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It was modern-day lynching, carried out in broad daylight on an American neighborhood street.

A prosecutor initially sanctioned the killing, accepting the word of the white lynch mob without question or investigation.

A graphic video was leaked by a white lawyer who expected, unbelievably, it would aid the killers’ defense.

The defense wallowed in the demonization of a victim of racially-motivated violence, and coldly eliminated all but one Black juror.

The shooter referred to his victim with an obscene racial slur as he lay dying, and frequently used racial slurs in texts and conversations with his co-defendants.

One of the killers referred to his hideous crime as “a good deed.”

Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers have been held accountable, but this case leaves a deep and painful wound on our nation’s soul.

It is appalling beyond words that in the 21st century three white men in America felt entitled to chase down and execute Ahmaud for the offense of “jogging while Black.” But the casual dismissal of his violent death, the unquestioned acceptance of the killers’ feeble claims of self-defense, the exclusion of all but one Black juror and the appalling racist defense strategy revealed the deeply-entrenched racial bias that permeates our criminal justice system.

A nation watched a skilled and serious prosecutor, armed with overwhelming evidence, a videotape, a 911 call and a defendant’s own testimony that he was in no way threatened, completely undercutting any claims of self-defense. Yet, we all knew there was a strong possibility that justice would be denied. We’d seen it just days before, when a jury accepted the self-defense claim of vigilante killer Kyle Rittenhouse, whose victims were protesting in the name of racial justice.

A culture steeped in the propaganda of the firearms industry and the inflammatory rhetoric of race-baiting politicians still is capable of condoning the vigilantism and racial terrorism that claimed the lives of nearly 6,500 Black Americans who were lynched between 1865 and 1950. The conviction of Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Roddy Bryan — three men who believed they had every right to execute Ahmaud Arbery, represents a victory for justice, but a profoundly bittersweet one.

True justice means defeating the racial hatred that motivated their violent response. True justice means a local prosecutor who values the life of a Black victim over the fragile pride of his white killers. True justice means that it doesn’t require months of protest and the glare of national attention before a Black man’s murder is treated like a crime.

Time will tell whether this case marks a turning point toward true justice. Arbery’s murder inspired Georgia to repeal its citizen’s arrest law, which was passed in 1863 in aid of capturing enslaved persons who escaped. It spurred the passage of a hate crimes law in Georgia, which had been one of only four states without one. Jackie Johnson, the prosecutor who first directed police not to arrest the killers — one of whom was her former employee — has been indicted for misconduct.

While they represent hope for the future, these developments cannot compensate for the loss of Ahmad Arbery’s life. I grieve alongside his parents, family and community. I pray that all can find peace in this hope. But we must never forget the injustices committed, or the life and the promise that was lost.

Let us stand in solidarity with all the victims and survivors of racial violence and recommit ourselves to purging our justice system of bias and discrimination.


Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League.