Friday Firesmith: The Sins of Gregory McMichaels

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.

Take Care,

Mike

Black and White

I got my last promotion in the Army because I was white. That’s an odd statement, but it’s a true one, and the truth gets even stranger when I tell you this: I got the promotion because the other white guy who was supposed to get promoted was busted on a urinalysis test. This means the stoner was actually in front of me for promotion. Now, here’s the part that’s going to really blow your mind: my unit had a policy that if a white guy was promoted then a minority guy had to be promoted at the same time. Since they were already promoting a minority guy, and their white guy had smoked himself out of the running, I was next in line. 

I got a raise and some new bling on my uniform. 

But none of this made the world a more just or equitable place. Promoting people, white or otherwise, because of a system set up to do just that, doesn’t do any real good. What that system is doing is admitting there are so many people in the system who are racist in some shape, fashion, or form, that you have to do weird things to make it work for people who otherwise would never be treated equitably. 

Worse, I knew racist white people who used the system to help minorities as an excuse to hate minorities. If we’re going to give them something for free then that proves they don’t have to work to get it. So, as a racist you aren’t about to help anyone who isn’t white, and if someone else does, it’s the reason you suppress minorities if you can? 

I knew some really good soldiers. I knew men who were dedicated and competent, but there were policies in place that defined their worth to the military, and therefore the nation, in terms of skin color. My roommate who received an award for his performance as a medic wondered aloud if he was given the award because he was a minority. I thought he earned it. I thought he had busted his butt and done his job, and he earned what he got. But because so many minorities have not gotten what they worked for, there’s the system in place to make sure they do, even when they don’t earn it. 

Did that make sense? 

To truly understand the issue of race in America, you have to understand the history of race in America. People of color were slaves, property, livestock, for hundreds of years. Then, there were subject to race laws, pigs laws, and a host of other codified systems which made sure than no matter what happened, they were not anywhere nearly as successful as white people would be. 

Take a deep breath, white people, I’m going to tell you something that is true, and you are not going to like it. In Nazi Germany, a person could be considered Aryan, if three out of their four grandparents were Aryan. This means you could have a Jewish grandparent, and still be a member of the Nazi party. This was in their laws. 

How much black could you be in America and still be considered white? 

One drop. If a person had “one drop” of black blood in their body, if they had one black ancestor, they were considered to be black. That was in our laws. 

Take a moment with that thought. Sit down and consider what sort of world we used to live in, and how much time and effort it would take to retool the thoughts and hearts of a people who have put laws into place, and lived within those laws, before all trace of that society would be gone, and there would be acceptance and there would be love, and there would be peace. 

We aren’t there yet. We aren’t anywhere near there yet. All the promotions and all the awards, and all the bling in the world cannot change what we have done for hundreds of years, until we understand why we did it. 

If you didn’t know the “One Drop Law” existed, then you didn’t know how bad it was, did you? 

How could you possibly be a part of the solution if you never knew the problem? 

Take Care,

Mike