A lot of words have been spoken about the verdict of the three white men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging in their neighborhood in Georgia. The white female prosecutor has been praised by some and criticized by others for not making more argument about race. Pundits have pointed to the irony attached to the fact that one of the three accused men put his video of the pursuit and shooting on the Internet because he thought he and the other two had acted to preserve safety in “our neighborhood.”
I have not read much at all about the make-up of the jury. When I first heard that there were nine white women and three men, one of whom was black, I thought to myself “How has the defense let this happen–why didn’t they prevent nine women from being seated. My response comes from decades of “reading” my culture from a feminist lens (among others). All of those women either are mothers or could be mothers–so I figured. As they watched even a grainy video of a young man who was jogging one minute and dead on the pavement the next minute, I felt pretty sure they would flash to the possibility of losing a child who had or could have lived inside them. That reaction would push to a back burner whatever ideas they might have inherited about black people–so I figured. As closing arguments were made and the jury retired to deliberate, some of my friends felt sure the men would be found not guilty, given eleven white people at the table making life-changing decisions. I held to my original hunch and waited.
As life would have it, I tuned in to CSpan just as the jury was returning to render their Verdict, so I got to hear the calm judge say “Guilty” twenty-nine times! When a defense attorney asked for a voice vote, I listened very closely to hear how each of my nine white mothers would speak her “Yes, your Honor.” What I heard was the same clear resolve I had marveled at a few month earlier here in Minneapolis as twelve jurors responded with resolute “yeses” to having found Derek Chovin guilty of murdering George Floyd. There could be no doubt about how firmly each white woman found the three white men guilty of killing Mr. Arbery, who for them had become some mother’s son whose life was a precious, a classification that superseded all others.