The killers of Ahmaud Arbery “stand in for millions of Americans” nationwide who believe that skin color deems one “less worthy,” according to a recent Washington Post piece that also accuses many Americans of denying and downplaying rampant racism throughout the country.
The Monday essay, titled “Why I don’t complain about racism to White people,” was penned by Post columnist Brian Broome and began by arguing that Ahmaud Arbery’s three killers who were convicted last week of federal hate crimes were not an “anomaly” or “from a bygone era” but represent “millions” of racist Americans that can be found “everywhere” in the country.
Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed in Georgia while jogging by Travis McMichael, who pursued Arbery, believing he was a burglar. McMichael’s father was also charged and found guilty for joining his son by pursuing Arbery as well as a neighbor, William Bryan.
All three defendants in the trial for Arbery’s case were found guilty, despite questions from some media outlets and activists that justice would not be served in the trial from a majority white jury.
“I’m here to tell you that these killers aren’t exceptions to any rule,” Broome wrote. “They stand in for millions of Americans in their belief that the color of my skin makes me less of a human being. Less intelligent. Less trustworthy. Less worthy in general.”
“These Americans exist from sea to shining sea, and they are not always White, or male,” he added. “They are everywhere. In every occupation.”
Opinion: Why I don’t complain about racism to White peoplehttps://t.co/98o4UgC3ej
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 28, 2022
In addition, the author claims that even the “other White people” would disregard or downplay his encounters with racism.
“They are so common — and their actions so unavoidable — that I learned a long time ago not to share my encounters with them with other White people,” he wrote.
“The minute I would start to tell White folks about a slight, a snub or an outright ugly racist thing that I experienced, I could see their minds working. I could see them processing the things that I was saying in order to dismiss them,” he added. “Most told me I was being too sensitive or that I was overreacting — anything to minimize my experience,” he added.
In one example brought by the 51-year-old Broome, he drew from his youth, recalling being a passenger in a car driven by a white friend, after having both “been out” at a bar and admitting the driver “probably shouldn’t have been driving.”
(According to the Orange County Register, Broome “doesn’t remember large chunks of his twenties and thirties, having lost them in a blur of drugs and alcohol.”)
Having given several “monosyllabic” replies to an officer who stopped them, Broome claims the officer frisked him but not his friend before releasing them both.
“[The officer] continued to pepper me with questions, and I continued to give him monosyllabic answers,” he wrote. “He took this as a sign of disrespect and frisked me for weapons. Hands on the car. Legs spread.”
“This, while my friend sat behind the wheel. He didn’t get frisked. Or a ticket,” he added. “The officer on the driver’s side apologized to my friend for the inconvenience.”
In a second example, Broome, again a passenger, recalled being pulled over while driving through a “wealthy White neighborhood.”
“The officers just made something up and pulled us over,” he claimed.
Admitting the officers were “exceedingly friendly, asking how our day was going and what we did for a living,” he highlighted that the vehicle was momentarily inspected by a drug-sniffing dog.
“After their drug dog found nothing in our car, they sent us on our way, fully traumatized, carrying an anger that we just stow away with all the other collected anger we harbor about such incidents,” he wrote.
Though claiming to have many similar stories, Broome insisted that “white people” refuse to accept his accounts.
“But when I tell White people these stories, they immediately start to look for the flaws in my narrative,” he wrote. “‘Are you sure you weren’t drunk? You can get pretty mouthy when you’re drunk,’ [they say,] Or ‘I don’t think you were singled out just because you’re Black.’”
The author then accused these “white people” of creating a “version of the story that minimizes what happened.”
“They do this not to make me feel better, but to make themselves feel better, to ensure that their idea of America as a non-racist meritocracy stays unassailable in their minds,” he wrote.
Quoting the late writer James Baldwin as having said, “Every white person in this country … would not like to be black here,” Broome wrote: “I believe this to be absolutely true.”
As a result of the alleged widespread racism among white Americans, Broome claimed he “stopped talking with White people about the racist things that happen to me.”
“Instead, I commiserate with my Black friends,” he added.
He also noted that he wishes to avoid the “frustration” of being told he’s paranoid or overreacting “by people who sit across the dinner table every Christmas from people who say the kind of things that Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers said.”
“Instead, like most Black Americans, I endure,” he concluded. “And I tuck my anger away so that I don’t go completely insane.”
The essay comes as American citizens and institutions are frequently accused of racism and bigotry.
On Sunday, left-wing New York Times reporter and controversial 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones accused journalists covering the Russian invasion into Ukraine of “racialized analysis and language” in their reporting, indicating their “sympathy” for white victims of conflict.
Last month, a Washington Post piece accused current math curriculums of “enshrin[ing] the names of White men” while “blurring” the contributions of others, demanding formulas with supposedly “racist” origins be removed from math textbooks.
In November, President Joe Biden acknowledged the guilty verdicts for the defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery case but said it was “not enough” to ensure racial justice in the United States.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein