if not patently absurd.


“We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” NBA legend LeBron James tweeted from the comfortable quarantine of his luxurious mansion while being adored by literally every man, woman, and child in America. “Can’t even go for a damn jog man! Like WTF man are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!?” 

“This young man was jogging, and was hunted down and killed for absolutely no reason other than the color of his skin,” wrote a smugly certain Ellen DeGeneres. 

Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker demanded “hate crime legislation,” while attorney and former Obama-era official Walter Scaub called the shooting a “lynching.” CNN host Don Lemon said that “communities of color feel like we are under siege.” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms even tried to tie the shooting to President Trump.

The irresponsible comparisons weren’t limited to the left. Conservative writer David French wrote, “While we don’t yet know the full details about the McMichaels’ motives, their actions speak loudly enough. When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.” And Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is now virtue-signaling his willingness to sign hate crimes legislation in the state.


Meanwhile, as conservative activist Candace Owens noted over the weekend, the narrative around Arbery’s actions has quietly gone from “just a jogger” to “just a trespasser.” That’s because Daily Mail published a previously unreleased surveillance video of a khaki-short-clad Arbery spending almost five minutes “appearing to loiter” inside an under-construction home. Obviously, loitering at a construction zone isn’t worthy of being shot or even confronted by weapon-wielding citizens, but it’s also hardly racist to be suspicious of a stranger in one’s neighborhood poking around where they aren’t supposed to be. Add Arbery’s own 2013 indictment for allegedly bringing a weapon to a high school basketball game and a 2018 arrest for shoplifting to the mix, and the caricature of ‘just a jogger’ is called into question. 

Are black people being routinely gunned down in America for the “crime” of being black? Hardly. Such a dire pattern would doubtless dominate the news cycle daily, as this solitary case has and will continue to do for the foreseeable future. In fact, far more whites are actually killed and violently victimized by blacks than the other way around, and in higher percentages related to the overall population groups. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2018, of the 563,940 violent incidents against blacks committed that year, only 10.6% (or ~60,000) were committed by whites. On the other hand, 15.3% (or ~548,000) of the 3,581,360 crimes committed against whites were perpetrated by black offenders. Further, according to BLS, “The offender-to-victim ratio shows that the percentage of violent incidents involving black offenders (22%) was twice the percentage of incidents committed against black victims (11%).” Blacks even comprise 24% of hate crime offenders, almost twice their representation among the population.


None of this should justify any sort of racism, nor should it imply that most blacks are criminals. In fact, the vast majority of people of all races are law-abiding. However, these facts definitely do a lot of damage to a certain preferred leftist narrative, which is one reason why you might not have ever heard them. 

Back to the Arbery shooting, Candace Owens nailed what the topic of discussion should be centered around right now in an America less hyper-focused on racial politics: “The national debate SHOULD have been about the legitimacy of citizen’s arrests in light of a tragic outcome,” she wrote. “Instead, we went with BLACKS ARE LITERALLY BEING HUNTED WHEN THEY STEP OUT OF THEIR HOMES FOR NO REASON. Race-baiting ALWAYS leaves us looking emotional & foolish.”

No matter how you slice it, a man is dead who should be alive right now. But ironically, decades-removed from an era when alleged black offenders would rarely get a fair trial, the McMichaels’ chances, no matter what the facts turn out to be, of any outcome short of life without parole or even the death penalty in this highly politicized and racially charged case is next to nil.

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