I don’t think I have anything additional to add to some of the commentary on the tragic and unjust shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. Joe Biden demands justice. David French condemned the sense of vigilante justice that led to Arbery’s death. Theologian Russell Moore brings some theological reflection here.
The United States has a long history of racial terror lynchings. Particularly from the Civil War until this day, thousands of Black men, women and children have been indiscriminately killed for a myriad of reasons. When that killing took place at the hands of 3 or more, it was called a lynching. In attempts to address the phenomenon legally, the definition of the term has been restricted, particularly by the NAACP, to be a killing in which the killers acted under the pretext of justice, their race, or tradition.
If this is in fact the definition of lynching, Ahmaud Arbery was undeniably lynched.
But Black communities (and anyone familiar with this history) do not need that definition to see the resonance and to feel the terror that comes with reading such a story.
The same feeling wracked communities in Montgomery, Alabama on July 25, 1917 when Will and Jesse Powell were lynched to a tree for brushing against a farmer’s horse.
That same feeling wracked communities in Missouri and Arkansas in June, 1926, when Albert Blades, 22, was hanged and burned for attacking a small white girl. Evidence actually suggests, however, that he was merely present at a picnic grounds where this girl was playing with her friend and she was startled by his presence.
That same feeling wracked communities in Texas and around the country when Botham Jean was murdered in his own apartment.
The message was the same then as it is now: if you “fit the description”, you are not safe to walk. You are not safe to sit in your own apartment. You are not safe to run outside. Such is the purpose of racial terror lynchings, both now and historically.
So then the question remains: what ought we do about it? To answer that question, as both a historian and someone who is fundamentally devoted to the body of Christ in such work, I must answer that question by answering these questions: how has the body of Christ failed to do such work and how can we do better?
Read the rest here.