An historic victory against racial violence
The jury verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery trial was essential to preserve among Blacks and liberal whites the vestige of an impartial justice system. First of all, the decision came from a Georgia jury with only one Black member, and the original biased prosecutor was replaced. Also, there was not the slightest hostile act from the victim to warrant the defendants’ aggression.
However, there should not be excessive assurance that there has been a fundamental change in racist attitudes. According to the New York Times, the lawyer for Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son defendants, said that both men “honestly believe what they were doing was the right thing to do.”
How can shooting to death an unarmed jogger who is trying to run away from three men trying to corner him with pickup trucks be justified? Is it conceivable that the McMichaels would feel the same way if the jogger was white? They will have an opportunity to explain their attitudes in the federal charges of attempted kidnapping and hate crimes to follow in February.
Blacks originally thought the case was in the bag for a not-guilty verdict when the local prosecutor, Jackie Johnson, came to the crime scene and recognized Gregory McMichael as the former investigator in her office. She released the defendants and treated them as though they were the victims. However, after the video was published after of her misconduct, Johnson was voted out of office in the 2020 election. She was replaced by Linda Dunikoski, a DA from Cobb County, about 300 miles away from Brunswick.
Dunikoski believed that the conduct of the McMichaels and their neighbor William Bryan was so outrageous that it was counterproductive to make this a race case by challenging aggressively the racial makeup of the jury. She astutely recognized that even conservative residents of Georgia would not support a fatal attack on a jogger just because he is Black.
She had the courage to take the right course. Those familiar with Southern lynchings understand that it took courage for her to support a jury of citizens who would oppose any interference with their human rights, like jogging on public streets. The issue of Blacks’ rights is for another forum at another time.