It’s barely notable enough to make the evening news or merit a headline in the nation’s major newspapers. Once, again, African Americans can add the name of Ahmaud Arbery to an ever-growing list of Blacks murdered on the streets of America simply because of the color of their skin. Like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and thousands of others, white privilege has been used to justify another heinous act of violence with Black men and boys routinely caught in the bullseye of hatred, fear and prejudice.
I can only imagine the thoughts running through Brother Ahmaud’s mind, simply out for a morning jog, after he found himself being chased by a white father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, for what would be the final four minutes of his life. Like the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon, Ahmaud was shot and killed because it was assumed that he had committed a crime and needed to be “detained.”
And so, another Black man bites the dust. Another Black family, 10 weeks after the murder of their beloved son and brother, finally receive a glimmer of hope after the deadly duo are arrested by Georgia law officials and charged. But if the past is any proof of the outcome, chances are the two will get little more than a slap on the wrist.
After all, Black men are disposable commodities in the U.S., once property owned by whites and now little more than a hindrance, an obstacle – a beast that must be contained, corralled and controlled.
During the month of May, health experts, politicians, educators and others will examine the myriad reasons for mental instability and disease during the annual observance of Mental Health Awareness Month.
For Black men, the paradox we face is that while the most economically productive years of our lives, as well as the most opportune time to begin and build a family, is the first 20 years after completing formal education (ages 16 to 36), it’s also the period when Black men are most likely to be killed.
Overwhelmed by a lack of purpose and unable to secure the means to become financially self-sufficient, many young Black men implode, then explode – often using a firearm to kill another Black man who’s equally lost in a maze of hopelessness.
Black males 15 to 34, based on data compiled by the National Center of Health Statistics, have a 1-in-21 lifetime chance of being killed – nine times higher than the odds for white men. And while those of the privileged color and class may contend that Blacks are inherently more prone to violence, thus explaining why homicide is the number one cause of death for the above-cited demographic, the unjust use of force wielded by whites against Blacks in the name of their alleged “privilege” cannot be overstated or ignored.
In the opening reflections of Dr. Haki Madhubuti’s seminal text, “Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?,” he writes: “The pain is in the eyes. Young Black men in their late 20s or early 30s living in urban America, lost and abandoned, aimlessly walking and hawking the streets with nothing behind their eyes but anger, confusion, disappointment and pain. These men, running the streets, occupying corners, often are beaten beyond recognition, with scars both visible and internal. These men, Black men – sons of Africa, once strong and full of hope that America lied about – are now knee-less, voice-broken, homeless, forgotten and terrorized into becoming beggars, thieves or ultra-dependents on a system that considers them less than human and treats them with less dignity and respect than dead dogs.”
Black men, women and children, victims of the philosophy of white supremacy and domination, live each day in a world where their mental well-being remains under assault. Thus, Blacks, regardless of their age, education, economic status or gender, must somehow survive the potential of deadly violence both within their own community and at the hands of whites.
Maybe Brother Ahmaud should consider himself fortunate. At least he got the chance to make it to the age of 25. Fortunate, because when you’re part of America’s “endangered species,” just walking, talking, or jogging while Black is enough to get you killed.