Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?


Via The Atlantic

Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?

Oakmont beckoned outdoor runners—even novices like me.

We were the second family to move into Oakmont, a new housing development seven miles west of the University of Florida, when I joined the faculty in 2015. My partner and I loved how our living space wrapped around a green-dotted, open-air indoor courtyard like homes we’d seen in West Africa and Latin America. Nothing compared to being outside inside our courtyard home.

Well, maybe being outside in Oakmont—running down its newly paved roads, gazing up at stately oak trees with moss draping down, staring down into the ponds, racing all the galloping or flying animals, all to the sweet melody of quietness. Few houses. No people. Just paved roads. Just nature’s sight lines.

At first, I hardly worried about cars while exercising. But the vehicles started coming. Trees were cleared. Foundations laid. New houses framed—a fascinating new picture screening every day for my curiosity.

As I ran on by, I imagined how the framed-out houses were going to look completed. Or I imagined living in the jumbo dwellings. Or as I ran on by, I stared at the construction workers as they stared back at me.

But not on one particular day. That day, no construction workers were around this half-built wonder. No vehicles were in sight. There was just my curiosity on overdrive—pushing me into the house to feed my imagination. I did not need long. I never needed long.

Minutes later, my feet were pounding the pavement under the moss. I am Ahmaud Arbery.

On sunday, february 23, around 1 p.m., Arbery had just peered into a half-built home, as I did so many times in Oakmont. He ran away under the falling moss near the coastal Georgia town of Brunswick. Up the block lived Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator for the local district attorney, and his son, Travis. McMichael did not see a former high-school football standout who normally jogs around the neighborhood, as Arbery’s family describes him. McMichael saw a black male “hauling ass” from the scene of a crime, as he told investigators.

Arbery could have been any “black male running down the street,” as a 911 caller described him. He could have been anyone’s brother, father, son, cousin, boyfriend, husband, co-worker, friend. He could have been me running down the street. As a black male—not to the people who know me or who know Arbery, but to the Americans who don’t know me and think they do—I am Ahmaud Arbery. Those Americans think they know me when my curiosity gets the best of me. They think they know me when something has gone missing. They think they know me when they see me running down the road.

They don’t see me wearing the same white T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers that they wore the other day. They don’t see themselves in me. They certainly don’t see their own innocence in me. They see only their own guilt in me—their villainous fear marking me as the villain.

They don’t need to figure out who I am. All they see is what I am. A black male. And what I am pronounces who I am. A criminal. The embodiment of danger. The producer of fear.

Black males have been made into the fathers of fear. But the fears of black men are bastards. Broods we never wanted, but can’t escape. All these bastards are coming after us, suspecting us continuously, terrorizing us constantly, and we can’t escape. The black man can’t escape the fear of the black man.

Gregory mcmichael “stated he was in his front yard and saw the suspect from the break-ins ‘hauling ass’” down the road, according to the police report. McMichael “stated there have been several Break-ins in the neighborhood and further the suspect was caught on surveillance video,” the report said. But where is the surveillance video linking Arbery to a recent burglary? And McMichael’s neighborhood had gone seven weeks without a reported burglary, a local police lieutenant recently told CNN. The last reported burglary was on January 1, when a 9-mm pistol was stolen from an unlocked truck outside the McMichaels’ home.

Via The Atlantic