Today — January 6, 2021 — While the entire nation has their attention turned on billion-dollar election run-offs and debates on the authenticity of truth, something else of importance is happening in Georgia and in our nation. In a windowless and forgotten courtroom, where no camera phones or media sway the public opinions, a debate is happening.
Lawyers are attempting to argue that Amaud Arbrey should not be called a victim.
This is how racism works, you know… it sneaks in like kudzu in the back forty while we mindlessly watering flowers in our front yard. And while our entire nation is enraptured with a feigned controversy over the coup of America’s democracy, a few unidentified lawyers are debating whether or not Amaud Arbery deserves to be given victim status. A man who was shot and killed, in broad daylight, and caught on video for everyone to view. This person might not be a “victim.”
Their argument goes something like this: if we call Arbery a “victim” then we are confirming that what happened was a crime, which takes away the whole innocent-proven-guilty stance, and would sway the jurors into believing that a crime had happened, when they don’t necessarily know that from the onset. They are arguing that Arbery should only be called “the deceased.”
What this debate is doing though, is diminishing Arbery’s humanity. It is taking away his dignity and worth, and creating an opportunity for the jury to objective his body and forget about his soul. Whether or not a crime was committed, Amaud Arbery is dead. In his death, he becomes a victim. To debate that fact is to debate the very sense of what it means to be human. and to think that someone’s humanity is up for debate, well, that’s exactly how racism works. Because a debate about his victimhood is, in essence, a debate about his personhood. And the ability to debate that ended in 1870.
Just to make sure I was not wrong, I looked up the official definition of “victim.” Here the dictionary definition: a victim is a person who is harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. By this definition, in a court of law or not, Arbery is absolutely… unequivocally… a victim. His life was taken from him, and no matter what, that is not a debatable fact.
You can debate whether or not it was a crime or an accident. You can debate if the murderers are the men in the courtroom. You can debate what type of punishment or redemption can and should happen. But you cannot debate someone’s humanity. Whenever a life is lost, there is a victim. Victim status is not debatable.
So while we are distracted, while we jump from sensationalized scandal to ambulance chancing argument, the racism is creeping back in. The idea that the soul of humanity is up for debate — that someone’s victim status is disputable at all — is the insidious debate that keeps up from honoring the dignity and worth that should not be denied to any human being. Until we stop thinking that humanity is up for debate, we will never start moving forward. Until then, the racism will still grow in unattended places, still overwhelm our hearts.
Victim status is not debatable, and neither is our common humanity. If it is, racism still has its hold.