To Be A Black Man In America

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Protesters in Georgia. AP photo

The too-little-too-late wheels of justice are slowly turning in the murder Ahmaud Arbery, gunned down while jogging in Georgia for the crime of the color of his skin - another black life pointlessly reduced to a hashtag. As thousands ran Friday to honor what would have been his 26th birthday, the feds were asked to investigate why it took two months and a now-viral video of his killing - "the intolerable spectacle of a black man’s execution in public view" - to prod the state to arrest his killers, and recognize his black life mattered. A former high school football player, Arbery was on his daily run in a suburban neighborhood in February when he was stalked and then confronted by two white, beefy, armed yahoos: 64-year-old Gregory McMichael, a former cop, and his shotgun-toting, 34-year-old son Travis. The two men had earlier tried to block Arbery, who turned around and jogged away to avoid them; this time, a scuffle with Travis ensued, and Arbery was hit by three blasts. In an old, grim story, officials looked away: The DA's office, where Gregory had worked as an investigator, allegedly blocked police from arresting the McMichaels, who claimed Arbery looked like a burglary suspect because, duh, he was black. After that DA recused herself, another somehow determined the shooting was “justifiable homicide.” This, from an infamously racist DA's office with a sordid history of corruption and "seismically shifting criminal scandals," including the "wicked" killing of an unarmed mother and police who are "either paralyzed with indecision or corrupt to the core.”

Last week, days after video of the encounter surfaced and swiftly went viral, the McMichaels were finally arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. "Exercising while black should not be a death sentence,” tweeted Kamala Harris, as thousands of people gathered to run 2.23 miles - a tribute to Arbery's death on February 23 - under the hashtag #IrunwithMaud. Many of their posts were harrowing - "I'm crying and running for the boy who could be my son hunted down" - and furious:  "Today, I ran 2.23 miles in remembrance of a man who was killed because of his skin color. My skin color is not a threat. Your intentions are." Their persistent, sorrowful theme: "Most of you will never truly understand how dangerous and exhausting it is to be a black man in America." The unconscionable delay in what many viewed as a lynching - "He was hunted down like an animal and killed,” said his mother Wanda Jones - has led officials to call for a federal investigation, and to name a new lead prosecutor, the fourth in the case. Still, Arbery's murder, and the state's evident belief his black life "was not a life worth preserving," are obscenely commonplace. The racist vigilantism and indifference from the authorities constitute "a compound grief," writes Adrienne Green: "If the constant barrage of death were not enough, the languid period between watching someone’s humanity snuffed out and waiting to see if anyone will be held accountable is its own tortured form of stasis." Mourning the death of Arbery along with too many other black men whose lives were deemed disposable, Green notes the video offers "a kind of gruesome congratulation that the possibility of Ahmaud’s life wasn’t forgotten." But the bleak bottom line remains:  "You could fill the infinite expanse of the internet with black people that America has failed in this way."

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