Gregory McMichael had no regrets about murdering a man who he admitted he wasn’t sure had done anything wrong. When he called 911 he was asked what his emergency was and he told them there was a black guy running down the street. After the murder, he called his friends who worked in the DA’s office to make sure everyone understood that he thought he was doing the right thing, after all, there had been a black man in his neighborhood.
Two different DA’s bailed on the case because McMichael had worked with them before he retired, and one of them said even though it was inappropriate to get involved in the case, he was sure McMichael was not guilty of any wrongdoing.
But William Bryan, for whatever reasons, leaked a video of the murder to the press, and all hell broke loose.
From the very beginning, I assumed Bryan would be the undoing of the defense because he was the third man out going against a father and son, who would see him crucified to help one another, and I think Bryan knew it. I think he leaked the video to save his own ass, not because he felt remorse for killing an unarmed man whose crime was running.
Gregory McMichael is old enough to remember a world in black and white. He was sixteen when segregation ended, and his world of white privilege, the one I grew up with for the first decade of my life, disappeared. But he still remembers the time when white people would treat black people any way they liked, and there would be no legal repercussions.
Gregory McMichael is old enough to have tasted the evil for so long it seemed natural and right. Blacks had their place, and they were supposed to stay down, accept whatever white men like himself allowed them, and it infuriated Gregory McMichael that a black man would run through his neighborhood.
This was an old fashioned lynching in 2021. This was the 1900’s come to life in south Georgia because in his heart of hearts, McMichael knew the white system of justice could be called on the phone and he knew he would speak to the right person, and everyone would understand nothing had happened that had not happened thousands of times before, and he would live his life without so much as a ticket.
But in this day and age, a video is worth a thousand nooses, and the outrage grew as did the size, and color, of the protest crowds. What very likely sank the defense was you cannot chase someone down with a gun, and then claim self defense once you catch them, and kill them. But McMichael never seemed to understand he had done anything wrong.
Because he never understood he had done anything wrong.
In the end, white men like McMichael are ghosts of segregation. They haunt us all, whispering in dead voices that black people aren’t really people, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, and we were all better off when white people could kill black people anytime they wanted, for any reason.
McMichael has been sentenced to life without parole, and he’s going to have the rest of his life to think about this subject.
You should think about it, too. How one man can kill another, and then think the system will save him from murder.
You should think about how close this came to being swept under the rug of a justice system that still will offer more help to a murderer, than a black man.
One thought on “Friday Firesmith: The Sins of Gregory McMichaels”
My first thought was being a retired cop he figured he could do anything to anyone at anytime just like he still had a badge. However I see your point, Not all the McMichaels are in the south by any means. PA had tons of them even Klan chapters. Last I heard the FBI claimed PA has more despicable organizations than any other state… but I digress.
I didn’t follow the case, but couldn’t really avoid the highlights online. Back in the beginning right after it happened I was talking to a friend in MA and he said Arbery had been rummaging through a new unfinished house and they had security camera footage. I hadn’t heard that up until that point and nothing along that line since.
I should ask where he got that story but if the answer is what I think it is that would put another big strain on out relationship.
Mike, it’s good to read you again.