Monday, May 11, 2020

How to process the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

So it took two men killing a jogger to break the cycle of Headline Covid-19 News.  On CBS Friday morning, for the first time in endless weeks, a non-Covid-19 story headed the newscast.  That's because it appears that two white men in the South, bearing a strong resemblance to stereotypes of white racists in the racist South, shot and killed an unarmed black man who was out jogging.  That is the story as reported.

Now, we know darn well how this will be covered. We also know why it, above all of the thousands of murders committed, will be elevated to top story.  I don't even have to guess.  Aljazeera already has shown, by posting the story under the category 'Racism.'  Do we know it was about racism other than the ethnicity of the parties involved?  If you're a racist you do.  Otherwise, no.  But racism is hardly confined to one group of people in one time or space.  It's quite common.  And we'll see plenty of it in this story's coverage.

If you're offended by the idea of justice, then
per liberals of old, you're the problem
But as a Christian, we can follow the general Orthodox approach to the topic.  First of all, pray for the poor victim, his family, and the family of those accused.  In crimes or killings there are always more than one victim.  As for the racial component, I find the Orthodox approach is a good starting point.

The gist of Orthodox Christians is that race is a false construct, but ethnicity can be a gift from God.  Helpful as that is, it's also a bit simplistic.  The concept of race is not something new or unique to Europe or America.  Nonetheless, the scientific categorizing of humans in a laboratory sense is certainly unique, that's because the Scientific Revolution was unique to the West.  It's that application of thinking that gave a unique spin to the old human tendency of raising an eyebrow at best when confronted with different looking and acting people.

This isn't to deny the obvious, that this particular rational scientific approach to racism was unique and quite present in the West, including America.  Still is. Though most of the modern holdover of this old racism is almost parody in its stupidity.  That doesn't make it any less evil.  And yes, given the context, you're not exactly off for thinking this could have been in the back of the suspects' minds when they confronted Mr. Arbery and ended up killing him.  Likewise, don't be shocked that new forms of racism will bear a typically rational and scientific sounding spin.  It's one of the many legacies of the Scientific Revolution that we prefer to ignore.

With that said, we don't pursue justice based on knowing someone is likely guilty because of his skin color. Therefore, the sane, correct, proper and good approach to this, beyond waiting for evidence and due process, is to make it about the parties involved.  Not people groups.

That is, assuming it's the worst case scenario, that these fellows are racists to the core, that they hunted Mr. Arbery down like an animal and murdered him in cold blood for only the most racist of reasons, means that they are guilty of grave evil and need to be prosecuted up to the limit of the law.

It can, of course, engender a discussion about racism in America, but only a fair and open one, examining real racism as it actually exists.  Old forms of racism and new.  The impact they have and how they can be properly curtailed.  If it becomes only about one group, and this murder is used to tar and feather one group only, an entire ethnicity, or an entire nation or civilization, then ultimately we're not better than the racism we believe we are condemning.

In the meantime, prayers for the families involved, the victim who has been murdered, and all who are dragged into this human tragedy are more than enough.  Let the wheels of justice turn.  If that's not good enough for you, then we are already at the edge of some major problems.

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