Christmas came early last month with the murder convictions in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case. All three defendants, Greg McMichael, his son Travis Michael, and William Bryan were found guilty of murder on November 24, 2021. Never have we needed a verdict to come down correctly as we have during these times. The trauma that has plagued communities of color sparking from the pandemic, crimes against us by rogue law enforcement, and an increase of gun violence committed by members of the same community, has only heightened the trauma levels. The importance of this verdict coming back as guilty and holding those who senselessly murdered an unarmed Black man accountable speaks volumes. This is particularly since many could not understand the verdict with another recent trial in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse who murdered two people and injured another all under the guise of self defense.
The murder convictions will not bring back Ahmaud Arbery but it shows that you have the right to walk or jog through a neighborhood while Black no matter how suspicious others may think that is. In addition, self defense should work both ways. This recent conviction also shows us that when a jury is not really made up of your peers, you can still have a fair and just trial as an outcome. In many ways, we have not gotten over the trauma of seeing young Emmett Till’s open casket and what the image represents. A young boy, only 14, beaten beyond recognition and judged outside a court of law. This event, although in the past, still haunts us today. In our communities we do not talk about that incident or the impact of what trauma like that does to generations. What happens when we see a young boy dragged out of a bodega and hacked to death as was the case with Lesandro Guzman Jr who died in June of 2018, George Floyd who took his last breath in front of dozens of witnesses while a knee was on his neck, or with Oscar Grant shot in the back while complying also in front of dozens of witnesses. This recent guilty verdict gives us hope and shows that our lives do matter. Perhaps most importantly it shows us that we are all human beings no matter where we are from or how we look and deserve to be treated as such.
We still have work to do in recognizing injustice and creating change. A part of that process must also be to heal ourselves and our communities. We must break the taboo of talking about our pain and learn to process it openly. Generations of unprocessed pain can lead to self hatred, depression, and can cause some to act out against one another. It is time to break the cycle of not talking about our feelings and embrace them. We should celebrate moments like this verdict but also talk about the justice not yet received. In recognizing this we also are aware of our own worth and can learn to heal and love ourselves and each other. Mental trauma and post traumatic stress are real and many are exposed to triggers daily including from media sources. Recognizing our triggers is not a sign of weakness but a sign of determination and consciousness to get well. We can heal together and celebrate our wins such as in the Ahmaud Arbery case while still understanding that there is much work left to be done and it is ok to talk about it to finally relieve ourselves of the trauma. This proves that our justice system can work and as such there is hope for sustainable change for future generations. This verdict shows those engaged in overzealous and unfounded vigilantism will be held accountable in a court of law. It shows us that Black men should not be treated as threats for no unfounded reason or prematurely judged on no basis other than the color of their skin. This guilty verdict shows us that our voices can be heard through peaceful advocacy and that social change is happening and will continue for the better of all humanity.