The trial for the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, came to a close last week, with all three defendants being convicted. The verdict came as no surprise to the American public, who were understandably horrified when video footage of the incident that claimed Arbery’s life went viral.
The saga is not over yet as the focus moves to the alleged corruption of the district attorney who first handled the case. Nevertheless, there is a profound lesson Americans can learn already from the outcome of the trial; a lesson those seeking to exploit racial matters would rather we disregard.
From the beginning, it was evident this legal proceeding was different from others of its type. Indeed, the televised courtroom events did not garner nearly as much attention as the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Some wondered why there was such a disparity because they were both high-profile cases.
Perhaps the reason why more people watched Rittenhouse may be the lesson Americans can, and should, learn from this case. His story was far more controversial and contentious than that of Arbery. People disagreed sharply on Rittenhouse’s actions in Kenosha, WI. Although the dissension played out along party lines, it is clear this case will be debated for years to come.
On the other hand, Arbery’s case had no such controversy. Most Americans agreed that the men involved in Arbery’s death deserved punishment. The left would have had a hard time using the young man’s murder to smear conservatives when most believed his killing was not justified.
Sure, there were some fringe elements on the right who vociferously defended the actions of Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan. Some claimed, without evidence, that Arbery was in that Satilla Shores neighborhood to burglarize homes and that he was not a jogger as most of his friends, family, and neighbors claimed. Even though police never tied him to a burglary or theft in that area, they maintained he was up to no good. Not even Larry English, the man who owned the construction site where Arbery had been caught on camera, fingered the young man as a thief.
But these folks were in the minority on the right. The bottom line is that there was an overwhelming consensus when it came to attitudes about the trial.
Is America Still Irredeemably Racist?
The outcome of the Arbery trial shows how far Americans have progressed when it comes to addressing racism and corruption in their institutions and society. The message was so profound that even professional race hustler Al Sharpton acknowledged it. “Let the words go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that Black lives do matter,” he said in front of the courthouse shortly after the verdict was announced.
“This has proven that our children know their value,” Sharpton continued. “That’s why those people that march, I’m talking about the people here, that were here when nobody else was here, they stood up. Brunswick, Georgia, will go down in history as the place that criminal justice took a different turn.”
While these remarks might conjure images of broken clocks, the civil rights leader was correct. The outcome of this trial signifies that while there is still more work to be done, America has made tremendous strides in dealing with racial inequality in its justice system.
~ Read more from Jeff Charles.