But for a video…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 29, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn March 17-18, 2011, I was invited to deliver two lectures at Albany State University in southwest Georgia on the topics “Caribbean Intellectual Thought” and ARF Webber, a Tobagonian who spent most of his life (from about the age of 19) in Georgetown, Guyana.

During a luncheon on one of those days, my host informed me about the violence that was ever present for black people who live in Georgia. He related an incident that he had seen with his own eyes. A black man and a white man had an argument/altercation. The white man did not agree with what the black said, and did not accept the outcome of their interaction.

The white man calmly walked back to his pick-up, brought out a gun, shot the black man to death as he departed. The white man was never held accountable for this murder and presumably walked free until his death. This incident, my host told me, took place in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Black lives were cheap then. We did not matter. At least, things are beginning to change.

Albany is about 170 miles west of Satilla Shores in Brunswick where three white men brutally killed Ahmaud Arbery in August 2020. But for the presence of a video camera, the killers of Arbery (Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, Travis’s father, and William Bryan) would have walked away from their crime in the same way as the white man who blew out the brains of the black man whom my host had spoken about.

This time around, a jury of 11 white people and one black found these three white men guilty of killing Arbery although Jason Sheffield, the defence attorney for Travis McMichael, sought to depict Arbery as an animal during his closing argument of the trial.

The McMichaels and Bryan’s defence team sought to depict the action of these men as constituting a citizen’s arrest or their acting in self-defence. Even before the founding of the United States, colonial citizens were allowed to detain anyone they saw committing a crime. Georgia and other southern states expanded that law to include anyone they “reasonably suspected” of trying to escape a felony.

In 1863, Georgia extended that law to catch any black person whom they felt was escaping from slavery. Cornell University criminal law expert Joseph Margeulies explained: “It was basically a catching-fleeing-slave law” (NPR, October 26). This was the version of the law under which the McMichaels and Bryan were tried. That law was only repealed last year after protests about its inhumanity.

There are other laws in the South that make living black in America a crime. In addition to the now-repealed law, there is also Georgia’s “open carry” law that allows Georgians “to openly carry firearms if they have a permit for them”, and a “stand your ground” law if a person “reasonably believed that they are at risk of serious bodily injury or death”. This is the defence Kyle Rittenhouse used to escape responsibility for killing two men and injuring another in the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The three white men who murdered Arbery used a similar defence, but it was not successful. A person cannot jump out of his pick-up, stop someone and decide to kill him/her because s/he did not stop and answer his questions. James Yancey Jr, a defence lawyer in Brunswick, noted: “You cannot have instigated the incident and then say you had to kill the other person because you are defending yourself.” (ABC News, May 13, 2020)

It took 74 days to arrest someone for Arbery’s murder, so faithfully did these Brunswick prosecutors believe in the racist laws of their state. Two prosecutors (Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill) refused to prosecute the killers. Barnhill argued that since Arbery “initiated the fight… McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself”.

At present, Jackson is charged with using her position to shield the men who killed Arbery from being charged with a crime. It took a Superior Court judge, Timothy R Walmsley, from Savannah, Georgia, to hear the case because no one in Brunswick had the courage to prosecute one of their own for killing a black person.

Like in the George Floyd case, it took a video to gain a guilty conviction against the killers. What if we didn’t have a video? Is it that black people in Georgia or the nation at large cannot receive justice unless someone takes out a video of the actual crime? Justice in America must go beyond the capturing of white violence on a video camera.

When the verdict was handed down, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, exclaimed: “My prayers were answered. To hear that the accused murderers were actually found guilty, I mean, that was huge. We finally got the justice for Ahmaud that he deserved back in 2020.”

On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney decided that African Americans were not US citizens and therefore not able to file suit in federal court. They were “beings of an inferior order, and unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit”.

This is the racist legacy that Arbery assuaged when the McMichaels and Bryan were found guilty of murdering him. Perhaps their conviction will allow white people to see black people as fellow human beings.

I hope that my Albany host is comforted by Arbery’s conviction. Maybe things are changing for the better.

12 thoughts on “But for a video…”

  1. Very sad part of history. However the most unsafe place for black folks has been in Africa. Ugandan President Amin butchered close to 500,000. Kambanda the President of Rawanda oversaw the death of 800,000. And that is just two dictators.

    The devaluation of life must not be allowed to happen, we must learn to respect each other. We may not agree on everything but we must choose our attitude towards each other.

    The emergence of black consciousness has changed the course of history. From the Civil Rights movement that saw an end to segregation, to the black power movement and now BLM. The March for equality is an important expression of freedom. Let freedom reign….

    In Trinidad the black man has savoured the fat of the land and continues to be the prime beneficiaries of the “empty treasury”. The history of oppression did not exist in TnT except for the Indo population whose suffering continues to this day. When will the liberation of the Indo population begin? Perhaps like black folks we need to develop an “indo-consciousness”. An Indo consciousness is necessary for the end of the oppressive PNM arphateid. Too many times we allow ourselves to be the doormat of this nation. When will we rise to take our equal place in the brotherhood of humanity. The Indian is poor disenfranchised from the mainstream of this nation. This after the end of indentureship. It is time we rise up and change that….

  2. They say that Satan is the father of the lie, but Mamoo trying to compete, it seems. From 1526 to 1867 scholars estimate that at least 15 million African slaves were brought to the Americas. Others estimate that it was much higher up to 30 million. Of those 15 million Africans at least 3 million died. So conservative estimates are about 3 million Africans died in the slave trade, i.e. those who were shipped to the Americas, but racist Mamoo is pointing to Africa to minimize what was done to Africans during the slave trade. That is the modus operandi of the white supremacists to minimize black lives, you know it doesn’t matter that millions were killed during the slave trade because Idi Amin killed so many thousands. More than 1 million Iraqis were killed in the American invasion of Iraq, estimates are over 700,000 thousand Afghanistanis were killed in the American occupation of Afghanistan so those places are not too safe for “black people” (white supremacists consider them black you know). In the war in Sri Lanka, at least 250,000 people were killed, mostly Tamils. Conservative estimates are that at least 2 million people died in the partition of India. And the caste system over the years has ensured that millions of Indians have been killed, dehumanized and forced to live like animals. The most unsafe place for black people (and India is black you know, white supremacists see the world as white and black, so Indian wannabe whites in Trinidad and elsewhere are fooling themselves), the most dehumanizing place, is India. 600,000,000, i.e. 600 million people live in poverty in India. Those 600,000,000 people would probably do anything to get out of India. So wannabe white supremacist Mamoo better stop daydreaming, if you go down to the southern white states in America, you will be one of the “mud people”, read Steven Bannon’s favorite novel, “The Camp of the Saints”, you may become more enlightened.

    1. I think you missed the whole argument. Reading and understanding is only good when we have the right context. I am sure the doc will agree with me.

      The article written is instructive to the suffering of black people . No one is debating the slave trade where our black brothers hunted down other black brothers and brought them to the ship. And sold their own people, those people lived in Africa. That was the most appalling part of human history. It was an African self hating experiment. The 15 million captured were captured by the brothers. And Africans like good economist reaped huge rewards.

      As for India the record is there, India is consistently amongst the top 10 economies of the world.
      India is the fifth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $2.87 trillion in 2019, more than 4% higher than in 2018.
      When the British came to India the wealth was enormous. “ The Maurya Empire was followed by classical and early medieval kingdoms, including the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Guptas, Western Gangas, Harsha, Palas, Rashtrakutas and Hoysalas. The Indian subcontinent had the largest economy of any region in the world for most of the interval between the 1st century and 18th century. Though it is to be noted that, up until 1000 AD,its GDP per capita was higher than subsistence level.”

      In comparison Africans were nomads running around in the African jungle naked.

  3. “ 6 years after securing a $200 million loan from China, Uganda is struggling to make the payments. Reports say the country’s only international airport in Entebbe could be taken over by China in the event of a default”

    “A total of TT $1.2 billion (US $178 million) will be spent on expanding the ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point, Tobago. China Railway Construction Caribbean Limited was the only qualifying company to win the bid for the tender.Feb 1, 2020”

    Could the Tobago airport expansion be another one of the prize acquisitions by the Chinese? Trinidad and Tobago is signatory to the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. As Imbert said it is easy to get a $1.2 billion loan from China with little paperwork unlike the IMF.

  4. Nobody would want to get down to the level of the gutter and engage Mamoo in any kind of dialogue, he is a toxic mix of stupidity and racism, but at this point in time, the week before the Tobago House of Assembly elections, I think it’s important to prod Mamoo and let him rant on because he is the voice of the UNC, he represents what the UNC thinks. The UNC, at this time, is also a toxic mix of stupidity and racism, and it is important for Tobagonians to know what they are getting into when the UNC’s puppet in Tobago, Watson Duke, vies for leadership. “In comparison Africans were nomads running around in the African jungle naked.” Africa at that time had some of the highest and richest civilizations like that in Mali and Ghana, but Mamoo is a low intellect who has access to the internet and who can cut and paste with a frenzy (his hatred drives him) the multitude of false, racist information about Africa. That’s what Mamoo and the UNC are saying, that’s what Watson Duke has to buy into. He has already done so, he wouldn’t be their puppet if he has not already taken the 40 pieces of silver that they are giving him. Mamoo writes, “And sold their own people, those people lived in Africa.” And that is precisely what Watson Duke is doing, selling out his people to the UNC. So listen to Mamoo so that you would know what is in store for you if you support Watson Duke and his mouthpiece Farley in Tobago.

    1. “Mamoo writes, “And sold their own people, those people lived in Africa.” And that is precisely what Watson Duke is doing, selling out his people to the UNC.”
      Liberty means freedom of choice. Changing a government is like changing a baby with a “terribly” soiled diaper.

      Tobago has been corrupted by the PNM, house to house they go around spewing their dangerous ethnocentric venom. Tobagonians come to Trinidad eat and savour the fat of the land. Nobody says anything, but around election time they scared of the “Calcutta Ship”. The same ship that now sails to Tobago and have save the island from a total collapse economically. In 2019 I was there and saw more people from south than any other group. Families coming for a Tobago lime. The PNM crashed the economy at one point no boat sailed to Tobago.

      My grandfather was a Road overseer and was instrumental in building roads across the island in the 1950s. So whenever I visit there I always feel a deep connection to the island. In 1889 the two islands were incorporated into a single crown colony. The history we share together goes deep. Eric once told Tobagonians they will eat grass. Rowley making sure. This election please kick the PNM out! They have suffered Tobagonians too much.

    2. “Nobody would want to get down to the level of the gutter and engage Mamoo in any kind of dialogue, he is a toxic mix of stupidity and racism”……………………………………….Birdie
      Birdie, I have given up on trying to reason with the likes of Mamoo, I am sure you will do the same. He does not possess the heart to accept “truth” the way it really is. He must “color” it to suit his taste, then delivers his cockamamy narrative on how he thinks it ought to be, which is often ridiculous and short of substance. It is vexing when one does not mind an opposite point of view but have to read the kind of Trumpian rubbish he posts.

      1. Kian, hush Birdie and I are bros, I am trying to update his knowledge. He is a man with great potential but is limited to the PNM world view. It is like the first computer “system failure”. I am simply trying to put in a different software into his “cabeza”. He is a bit hard headed but judging from his writing skills he need to work a bit harder on understanding the topic of the day. If he understands what is written he will master the art of communication….. anyways much love to you and Birdie. Have a blessed day.

  5. The UNC’s attempt to help their proxy party in Tobago, the PDP, blew up in their faces and, like if a light is shone on creatures who like to do things in the dark, they scurry away in fear and panic when the truth is exposed. Wade Mark is talking about the Prime Minister being desperate, but if anyone is desperate it is the UNC and their puppets in the PDP as they see their plot unravel before their eyes. Saddam Hosein is claiming that the PM is lying but if anyone is lying and can be proven to be lying, it is Saddam Hosein and I intend to prove that he is lying. There are similarities between this character assassination of the PM and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery that happened in Georgia. In that case, the prosecutor showed the illogical arguments by the defendants who had murdered Ahmaud Arbery. It can’t be self-defense, the prosecutor said, if you pursue someone who was doing nothing wrong except jogging through a neighborhood while being black, run him down armed with guns on the basis that you suspect he is doing something illegal, shoot him and then claim self defence. So let us look at this character assassination by Saddam Hosein and see what we find. I will prove to you that Saddam is lying. So follow me carefully. In today’s Dec. 4th Express, Hosein claimed that the PM “failed to declare a Tobago townhouse to the public via the Integrity in Public Life Act.” And he calling on the Integrity Commission to “clear the air” on whether he declared this property on both Forms A and B. Now Form B is accessible to the public, Form A is accessible only to the IC. Now if the PM has breached the law by not declaring the townhouse in Tobago in Form B which is public information, then there is no further need to get any information from the IC. The PM has already breeched the law by not declaring it in From B. So his non-declaration in Form B is a breach of the law and he must face the law for that. Why do you need anything further from the IC? So Saddam is admitting that the non-declaration in Form B is not sufficient, you need to have the information from Form A to know whether he has breached the law. But Saddam does not know what is in Form A, only the IC knows that. So Saddam cannot say that the PM has breached the law because he does not have that information. He may have all kinds of suspicions that the PM did not reveal that information to the IC, but he has no evidence, no information that he did not reveal the information. Just like the three men who killed Adams, they suspected him of doing something illegal, but they had no evidence of it. They were acting of suspicions, Arbery was jogging through a white neighborhood while black, that was his crime. So Saddam is lying when he says the PM has breached the law. He has no facts, no evidence of that. He is acting on the basis of suspicion not factuality. So there are three things I have established. (1) The Form B is not sufficient or relevant for Saddam to claim that the PM has breached the law. If it were, he would not need the IC to say anything further, his non-declaration in Form B would be sufficient to prove illegality. (2) Saddam does not know what is in the Form A, he admits that, how would he know? So he does not know if the PM has declared the information about the town house in Form A or not. (3) So Saddam is fishing for information which he does not have, but on the basis on no facts, no evidence, he is accusing the PM of breaching the law merely on suspicion, just like the three men who murdered Arbery, he is acting on suspicion. From these three things I have proven that Saddam Hosein is lying, he is accusing the PM of breaching the law, not on the basis of factual information but on suspicion, which on the eve of the THA elections just confirms the UNC’s use of dirty tricks and lack of any moral compass. Beware of more dirty tricks from now until Election Day on December 6th. Beware of fake polls, beware of more lies and character assassination. Beware of a party and their puppets in the PDP who see politics simply as a means to power.

    1. “The PM has already breeched the law by not declaring it in From B. So his non-declaration in Form B is a breach of the law and he must face the law for that”. Birdie.
      This PM continues to violate the laws of the land. He took the oath of office to defend the Constitution and uphold the laws of the land. A leader who breaks the law is lowering the standards of good governance. Sadam was a bit strong in his tone. Dr. Rowley is an elderly PM and may have just forgotten to do the right thing. Even so it was not necessary for him to have a news conference on it. He seems to enjoy coming and saying not or to put it mildly distorting the truth…

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