Despite two white men literally hunting down a black man and murdering him in broad daylight, it took three months, four prosecutors, a leaked video, and a viral hashtag just for a chance — a chance — that Ahmaud Arbery’s family would receive a fair investigation into his death.
Earlier this year my friend (who is black) was working a package delivery job in a major Californian city. One evening as he was dropping off packages at a doorstep, a white stranger encroached on his space and accused him of stealing the very packages he was delivering.
My friend explained he was delivering the packages, only for the white stranger to escalate the situation by claiming to be the police. He was not the police. He was not even the homeowner.
Eventually the white stranger backed down — without apologizing — and my friend walked away from the encounter physically unharmed.
Though my friend’s experience that night ended differently than that of
their stories began the exact same way: a white person acting on the deeply seeded belief that they have the right to police the existence of black people.
Thankfully the stranger who lied to my friend about being the police and falsely accusing him of robbery didn’t have a gun that night. For all I know, that’s the only reason my friend’s story did not end the same way as Ahmaud Arbery’s.
I was recently introduced to a thought experiment from American philosopher John Rawls called “original position.” The concept was explained to me like this:
“Rawls argues a system is only just if you’d be willing to enter it without knowing what position you would have once inside.”
I didn’t choose to be white but I did choose to live in America, which means I have entered into a societal system that is built around preserving my comfort while requiring black people to justify their existence every day.
Given this reality, I believe my primary responsibility as a white American is to understand my whiteness. To recognize moments and patterns of the privilege I’m afforded, to actively seek non-white voices of influence, to create space for and amplify the voices of minorities around me.
But all of these actions are hollow if I don’t also acknowledge and grieve injustice.
We must acknowledge and grieve injustice because they are the first steps towards reconciliation. Without reconciliation, there is no hope for a better future.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung is a German term that
“refers to embarrassment about and often remorse for Germans’ complicity in the war crimes of the Wehrmacht, Holocaust, and related events of the early and mid-20th century, including World War II.”
There is no equivalent word in the English language for processing the centuries of trauma white America has inflicted on black people because America has never formally apologized for slavery.
As long as white America chooses to believe that Abraham Lincoln eradicated mainstream racism when he freed the slaves, and that the Confederate flag is a harmless symbol of cultural heritage, and that overt racism only comes from rednecks in the rural South, and that Obama’s presidency proves racial equality, and that Ahmaud’s death is merely unfortunate, our black brothers and sisters will continue to languish and die without accountability.
This is not God’s vision for how we should live.
Subscribe to continue reading
Already have an account? Log in