The death of Ahmaud Arbery concerns us all
No one, anywhere, in any country should suffer such a needless, brutal, unjust death. 17-year-old activist Athian Akec calls for change and action.
Ahmaud Arbery, courtesy of his family
Nearly every year our Instagram and Twitter feeds are filled with crude images of black death from somewhere in the US. It’s the same alarming cycle: there’s an unarmed black man, the police or their fellow citizen murder them, a video of the incident is found, pressure is needed to bring their killers to justice, they’re acquitted, the news moves on, we all forget. The death of Ahmaud Abrey is yet another tragic tale of American racism that has shocked the world.
This time the world must not look away. We can’t let the news cycle move on. We can’t let this kind of tragic injustice continue. I'm a 17-year-old black teenager from London. I’ve never even been to America. But still the death of Ahmaud Abrey should concern us all. He’s our brother -- he had a mother, father, family and friends. He was human. No one, anywhere, in any country should suffer such a needless, brutal, unjust death. Even when the powerful across the world turn a blind eye we must speak louder and demand better.
In 2012 Trayvon Martin, aged 17, was gunned down by George Zimmerman in Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted. In 2014 Eric Garner was choked to death by an NYPD officer during an arrest, uttering the words “I can't breathe”. No charges were brought against the officer. In 2015 Walter Scott, who was unarmed, was fatally shot as he ran away from a police officer. In 2016 Alton sterling was shot dead by two police officers at close range. In 2018 the 23-year-old Stephon Clark was on the phone in his grandmother's garden, when he was shot and killed by two police officers. In 2019 Bothham Jean was fatally shot by his neighbour, an off-duty Dallas police officer. And that’s just scratching the surface. There are countless other names not included in this list.
On February 23, as Abrey jogged through a small neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, his life was taken by murderous hatred. For being a black man in America he paid the ultimate price. His life was ended by 34-year-old Travis McMicheal and his father George McMicheal, and in doing so, they extinguished the potential of the young 25-year-old. His memories yet to be made, dreams yet to be realised, life yet to be lived. All taken away in the flash of an eye. The sadness, rage and anger we feel at the video has to be transferred into action, demanding justice for Abrey and an end to the racism that allows this to happen.
The video is horrific to watch. Imagine how distressing it must have been for Abrey. To know that you went out for a run, never committed a crime, never hurt anyone, only to be hunted down and killed. Words can’t describe the pain, suffering and anguish he must have experienced. He should've never died. He should’ve lived to see his dreams realised. He should be alive. Thankfully, his two killers have now been arrested and charged with his murder. But that isn't proper justice. Justice would be dismantling the racist system that made them feel like they could take his life.
We as humans are far too complacent. We think progress is won far too soon. An entire system exists which allows racist injustice to continue. The racism we thought was confined to the dusty pages of history still haunts us today. The American court system locks up African Americans for non-violent drug offenses for a long period while the killers of people like Trayvon Martin walk free. The police departments often don’t properly investigate the deaths of African Americans like Abrey. Police officers shoot unarmed African Americans often with very little consequence.
In his 1963 letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. We must enter a new day where we are united against all forms of oppression. Where we challenge the powerful, give voice to the voiceless and justice for all. We owe it to Abrey, and those who wrongfully suffered a similar fate, to ensure the brutal crime committed against him never happens again. Progress doesn't fall from the sky, it’s won by uniting, participating in activism and organising our communities.
Maybe I’m too young to understand what the world should be. How the economy should be structured. How we can get better politicians. How to stop so much needless suffering. But it can’t be this.