In a set of two stories that are all too familiar, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor became victims of violence. Both were black. Both of their cases are still under investigation, but mostly only after tremendous public outcry. Both tragic incidents left their families with more questions than answers, and sadly justice still remains in the air.
On Sunday February 23rd, Ahmaud Arbery went for a jog. According to a The New York Times report, Gregory and Travis McMichael approached Arbery. The McMichael’s men had been following Arbery with two guns. (They would later claim that they thought Arbery was a robber that had been vandalizing homes in the area earlier that year.) Arbery was shot three times after a scuffle with the younger McMichael. He died on the street. The case didn’t get much attention until a video of the incident surfaced in May. Two days after the video was released, the McMichaels were arrested.
Fast forward just weeks later to the apartment of Breonna Taylor. On March 13th, police fired more than 20 shots in her apartment during a horribly botched narcotics investigation. Taylor was shot 8 times and died. Her boyfriend was also in the apartment and fired at the police in an act of self defense. Sadly, the police were actually looking for another man, Jamarcus Glover who was actually already in police custody at the time according to NBC News. The mayor of Louisville called for a thorough investigation into the case.
Why Did It Take Months For Anything to Happen?
In a case of double deja-vu, there’s been no justice for either Arbery or Taylor. Some skeptics of Arbery’s case say video footage of him in a house under construction on the day adds credence to the McMichael’s suspicion that he was a burglar. However, the two men decided not to wait for police to arrive to the scene. They followed Arbery, which resulted in the fatal altercation that was entirely preventable.
Sandy Anglin Phillips knows all too well how it feels to lose a loved one to gun violence. She founded Survivors Empowered, a nonprofit organization made specifically to help survivors of gun violence. Phillips started the organization after her daughter Jessica “Redfield” Ghawi was shot six times in the Aurora theater shooting. Sandy continuously deals with online harassers. People saying her daughter was a crisis actor or that it was her own fault for being shot simply by going to a midnight movie premiere.
“Victim blaming is huge! Its people’s way of making them think they are in control and it can’t happen to them. In our case…it was…”why did she go to a midnight movie? She shouldn’t have done that!” So Breonna shouldn’t have been sleeping in her own bed. Ahmaud shouldn’t have looked into a house being built or gone for a jog. Worshippers from Tree of Life shouldn’t have gone to synagogue. Parkland students shouldn’t have gone to school. We blame the innocent to try to make us feel safer. None of us are safe. Doesn’t matter what your skin color is. Your religion. Your income. None of us are safe. We are all one degree of separation from this happening to us.”Sandy Anglin Phillips, Survivors Empowered Founder
Sandy had worked tirelessly to help other survivors of shootings all across the country. One thing she emphasizes is to make sure not to forget the stories of the victims, in order to make sure that we keep their voices alive. It is worth noting that while none of us are safe from gun violence, death by police in America is a leading cause of death, for black men in particular.
What Is Justice?
What does justice mean for all the Ahmaud Arbery’s and Breonna Taylor’s of America? Does it mean their killers going to jail? Does it mean for our country’s justice system to recognize what happened to two young unarmed black citizens was murder? No. Justice would be for these incidents not to occur in the first place. Justice would be not having American citizens with full lives ahead of them turning into hashtags on social media. Justice would be safety. Justice would be Ahmaud Arbery going out for a jog and Breonna Taylor sleeping safely in her bed after a long day at work. Justice would mean that they were still alive. What is justice if not peace? For Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, it’s too little too late.