“We already have this massive architecture of armed citizenship, which is based so much on implicit biases that disproportionately assume criminality when they see a black or brown face,” Light, who specializes in gender, critical race and ethnic studies, noted to Political Misfits hosts Bob Schlehuber and Jamarl Thomas on Thursday.
“This is encoded in our national DNA. Not only is this nation built on settler-colonialist violence, racial capitalism and racial terror … it’s also built on the denial of those structures, so we live with this historical amnesia.”
This “historical amnesia,” she explained, results in the reinvention of ways to carry out the same forms of oppression and violence - such as lynching.
“What we have are new forms of lynching that are legalized through various codes, things like appeals to ‘good citizens looking out for each other,’” Light said.
She went on to highlight that in the current murder case of Ahmaud Arbery, accused killers William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory and Travis McMichael have argued that they were “looking out for their neighbor” by going after the 25-year-old, claiming that they observed him trespassing.
Light explained that this “rhetorical gesture of protection” and assertions of who and what need to be protected are “themes that reverberate throughout our history and take different forms.” This present-day justification of violence is further complicated by the fact that the US has “the most heavily armed society in the world,” she added.
“So what does it mean that we’ve got firearms all over the place in public spaces [and] disproportionately concentrated into the hands of white people who feel empowered to use their firearms, and ask questions later?” she asked.
Richard Dial, an assistant special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, revealed earlier this month during a preliminary hearing that Travis McMichael, who actually fired the fatal shots at Arbery, called the victim a “f**king n****r” as he stood over his dead body. This revelation could be used as evidence for possible hate crime charges at the federal level.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, has urged Georgia lawmakers to support House Bill 426, known as the Georgia Hate Crimes Act, upon their return to legislative session on June 15.
As of now, 46 US states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws, but Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming do not.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that over 60 business leaders from companies such as Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Home Depot, Atlanta United and the United Parcel Service signed a joint letter advocating for the law’s passage on June 8. The business leaders also united to create a website regarding the matter.
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