I want to start this off by saying happy birthday to Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud, you’re a man who should be here today. An all-American athlete, and kind and loving person as described by family. I’m not going by these false media reports and narratives working to put you, the victim, on trial. In my course at American University entitled Intercultural Communication, we talk about a wide range of issues from Islamophobia and homophobia to anti-Semitism and sexism. One of our sections deals with #blacklivesmatter and unarmed killings of people, primarily of black people by law enforcement, but also in situations like this as well as the case with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, who were slain by vigilantes. I stopped watching videos of black people being slain until it’s time to teach this course so I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery being slain.
One of the questions that I ask to my majority white students in class is the same question I’m asking you if you are not black: do you see yourself or your family members or people you know who are not black in those same situations? And the overwhelming response for the majority of my students is that they do not. And this is where the problem lies. This thing we call common humanity, many people don’t have it as it relates to black people. There’s still this mentality of “Well, he must have done something…” or “Well if he wasn’t running…” then Arbery would still be alive. These questions are never asked of white people.
There is always a reason to justify black death because we all don’t see ourselves in the lives of black people. People don’t see themselves in our predicament. When I see somebody get killed who’s Jewish in an antisemitic attack, I see myself and people I know in that situation. When I see somebody get attacked and beaten or bullied because they’re gay, I see myself in that situation even though I’m not gay because they’re human beings. As Dr. Maya Angelou said that, we’re human beings so nothing should be foreign to us. If we are going to find common ground in these uncommon times, I need you to start seeing your own children, your own mother, your own father, and your own brothers and sisters in these situations and really take a deep reflective stance as to how you’re going to be an upstander for all humanity. If all lives really matter, then we need you to join the fight to prove it!
The Arbery tragedy is every day for us. Many of us don’t even click on these videos anymore because we’re tired and it hurts in our soul. A recent study spoke about how racism itself should be considered a disease or linked to disease because of the way it shortens our lives. Do you think about this if you are not black? Do you just call yourself an “ally” and call it a day? We don’t need allies right now. I don’t believe in allies. I believe that the term allies has become a very arrogant term. And it’s the term that people have used to act like they’re kind of better than people. Allies go to sports games, cheer their home team, and go home. We need people to see common humanity and do something about it!
We have to get out there and do the work. We need all of you to get out there. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you’re running because he can’t run anymore. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you get out and exercise. Keep him in mind when you’re out there doing your best and forgetting the rest. Think about his parents and think about his mom on Mother’s Day, his father and Father’s Day and all of the people out there from the Sandra Blands to the Trayvon Martins of the world. Live and fight for the people who we won’t be able to get back.
We don’t have time to wait. We need you to get out there with us in solidarity because we are human beings and we deserve that respect that we have given to so many of you all across diverse communities around the world. That support has always been shown, oftentimes at the expense of our own community and now we’re asking for just a little of that back. I think that’s the least that many of you out there can do. We’re not waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready, come out and hit the streets, hit the airwaves, hit whatever with us because we are hitting it hard to get justice for Mr. Ahmad Arbery and so many other people. So I say to Mr. Arbery, rest in peace and rest in power. Whenever the rest of you are ready to join us in this common fight for humanity and dignity and decency, you have a place with us. Peace.