The revival of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder months after his death feels so Shakespearean, as we join the situation after the real action has already happened. We see him fighting for his life, we hear the deadly shots, and we see the blood-soaked shirt. His story is frustratingly unsurprising. It fits neatly into the genre of black people being killed on camera during a racist attack. And yet throughout the constant repetition of these injustices, it seems unclear what the responsibility of the living is.
Thinking of Arbery these past few days has made me think of those who happened to not get their murder caught on film, as well as other people whose murder videos went viral. Usually, neither is truly avenged. I also think of the dad in James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” losing his brother to a racist car attack. That incident haunted him for the rest of his life. He saw every white man as his brother’s killer. Meanwhile, his sons never even knew they had an uncle until after their father’s death. The advice their mother gives the narrator is to protect the living, even if you feel helpless. Let them know you’re there.