On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, a retired police investigator, Greg McMichael, 64, sees a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, jogging down the street past McMichael’s house. As it has been described, McMichael goes on “high alert.” He calls out to his son Travis McMichael who also lives in the neighborhood, grabs his 357 Magnum and runs to his white pick up truck. Travis McMichael grabs a 12-gage shotgun and jumps into the driver’s seat.
Arbery is jogging down the street with no cell phone, no weapon, wearing jogging clothes.
The two men, the McMichaels, later claimed that they were on high alert because they recognized the young man. They (with amazing rapidity) formed a self-appointed posse to hunt the young man down.
Ahmaud Arbery was a jogger. He had jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before. In fact, this was part of the reason the two men (joined by another) pursued him. The McMichaels claimed that Arbery had been observed on video tape, entering a house in the area which was under construction.
The owner of the house under construction had set up the video equipment and had also viewed the tapes. Nothing he saw on the tapes alarmed him. There was a curious white couple who entered the house, a group of white young people who carted off pieces of wood. Arbery has also been filmed wandering around the house and leaving without disturbing anything. The owner didn’t call 911. He didn’t even notify the authorities.
But, evidently, there was a buzz in the neighborhood about trespassers. I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar this buzz wasn’t about the white couple, or the white kids who stole from the site. It was about a young black man daring to act like any number of other people fulfilling their curiosity about the new construction.
This is the kind of “buzz” that leads to two white men arming themselves in a matter of minutes and hunting down a young black man on the street. This is the kind of “buzz” that gins up hyper vigilance for men who see themselves as protectors of white privilege. It makes them feel special, like heros, like warriors. They love it.
And, they thought they were perfectly justified in arming themselves, jumping into a truck and pursuing another human being, cutting off his escape and murdering him in the street.