I appreciate that Larry Hobbs has diligently covered the Ahmaud Arbery murder for the last several months. However, I occasionally take issue with how he frames his coverage. His most recent article offers an example. Hobbs writes that the McMichaels are “accused of arming themselves and pursuing Arbery after seeing the 25-year-old running through their Satilla Shores neighborhood.” I think I understand what Hobbs was implying: that the McMichaels lived in Satilla Shores. But his sentence is misleading and inaccurate. Satilla Shores is not “theirs.”
Individuals should, of course, take pride and ownership of their communities. We wield slogans like “keep our beach clean,” for instance, in order to reduce littering. However, claiming ownership over one’s community also coincides with destructive actions. Calls to keep “our country” and “our neighborhood” safe have historically encouraged policies that embrace xenophobic thinking (like the Chinese Exclusion Act) or encourage segregation (like the redlining policies that targeted African Americans).“Our” in these instances specifically means “not theirs.” And “their neighborhood,” in Hobbs’ account, specifically suggests “not Arbery’s.”
The issue with Hobbs’ phrasing is that it implies that Arbery infringed upon the private property or personhood of the McMichaels. This is false. It also suggests that the McMichaels may have been acting in a way to protect “their neighborhood” the same way we advocate for keeping our beaches clean. But, of course, the McMichaels were behaving in a much less innocent and much more parochial manner. Our language on the topic should not confuse the issue.
St. Simons Island