Appealing to Republicans in the case of Ahmaud Arbery through the lens of a Dr. Seuss character.
As of today, I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. I’m not sure if I ever will. Anytime someone that looks like me is slain in the street without any appearance of justice, I become numb. I have seen too many of these cases.
I am beginning to lose track of the names of those killed, but I’ll never forget their faces. Through them, I selfishly see myself. It could easily have been me in their shoes, especially in the case for Ahmuad Arbery. (Throughout my writing, I will continue to use his full name so I don’t forget.)
Ahmaud Arbery was killed February 23rd, 2020 while running in a suburban neighborhood. He was killed for being accused of burglary, by a group who took a version of their justice into their own hands. When they felt threatened, they shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery.
Ahmaud Arbery was the same skin tone as me and two years younger than myself. I frequently run in suburban neighborhoods. I can’t help but wonder what it will take for my appearance to threaten someone. If it only takes an accusation to justify a killing, what protections do I even have?
In times like this, I look to the party of Abraham Lincoln. The party who noticed an injustice against a minority group and took action. The party that recognized African slaves as humans and embodied the following:
“A person is a person, no matter how small”
The quote comes from a Dr. Seuss’ character named Horton. In the book and movie, Horton Hears a Who, Horton is a large elephant who notices a civilization within a speck of dust. I won’t take credit for seeing the political undertone of the story, but the message in the story reminds me of Lincoln Republicans. Lincoln is still regarded as the best President in US history, but I don’t see him in the current iteration of Republicans.
If the elephant that symbolizes the GOP stood for what Dr. Seuss’ Horton believed, I could see myself as a Republican. Here’s what I value about Horton’s viewpoints:
Horton protects individual rights
When Horton realized a society on a speck, he immediately believed in its inhabitants, the Whovillians, right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He then used his power and position to ensure that their small civilization was safe from harm.
How can any Republican say that Ahmaud Arbery’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness was respected in his murder? Even if his killer’s suspicions were correct, Ahmaud Arbery was still entitled to his individual rights as stated in amendments six through eight of the United States Constitution.
6. Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions
7. Civil Trials
8. Further Guarantees in Criminal Cases
We the people are protected by the constitution. Where are the Republicans that champion this document?
Republicans are at their best when they use the constitution, as written, to lift minority populations to prosperity by empowering them through their individual rights, as Lincoln did.
Why was Ahmaud Arbery not protected by the constitution? If he was accused of a crime, tried, proven guilty of the crime by a jury of peers, then a punishment would have been deemed necessary. However, in America, burglary alone is not a death sentence. Even though I may disagree with the death penalty, Republicans and I can agree that killing someone without a trial is not in our constitution. Again, why was this not the case for Ahmaud Arbery?
I ask Republicans to think like Horton and value the livelihood of a society. Instead of immediately attacking the narrative of Ahmaud Arbery, see the society in which he embodies and stand up for the rights of those people, as Horton would. If the constitution applies to us all, we all should feel protected by it.
Horton noticed his actions impact others
At times, Horton would run, jump, and dance whenever he was happy. Little did he know that each of his movements created massive earthquakes within Whoville threatening the livelihood of its citizens. Once he acknowledged his actions, he began to empathically think about Whoville as he moved.
Demographically, Republicans are composed of the majority ethnic group in America. Currently, there aren’t many individuals that look like me within their party and hasn’t been for decades. Without representation for people of color, Republicans claim to be helping them by enacting a color blind mentality within their policies. During Black History Month, many Republicans quote Martin Luther King Jr. to justify this color blindness mindset. However, it’s as if they’ve only heard his I Have A Dream, took one part of it, and distorted it.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — I Have a Dream (1963)
Honestly, I understand the Republicans intent to build a color blind society. Like MLK said, I, too, want my son to be valued by his character and not by his skin color. However, if you are blind to the epilogue of my son’s story, how can you truly understand him as an individual?
Republicans cannot represent and protect rights if they do not know who they’re representing. In order to achieve full civil rights, there needs to be an acknowledgement that ongoing racism and implicit biases are still present in our society and justice system. Racism and implicit biases may always exist in our society, but being blind and silent to these issues will not progress our nation.
Republican inaction on matters dealing with racism and injustices is unlike Horton. When Horton noticed his actions, he stopped. He didn’t tell the Whovillians to get accustomed to the threat of earthquakes, he stopped the earthquakes from happening.
I don’t expect the Republicans to solve racism alone but, I do want Republicans to at least recognize frequently occuring earthquakes in minority communities, even if they were unintentional or weren’t even created by Republicans.
Most importantly, Horton listened
In a world full of noise, Horton listened to the smallest voice from a small speck of dust. He listened to something that he could not see and, at times, even doubted its existence. Horton continued to listen even at the dispense of losing credibility from his peers who did not have the same faith in his beliefs. Through Horton’s perseverance, the Whovillians were saved because Horton listened first.
Republicanism has a beautiful message within it. These words are present all throughout both Lincoln speeches written in stone at the Lincoln Memorial. The north wall displays his Gettysburg Address and the south displays his second inaugural address. The power displayed by Lincoln’s party to listen to a minority viewpoint is one of the biggest highlights in American history.
But, where are the Lincoln Republicans now? Do Republicans not hear a community crying out in the case of Ahmaud Arbery? This community is just one of many that are claiming their individual rights are not being protected and feel as if they’re not being represented. Why doesn’t the Republican Party hear the voices from all American citizens? Why do they not hear the Americans who believe racism is still present in 2020, religious discrimination towards Muslim citizens is occurring, and other’s aren’t given equal treatment because of who they love? These communities have unalienable rights, but aren’t being heard.
Horton used his large ears to hear the Whovillians. He listened to their fears even when he did not believe they were real. I’m hoping that Republicans will once again hear the voices of the small like Lincoln did. In America, looking a certain way, practicing a different religion, and choosing who to love is an unalienable right that should be protected.
In honor of Ahmaud Arbery, I ran 2.23 miles on May 8th, 2020 to memorialize his death in February. I plan to continue running through my own fears in order to gradually chip away at a false image Black Americans running.
If you classify as a Republican, I’m interested in learning from you and I hope my words weren’t too far off base. If they were, please let me know. My goal in writing this is to provide a different perspective to an ongoing situation that I feel is plaguing our society. Like you, I want to make America better for all our citizens. If nothing else, know that I love you as a fellow American and human being.
Thank you for reading!