The killing of Ahmaud Arbery has caused outrage throughout Georgia, the country and the world. Nine school board members from Georgia now add their voices to the growing call for real change. 

School board members: Killing of Ahmaud Arbery demands collective action

Nine school board members from across Georgia share a letter about the need to wage an active battle against racism and racist policies after the death of Ahmaud Arbery. 

While jogging on a sunny afternoon in February in a mostly white Glynn County, Ga., community, Arbery was pursued, shot and killed by Greg and Travis McMichael.

Now charged with murder and aggravated assault, the 64-year-old father and his 34-year-old son were initially exonerated after telling local authorities they believed the unarmed 25-year-old Arbery was involved in local break-ins and they shot him in self-defense. The senior McMichael is a retired  investigator for Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson. 

Cell phone video of the shooting and Arbery’s last moments contradicted the McMichaels’ account and led to their arrest.  Released last week, the video also spurred worldwide condemnation, leading Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to say after seeing it, “I can tell you it’s absolutely horrific, and Georgians deserve answers.”

Written by Gwinnett school board member Everton Blair and Cobb board members Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis, the letter is signed by six other members of Georgia school boards.

» Continuing Coverage: Ahmaud Arbery Death 

Here is the letter:

We, newly elected school board members from across Georgia, have been disheartened once again after learning about the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery. We find ourselves still asking why unarmed black men die. 

We aspire to live in a state where our children and their families know that they matter. We further acknowledge the primary threat to this reality is the multilayered, ever-evolving structure of racial supremacy that led to his death and countless others. We ask others to consider their responsibility in creating a society where we actively uphold the lives of others.

We strongly affirm that racism is the prominent social virus among us in America. It undergirds a host of societal institutions, including public education and healthcare. It has been broadly embedded in the psychology of us all, which in turn, is interwoven into our various governmental and economic systems.

We maintain that it is not acceptable to merely strive for the passive goal of being “not racist.”

Rather, we urge every person in our great state to actively work against racism in all its forms. This active battle against racism is the only way to adequately address its 400-year legacy. Choosing otherwise only maintains some form of this pernicious disease.

We call on every Georgian to reject the idea of a colorblind society. Although well intended, it does not work. On the contrary, it leads to more of a passive ignorance than a proactive empathy. We believe that our differences are beautiful and that we affirm our intrinsic value by embracing them.

We call on every elected official (federal, state, local) to do their part to review discriminatory policies and laws in order to identify ways to be actively against racism.

We call on every voter to challenge their leadership to develop policy that is actively against racism.

We call on other states to do the same since we know racism is not limited to a region of the country, nor a group of people. Racism is a persistent American problem that requires collective and definitive action now. 

Signed, 

Everton Blair, Gwinnett County

Jasmine Bowles, Clayton County

Syntel Brown, Griffin-Spalding County

Diijon DaCosta, Dekalb County

Charisse Davis, Cobb County

JacQuez Harris, Twiggs County

Dr. Jaha Howard, Cobb County

Erika Mitchell, Atlanta City

Angela Orange, Marietta City

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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