The timeline of Black trauma at the hands of white folks is long, historical and seemingly interminable. For me, Ahmaud Arbery hits closer to home than most others.
Like Arbery, I’m a Black male runner. I like to consider myself the only Black male in the city of Chicago who runs outdoors year-round (probably not true, but in 16 years here, I have never seen another of us outside in January. I travel often and try to run outside in every city or country I visit. Treadmills are the devil’s creation.
For me, there’s no greater sense of stillness or presence than when my feet are beating the pavement. Phone calls, texts and emails are ignored, music blares through noise-canceling headphones, and I get to shut the world out for just a few miles a day.
I picture Arbery in a similar state of Zen last February 23rd when, while running near his home in Glynn County, Ga., the father-son duo of Gregory and Travis McMichael went full-tilt George Zimmerman and literally hunted him down in their truck with their two guns. Following a scuffle, in which Arbery was certainly defending himself, the McMichaels shot him to death.
The McMichaels claimed they chased Arbery down after profiling him as the potential suspect of a recent crime. District Attorney George E. Barnhill of Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit recused himself from the case only after he wrote a letter to the local police department smacking of nepotism, suggesting that the McMichaels were justified in their actions. It has since been made clear that Gregory McMichael once worked as a local police officer in the same office as Barnhill. As such, the two hayseeds were allowed to spend the last few months of their lives roaming free as if they didn’t just kill a Black man for no reason other than being a Black man.
This issue would be dead along with Arbery if not for the recent surfacing of a video (which I refuse to watch) of the whole incident, including the shooting. It took social media’s collective driven outrage for the McMichaels to be arrested and charged just this week. If you’re like me, you aren’t holding your breath for a conviction, since acquittals for the destruction of Black bodies is as American as apple pie and semiautomatic rifles.
Many have ruminated on the potential positive outcomes of this pandemic – the restoration of nature, the potential collapse of the more insidious aspects of capitalism, and the screamingly optimistic idea that humanity will be “better” on the other side. But even during a pandemic, we aren’t safe from the tentacles of white supremacy. When all this is “over,” Georgia will still be an open-carry state, and “citizen’s arrest” will still be employed as an excuse to hunt down and murder innocent black men.
Arbery would have turned 26 today (May 8.) He was taken from the world at an age when many of us are laying the foundation for the rest of our lives – figuring out who we are and what drives us.
#IRUNWITHMAUD is a call to run 2.23 miles in his honor today (for the date of his murder, February 23.) There are also fundraisers in his namefor those interested in contributing to causes designed to prevent another set of McMichaels from getting their way.
I love seeing my people out running for any reason, even if social distancing and quarantines prohibit us from being able to do it in an organized fashion. But running won’t serve as an anodyne for our collective anger over the incident. Nothing we can do will bring back a life extinguished so senselessly.
In my head I understand that vengeance won’t make things better either. It won’t bring Ahmaud back, and it won’t prevent the next innocent Black person minding their own business from losing his or her life, but I’m an eye-for-an-eye type, so for me, the only true justice would be to see the McMichaels receive the fate to which they subjected Arbery. Until then, we run, we wait, we activate, and we never forget to ensure Ahmaud's legacy lives on.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.