Another innocent young black man is shot in daylight. This time merely for going on a run in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. A video released this week shows Ahmaud Arbery, 25, being shot in broad daylight by two white men. On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 23, just after 1 p.m., Arbery was out for a jog when he passed two men, Travis and Gregory McMichael, standing by a parked truck, both armed with guns.
On a released video of the killing, a shot erupts from one of the mens’ guns. Arbery tries to run for his life, while the other man holds him down with one hand, simultaneously holding a shotgun in the other. As he tries to get free, the other man proceeds to shoot Arbery again, and he collapses.
On Wednesday, after seeing the video, I tried my best to stay inside all day and hide myself from the world. The thought that this could be me or any of my friends of color horrified me. When I finally forced myself to go into public to get dinner, I was more reserved and vigilant than I had ever been.
The Only Black Man Visible For Miles
On my way to the restaurant, I heard police sirens and became shocked with an immense amount of fear. I remembered my insurance card was in the glove compartment. I thought to myself, if that cop stopped me and asked for it, I would have to lean over to get it. What if he thought I was reaching for a gun? Would he pull out his gun and shoot me?
When I arrived at the restaurant and parked my car, I had to walk through my suburban Georgia town’s downtown sidewalk to reach the restaurant and order my food. As I got out of the car, a sharp feeling of discomfort and reality plagued my body. I was the only black man visible for miles. I felt out of place. Like I didn’t belong. Like I should be ashamed of looking different.
Never had I felt so alone and vulnerable. Simply walking on a sidewalk, much like Ahmaud was running in his neighborhood, was now an action I have to worry about. At any moment, anything could’ve happened to me. Anyone can run up on me and attack me just simply for the color of my skin.
Going Out at Night Is a Gamble
Among many of my white friends, fearing for your life is not very common. They’ve never had “the talk” with their parents about what being a black man in America means. They’ve never had to worry about a traffic stop turning into manslaughter. They’ve never had to worry about crossing a street or running in their neighborhoods. Or getting shot in cold blood.
For myself and my Latino, Arab, and African-American friends, all of the scenarios listed above that otherwise sound carefree and mundane are harsh realities we must face every day. Going out at night is a gamble for men of color. The night is a luxury we cannot enjoy in public alone or even in groups. Even being a minute late home after sunset scares my mother and prompts her to call me nonstop until I answer.
A Tragic Reality
For men of color, even in our own neighborhoods, we have the potential of being gunned down and our lives being robbed from us. An even more tragic reality is this — the people who would take our lives have a chance of getting away with it, much like the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. At least, so far. As of Thursday, the father and son shooters have not been arrested or even charged with a crime. Until a video of the February killing was released this week, the shooting had not even received much media attention. Now that CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, WSB-TV in Atlanta and other outlets are reporting on Arbery’s death, public pressure is mounting to charge the men.
As my youth slips away and my journey to adulthood is on the close horizon, a frightening world seems to be waiting for me. A world where justice is ignored for those who have dark skin. A world that doesn’t take your intelligence or positive attributes into consideration but, instead, immediately considers you a threat and dangerous to others. A world where hate and bigotry are acceptable and encouraged on social media platforms.
Of course, not everything is negative. Although disappointing and odd to say, 2020 is also the best time to be a black man. We can now at least call out these people and protest and resist hate and racism through many platforms, and we can express ourselves and speak up when we see wrong.
But it still hurts that we are still fighting for such basic levels of human compassion and fair treatment. It still hurts that we can’t go out without the fear of being discriminated against or shot. It hurts that this nation represents 240 years of discomfort and hell for many of us and our ancestors.
The best we can do is keep our heads up, fight for what is right, love, and support one another as a community. And we can also hope we never have to have the same worries for our children and aspire that they grow up in a world where a black man can run in peace.
Terell Wright, 17, attends Walnut Grove High School and enjoys politics, writing and aspires to work in public policy.