The storm that doesn't get the final phrase The alternate

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The perfect storm on the Georgia coast

The hurricane season is particularly busy on the Georgia coast. As a Brunswick, Georgia native, I remember evacuating the city several times when my family grew up. The residents of Brunswick, a small town with moss-laden, tree-lined streets, typically spend the season watching Doppler radars. But they have seen police and news reports in the past few months.

Like the rest of America, they were quarantined. But they were increasingly unsettled by the stories of a young black man who was reportedly being followed and shot in his own neighborhood while jogging down the street. The residents of Brunswick knew little about chasing the perfect storm.

The deadly run

Jogging shouldn't kill you. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery became a heartbreaking, fatal exception as he jogged through his own neighborhood. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down on a street that should be a safe place for him. When he ran through the neighborhood this morning, he probably would never have thought that he would fight for his life in broad daylight.

The first story

As a lawyer with close relationships with Braunschweig, I wanted to help. My brother, who trained Arbery in high school, turned to me about the gunfight and asked about the next steps. Together, we coordinated local efforts to motivate the citizens of Braunschweig to find out the truth about Ahmaud Arbery's death. And what we started to discover was unsettling.

For starters, news reports initially highlighted Arbery's previous (unrelated) criminal convictions and reported subjectively on the facts covered in the incident report.

What if Martha Stewart, another criminal, suffered the same fate? Would the story also talk in detail about its recording? We have to deal with the reality that the atmosphere of "distrust" that surrounds certain people in this country is an unfortunate, sometimes fatal reality.

After working with one of the prosecutors' shooters, I wanted to understand the caution that the local official used to investigate the case. However, I was concerned that the first story that many residents heard was a story that criminalized the victim in this case.

Not only is that wrong, but as a Christian I saddened the fact that some could treat an image holder with such contempt just because he was suspicious. In a way, the suspicion was part of Arbery's existence, since the perpetrators had no way of knowing about his past. That should never happen in a just world.

The last word

But the first story won't get the last word. This week I received a text message early in the morning. "Someone recorded a video of the shooting." My heart sank when I read my brother's text early in the morning. Since then, the video has made Ahmaud's death a public, national story.

Unfortunately, the video also forced a mother to lose the privilege of Mamie Till, Emmitt Till's mother. The right to make a public decision to witness her son's body.

Others made that decision for them. Unfortunately, many voyeurists who are detached from the action practice it even in the face of visual evidence. But I am grateful to those who have been moved to act and will not knock or be silent.

Today I speak to the local community affected by this tragedy and say we are grateful for the collective outrage that we have seen since the video was released. But I also want to remind everyone that it doesn't always take a video to complain to others. A mother has lost her child. A sister has lost a brother. A community has lost a citizen.

If we really believe the words of Micah 6: 8 that we need to practice justice, we must believe that the same justice extends to the grief-laden coasts of the Georgian coast.

John C. Richards Jr. is pastor of assimilation at Saint Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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