Tea Time with Tagwa: Jogging while Black is now a crime

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, I write to you with a heavy heart. I write to you on the heels of yet another injustice against this nation’s black community. I write to you about Ahmaud Arbery.

I don’t even know where to begin. His story is one of confusion, yet clarity. Arbery was jogging on Feb. 23 in Satilla Shores, Georgia. Arbery, like many Americans, enjoyed the outdoors by going on a run. However, unlike the rest of Americans, his run resulted in his death. Arbery was shot dead by two white men during his run.

Out of respect for Arbery, I don’t want to share his alleged murderers’ names. No more recognition for the racist profilers who strip black families of their children. 

Two white men, a father and a son, chased Arbery in their pick-up truck under some false heroic notion he was a burglar. Believe it or not, this isn’t even the craziest part of this tragedy. See, white men chasing after black men because of racial profiling and a heroic complex has been a normality since the death of Trayvon Martin. 

Martin, who was murdered in 2012, was a 17-year-old boy who was shot by a man in his neighborhood. Similarly, his aggressor believed he was a suspect of theft. George Zimmerman, Martin’s murderer, was not convicted of his crimes against Martin.

See, white men chasing after black men because of racial profiling and a heroic complex has been a normality since the death of Trayvon Martin. 

It’s important that I share both sides of the story here. Not because I believe these white men — far from it — but because their account of the day was brutally disturbed a few days ago with the surfacing of new evidence.

By their account in the initial police report, the father in this duo is standing on his lawn when he sees a black jogger run by him. He calls his son, telling him this jogger looks like the burglar who was suspected of breaking into homes. They get into a pick-up truck armed with a shotgun and handgun to chase down this black man who was such a menace to society. Once they near the jogger, the father yells out for him to stop, however, the jogger begins to violently assault the son. The two fight before two shots ring out, from two different guns, according to the father. So, this jogger was armed? Well, in that case, these two white men are just our modern-day Hercules. Thanks to them, Satilla Shores, Georgia, and the rest of America is safe from yet another violent black man.

It’s funny really, the way guilty, white men can truly distort a story in their head. The way they can contort things to make them look like the heroes of their neighborhood. It looks like these men took notes from Zimmerman. Luckily, what Martin never got, Arbery did. A video surfaced of the murder taking place. 

Let’s just say the two men weren’t as truthful as they played to be. In the video, the pick-up truck was already waiting for Arbery when he jogged by. The son was standing on the driver side of the truck, shotgun in hand, while the armed father was in the bed of the truck. Arbery tried to avoid the men, however, after periods of shouting and disappearing from sight, he came back into frame trying to tussle with the son over the shotgun. Then, three shots rang out from the shotgun. Arbery tried to run away, but eventually fell and died.

An open and shut case, right? Wrong. We live in a country where a 28-year-old man can shoot a 17-year-old black boy for merely carrying some Skittles and iced tea. This situation is no different. It’s Georgia. The father was a retired police officer and investigator with the local district attorney’s office. So, before Arbery could even get a trial, two prosecutors had to recuse themselves for relations with the defendants. 

George Barnhill, one of the prosecutors who left the case, made sure to leave a letter describing his position on the situation before Arbery’s mother asked him to recuse himself. According to Barnhill, there was not enough sufficient cause to arrest Arbery’s murders. In his eyes, the two men were well within their rights chasing Arbery down because he was a suspected burglar. And, since Georgia is an open carry state, the bearing of their guns was completely legal.

“A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge,” the Georgia law states

That is Georgia state law. Basically, Georgia is allowing their citizens to play cops and robbers with the lives of their residents. How cute. 

Basically, Georgia is allowing their citizens to play cops and robbers with the lives of their residents. How cute. 

If you’re confused with this law, don’t worry, you’re not alone. An open carry state I can deal with. However, practically allowing the formation of militias without any proper training is baffling to me. It’s bad enough the black citizens of this nation, specifically in the South, have to deal with the racial profiling of law enforcement. Now, you want to give that power over to untrained lunatics with guns. 

I’m sure this law is fine in a dreamworld, but we don’t live in such a world. We live in a world where a black man is killed jogging. How many more unarmed black men have to be murdered under racial profiling before this country wakes up and sees the problem it has?

Arbery was wrongfully murdered. Point blank, period. It breaks my heart to read stories like this. Then, I remember how these families must be feeling. Aren’t we tired of shattering black families into a million unfixable pieces? 

Well, Barnhill, I completely disagree with you. There’s more than sufficient evidence of these men’s guilt. What more do you want? There’s an entire video showcasing the injustice and brutality against Arbery. If these men are not convicted and sentenced, this country is more far gone than I ever realized. If a video cannot land a conviction, nothing will highlight the unjustness and cruelty this nation has for its black community.

Probable cause cannot be the fact that you’re black. I don’t want another Trayvon Martin or Ahmaud Arbery weighing on my heart the next time I go to a 7-Eleven or on a run in my neighborhood. I don’t want my brother growing up where he has to be afraid simply because he’s a black boy living in a predominantly white neighborhood.

Probable cause cannot be the fact that you’re black.

Today, I ran 2.23 miles. Like many activists and protestors, running 2.23 miles is the way we will honor Arbery. He died Feb. 23. Today is his birthday. In order to abide by social distancing guidelines, people all over the nation are doing what Arbery loved: running. It’s not much, but it brings awareness and recognition to a man killed in cold blood.

Arbery is an injustice beyond belief. Nobody can bring him back to his grieving mother. Nobody can justify and reason his death to the rest of the world. Nobody can give this 25 year old his life back. The least he can have is justice. And that’s the tea.

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