By Dean Scott Ryan
School of Social Work
Photo courtesy of CNN
Today, all three White men accused in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of multiple counts of felony murder. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory, and William Bryan, Jr. each rightfully face sentences of up to life in prison for their roles in the fatal shooting of Arbery, an African American man who was jogging through a Georgia neighborhood.
We are thankful for these verdicts.
Other awful violent acts such as in the deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun in a park, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walking home from a convenience store, and 17-year-old Jordan Davis for just being a typical teenager and allegedly playing loud music at a gas station, demonstrate the deep fractures in our country and in the U.S. legal system. This hateful and racist practice of law enforcement officers and vigilante citizens automatically assuming Blacks/African Americans and other People of Color are suspicious and guilty because of the color of their skin must end.
The not guilty verdict last week of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two White people and injured another one attending a Black Lives Matter protest, and the civil trial ending today with organizers of the Unite the Right Rally being found liable and now must pay $26 million in damages to those injured and killed as a result or their hateful 2017 rally in Charlottesville, show we still have a long way to go. Intimidation tactics of vigilante civilians carrying weapons and police responding forcefully to citizens protesting threaten the very heart of our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble, freedom of speech, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Social Workers must be aware, engaged, and vigilant in lifting the voices of marginalized people and calling out injustices, and work to address the structural inequities that get in the way of us all moving toward living in a more just and supportive society.
Dr. Scott D. Ryan
Dean of the UTA School of Social Work