Voice of the people: Lavonne Latham-Harris




Sees various responses to Ahmaud Arbery murder


The murder of Ahmaud Arbery has temporarily grabbed national attention. For anyone living under a rock, Mr. Arbery recently became another name in the long list of young black men killed because of the color of their skin. Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood when Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father-son duo, chased him and eventually shot him. The duo claimed Arbery looked like a burglary suspect. To any reasonable person, this was murder. If two random strangers start chasing you with guns, what person wouldn't be scared and try to immediately fight them off?


Who wouldn't try to take their gun? Under what circumstances would that not be self-defense? The irony is, until the release of the video of the encounter, the McMichaels had avoided arrest by audaciously claiming they acted in self-defense. Imagine the police's reaction if a black person told them they shot someone because they looked like a drug dealer. Like always, since the release of the video, there have been three responses to this tragedy. A lot of people, including folks of all races, are outraged. They tweeted and facebooked their anger. They instagramed their running photos in support of Arbery's right to run. They celebrated when the father-son duo were arrested. They are eagerly waiting for the trial.



Then, there are the folks who want to change the conversation. They want to talk about what type of person Arbery was, as if the McMichaels knew that before they shot him. They want to focus on the video of him visiting the construction site, even though he didn't committee a crime, which, even if he had, wouldn't justify extra-legal murder. Eventually, some will point to black-on-black crime as a bigger problem, as if white-on-white crime doesn't exist, and as if there isn't a difference between being killed because of one's race and by a person of the same race. These people will point to any cause for the murder except racism.


Finally, there's the third response: silence. These are the people who don't say anything. The ones who don't commiserate Arbery's murder or defend his murderers. The ones who sit back and pretend like nothing happened and move on with their lives. They are pretending racism doesn't exist just as much as the folks defending the murders. Throughout America's history, most people didn't own slaves or wear white robes or lynch people. They just allowed it to happen. That indifference can cause just as much damage as hate.


This reminds me of the famous MLK quote: "There comes a time when silence is betrayal. .. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." It also begs the question: Which response will you have?


Lavonne Latham-Harris


President, Lowndes County Branch NAACP





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