Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
A graphic video has emerged this week of a Georgia shooting. Two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, cornered a black man named Ahmaud Arbery and shot him at point-blank range. The incident has provoked widespread outrage and grief from many, including Christian leaders, particularly from those in the African American community.
“To be black man in America is, still, to live without liberties,” tweeted Pastor John Onwuchekwa. In a separate tweet, he added, “And in the off chance that we ever forget, or begin to daydream that we’re somehow in less danger, we’re always reminded. Never gently, but forcefully. There’s no way to gently remind someone of horror. Lord, remind us of your goodness!! Please!”
As long as blackness is stigmatized:
– EVERY ONE us “fits the description”
– NOT ONE of us are truly safe.
To be black man in America is,still, to live without liberties.
No peaceful jogs.
No leisurely strolls.
No mindless movement.
Every step on high alert.#AhmaudArbery
— John Onwuchekwa (@JawnO) May 6, 2020
“His name is #AhmadArbery,” said Priscilla Shirer. “Say his name—out loud…We can’t ignore this. It’s wrong & devastating.”
His name is #AhmadArbery.
Say his name – out loud.
To our children.
To our grandchildren.
To our neighbors.
In our churches.
To your social media followers.
And out of respect for his mourning mother. 😢
We can’t ignore this. It’s wrong & devastating.
— Priscilla Shirer (@PriscillaShirer) May 6, 2020
Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile observed, “Grief this Mother’s Day is likely to be heightened for many. There are those who have lost mothers or children with COVID-19. And there are those suffering violent losses, like the mother of #AhmaudArbery.”
Grief this Mother’s Day is likely to be heightened for many. There are those who have lost mothers or children with COVID-19. And there are those suffering violent losses, like the mother of #AhmaudArbery. There are all of us watching it all unfold… often alone… confined.
— Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) May 6, 2020
Other Christian leaders of color weighed in on the Georgia shooting, including hip hop artist Propaganda and speaker and author Jackie Hill Perry.
You know how many “descriptions”
I’ve fit for crimes? And by fit the description I mean being a black man. #AhmaudArbery
— Prop (@prophiphop) May 6, 2020
Or in other words, murdered for being black and human… https://t.co/c5o0LNEtAG
— Jackie Hill Perry (@JackieHillPerry) May 7, 2020
What Happened in the Georgia Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery?
The Georgia shooting of Ahmaud Arbery occurred on February 23, although it is just now making widespread news because of the video. According to a police report, Arbery was going for a run in a suburban neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, when he was seen by former police officer and investigator, Gregory McMichael. McMichael thought Arbery looked like someone who had committed several burglaries in the area, so he called 911. He then called his son, Travis, and the two men armed themselves and followed Arbery down the road.
The video (supposedly filmed by a third person known to the McMichaels) shows Arbery jogging up behind a parked truck where the father and son were waiting [Note: The video contains content some may find disturbing]. One man was standing in the bed of the truck, and the other was standing outside of it. The video shows Arbery running around the right side of the truck and then appearing on the opposite side engaged in an altercation with the latter man. A gunshot rings out as the two struggle and then we hear two more shots before Arbery falls to the ground.
So far, neither Gregory McMichael nor his son have been arrested. Before he recused himself from the case, a district attorney assigned to it had argued there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest. The case has since been assigned to a new prosecutor, who has asked for assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and also wants it to go to a grand jury. Grand juries in Georgia are currently unable to meet through June 12, however, because of the coronavirus.
Don’t Avert Your Eyes
Christian leaders outside the African American community have also decried the incident. Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham said, “The ongoing and outrageous violence in America against young African Americans must be stopped. My heart is broken for the family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery.”
The ongoing and outrageous violence in America against young African Americans must be stopped. My heart is broken for the family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery. We must continue to stand against injustice and inequality in all its sinful forms.
— Jack Graham (@jackngraham) May 7, 2020
Addressing his brothers and sisters of color, Pastor J.D. Greear said, “We’re with you in this. When one part of us hurts, all of us hurts and we’ll walk through this together as family.” To any believers who do not feel the weight of the tragedy, Greear exhorted, “Part of what it means to walk with Jesus is to bear one another’s burdens.”
Our family is hurting with the news of Ahmaud Arbery. Here’s what we can do! pic.twitter.com/SfxWfX2JfY
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) May 6, 2020
In an article reflecting on the incident and potential reactions from white believers, Dr. Russell Moore urged people not to “avert their eyes” from or downplay what happened. “The arguments, already bandied about on social media, that ‘Arbery wasn’t a choirboy’ are revolting,” said Moore. “There is no, under any Christian vision of justice, situation in which the mob murder of a person can be morally right.”
In his comments, Greear encouraged those who were grieving the Georgia shooting to cry out to God in prayer since he is the only one “who can bring the healing that we yearn for.” Christian hip hop artist Tedashii echoed these sentiments on Instagram, saying anyone who is experiencing suffering or grief because of the incident should not bottle up their feelings.
Instead, we should cry out to God as Jesus did on the cross. “We can do that as the children of God,” said Tedashii, “to cry out in pain before God who cares, and honestly in doing that, you move closer toward hope. Lamenting doesn’t fix the problem, but it helps you to fixate on the one who can.”