Ahmaud Arbery and the resilience of black protest


Since a video showing the fatal February 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery which appeared on a local Georgia station's website last week, black Americans have felt a familiar feeling: rage, targeting a world of impunity and injustice. As before, it had a mobilizing effect.

The protests stood out for a couple of reasons. Perhaps most clearly, it was face masks. Public health guidelines strongly recommend, and in some cases, people require that they use these coatings in certain areas to prevent the spread of a virus that is near proximity.

Unlike the crowds that promote a decidedly different case in other parts of the country, most who gathered on Friday appeared to be wearing face masks – a moving display of empathy despite being suffocated by rage and pain.

Something else also distinguished these events from others: the protesters themselves.

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"I didn't need the video to know that Ahmaud was brutally murdered and shot down and shot like a dog. But the video showed the world what we already knew – that black life still needs to be valued and protected," James "Major" Woodall, President of the Georgia NAACP, said during the attendance at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick.

"Today I mourn the death of justice. Don't you want to mourn with me?" said another speaker.

Black Americans seemed to make up the majority of those in attendance, heartbreakingly announcing that not even a pandemic could discourage people who felt betrayed by their country – I didn't need the video; we knew it already; mourn with me – from trying to do better, anyway.

This black impulse to believe in a country that has not earned such a belief, remembers James Baldwin's words: "I know this sounds distant and I will not live to see that something similar to this hope is going to happen Still, I know that I have seen it – in fire and blood and anguish, true, but I've seen it, "he writes in his 1985 book," The Evidence of Things Not Seen. "

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The protesters took on a rich vein of black resistance and inspired: staring firmly, fists raised. The visual also had a sober element. Because of a long history of political injustice, Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, poses a clear threat to black Americans, who nevertheless appeared to mourn, yes, but also to offend society right at the root.

Of course they had to. Part of this country's history is that if Black Americans do not champion their own, no one will.

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