Beyond Health Issues, Justice is the Most Serious Item on our National Agenda

By Vernon A. Williams

Some people are fighting mad. Some feel like giving up. Everyone demands an explanation though no one is convinced mere words will suffice.

With the brutal American lust for targeting African Americans, it’s hard to fathom how the most recent inhumanity can be any worse than those that came before. And yet, somehow, this one seems so much more egregious.

Or maybe it’s the cumulative pain of so many slaughters of Black Americans captured on video and the haunting thought of how many more escaped the camera lens.

Nothing simmers quite like the heat of rage. Incalculable anger is the state of the nation in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of 25-year-old Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery. The savage killing captured the attention of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who vented her ire saying, “This was a lynching. It is heartbreaking.”

Part of the frustration is knowing that it took 74 days for an arrest to be made, even though law enforcement had video evidence of precisely what was done and who did it; the quintessential justice delay is justice denied.

Police handling of the senseless crime was inappropriate from the jump. Instead of the truth, which they knew fully, officers of the law opted to concoct a lie about Ahmaud being shot by a homeowner while trying to burglarize a house.

Who knows where the botched cover-up may have gone had it not been for the video?

Two district attorney officials removed themselves from the case because of their past relationship with one of the men arrested, who once worked in that office. They got off too easy. Their job is to mete out justice – whether or not friends are involved. They failed to fulfill their oath as law men and should be fired.

Any officer involved with developing, writing, approving or knowing about the false police report needs his badge taken away too. Falsifying a report is a crime and there is no way the community will ever feel safe relying on criminals to catch criminals.

What is desperately required in this seminal moment is a commitment from all involved to be guided moving forward on this case by one common theme – the quest for justice and truth. The nation must adopt the disposition of El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, aka Malcolm X, who in simple profundity summed:

“I am for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

America is obliged to respect our community. It is not a right that we seek as part of legislation or concession of government. It is not even a courtesy that we demand from people we know enjoy their role as oppressors. It is a non-negotiable condition for peace.

Black people will not emerge from this pandemic willing to return to business as usual. It is enough to deal with the glaring disparity in how African Americans are suffering compared to others. More Blacks are diagnosed positive. More are dying from COVID-19.

There is a certain inexplicable strength and next-level sense of resolve born of adversity. It is that thinking that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Consequently, those wise enough to study the dynamics of this quandary and not merely endure the travails of the pandemic will emerge from the pressure with new focus. More Blacks than ever will command justice not only in the judicial sense but in the broader social sense. Acceptance of second-class citizenship will no longer be an option.

Virtually everyone experiencing this unprecedented moment agrees on one thing. There will be no such thing as a “return to normal.” Consider the aftermath of 9/11. Two decades later, air travel security has never been the same; neither has large crowd control, and covert surveillance at every level is an acceptable intrusion with little regard for privacy.

Those changes pale in comparison to what we can expect in the aftermath of the global pandemic reconfiguration. The new order will include Blacks demanding justice in career opportunities, justice in economic options, justice in access to and success in higher education, justice in mental and physical health care, and justice in treatment by law enforcement and the judicial system.

Prediction. The lynching of Arbery will be a point of demarcation. Such gross atrocities – and the socioeconomic reality that perpetuates them – will no longer be tolerated. It will soon become abundantly clear that Black America will not settle for going quietly into the night. The tragic end of a promising life will launch a new beginning.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference mak- ers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society.

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