“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” — Charles Dickens
The Ahmaud Arbery case clearly shows how good our justice system could be. That’s until you actually pay attention to everything that went into that case. You had someone from law enforcement (though retired) taking the law and throwing it down on its ear.
You had a prosecutor using judgment so outrageous that they ended up being charged with a crime. You had someone filming the whole incident in what could be described as either the height of foolishness, act of real foresight, or strategy gone wrong. You had the trial itself that was anything but smooth. We obviously have high-minded ways of describing this collision of misshapen events, but the kids probably have pegged it best. They call it a “shit show.”
Yet, after all of that malarkey, justice was somehow served. The guilty parties were actually found guilty. While that explanation seems so far out of whack to Arbery’s friends and family, it is far better than the alternative up in Wisconsin. It hardly qualifies as the best of times, but in comparison I guess it will have to do.
In the background somewhere off camera is the debate over critical race theory. On the one hand, one can easily say that justice was served, so why the need to discuss race? Except we can’t avoid looking at how it was served. We can’t avoid looking at why it was served. We can’t avoid the feeling that it would very likely have not been served at all save a little stupid luck along the way. If the footage of the murder had not been captured on camera and sent to the right people it would have never been served.
Sometimes these things are captured for posterity sake and justice still isn’t served. More often than not it isn’t. When we were young, our elders taught us that character is made up of the things we do when no one is watching. Maybe we take the extra cookie or slack off at work when the supervisor is out. That’s small potatoes. If we pervert justice because we can, then do we really need a high-minded academic theory to tell us we’ve done it? Is it really that difficult to imagine it happening more often?
Most people are smart enough to take only one extra cookie from the cookie jar. They don’t raid the whole thing because that would be too obvious. Justice isn’t grotesquely biased on most occasions. That would be too obvious. We eat around at the corners until the advantage is clear. We do it so that we have plausible deniability. So yes, justice was served. It was only served because the whole world was watching. Still, there are times when even that is not enough.