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The Ahmaud Arbery case garnered national attention – and may have ignited a civil war among black conservatives – when a video of the fatal encounter between Georgia residents Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, and Travis and Gregory McMichael was leaked to the public. The footage, which shows the young man running around the side of the truck before being shot after a brief scuffle with Travis McMichael, elicited an outpouring of grief and rage at the senseless killing.
Many on the left politicized the tragic incident, some even blaming Trump for empowering the two men. But this particular incident sparked a raucous debate in the black conservative movement. Indeed, it ignited a conflict that had been brewing for years. This battle is now being waged in news outlets and on social media.
Reactions to the Shooting
The majority of conservatives were appalled by Arbery’s death. Right-leaning commentators like the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh and Dana Loesch condemned the McMichaels for their handling of the situation. Many black conservatives also raged at the injustice.
Trump-supporting YouTubers Diamond and Silk demanded justice for Arbery’s family. Comedian Terrence K. Williams tweeted: “If Martin Luther King Jr was Alive right now he would demand justice for Ahmaud Arbery but he would also encourage black and white people not to fight and kill each other over this.”
Maj Toure, a Second Amendment activist and founder of Black Guns Matter, posted a tweet addressing the notion that the McMichaels were trying to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery. This is the justification put forth by District Attorney George Barnhill in his attempt to explain why he did not wish to arrest the two men. “For all you talking that “he wanted to make a citizens arrest” sh—… That’s NOT what he stated he was doing,” Toure wrote. “It’s what his LAWYER came up with LATER.”
The tweet included the police report, which shows the two men never mentioned citizens’ arrest when speaking with law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene.
Pastor Dr. Darrell Scott, a prominent black Trump supporter, has been on a tear since the footage was revealed. Recently, he posted a tweet criticizing those who are attempting to defend the McMichaels: “A man got killed without due process, and a number of people are trying to justify the killers.”
Black Conservatives Push Anti-Arbery Narrative
While most conservatives believed the McMichaels’ actions leading up to the shooting were wrong, others mounted a defense of the two men, focusing their ire on Arbery himself. Some black conservatives joined in on the effort, disseminating misinformation about the victim and his encounter with the McMichaels.
Conservative pundit and former member of Turning Point USA Brandon Tatum made two videos intimating that Arbery was a burglar who was attempting to steal from the construction site he entered during his jog. He also seemed to be trying to distract from the shooting by bringing up black on black crime. In a tweet, he said: “If Ahmaud Arbery was shot by black men in a pickup truck ‘Jogging in his own community’, 99% of yall wouldn’t give a F.” He continued, bringing up the murder of Tyshawn Lee, who was killed by gang members.
Prager U’s Candace Owens, the founder of the BLEXIT movement, also weighed in with a flurry of tweets slamming Arbery and painting him as a burglar. On Twitter, she mimicked Tatum’s post about Tyshawn Lee and lashed out at Arbery:
“Black America when 9 year old Tyshawn Lee is lured from a basketball court down an alleyway and shot dead by a black gang member:
Black America when a repeat burglar is shot dead after breaking into a home:
RACISM! INJUSTICE! PROTEST!
Our culture is a joke.”
Owens’ tweets elicited a fiery backlash from black conservatives who called her out for mischaracterizing the situation and spreading stereotypes about the black community. Jonathan Thrower, former South Carolina BLEXIT director, published a statement announcing his resignation, stating that he was stepping down to “prevent being associated with someone who doesn’t speak for Black people, but speaks Black people.”
Author and political pundit Dr. Christopher Metzler, said: “Candace Owens’ comments in the Arbery Case are her opinions. There is nothing conservative about them.”
Diante Johnson, president of the Black Conservative Federation, also weighed in. “Sigh….Why is she so hateful? This seriously scares me,” he wrote. “This is not how we grow our movement. This is turning people away.”
The debate became even more heated during a live-streamed Zoom conference on YouTube in which conservative social media figures Hotep Jesus, Uncle Hotep, and Second Amendment activist Antonia Okafor had a conversation with Tatum and Bryson Gray on the matter. The video quickly became contentious and ended with Tatum hurling epithets at Hotep Jesus and screaming, “When I see you, I’m whuppin’ your ass.”
The rift in the black conservative movement has been brewing for years, with many taking exceptions to the rhetoric of the black conservative establishment when it comes to the black community. Many believe that the overall messaging tends to be demeaning and inaccurate. They argue that their lack of nuance repels more black Americans than it attracts, and now, with alternative media, the non-establishment types have found ways to put forth a new message.
This conflict is far from over, and despite the apparent contentiousness, it will likely result in more black conservative voices gaining an audience. Nobody enjoys infighting, but, in the end, this debate will demonstrate that black conservatives are not a monolith. Perhaps from this battle, the right can develop a better strategy for winning over more black Americans.
Read more from Jeff Charles.