UPDATED: 7:24 a.m. ET, May 9 —
The man who was identified as Ahmaud Arbery‘s best friend was walking back comments attributed to him about the tragic shooting as reported by local news outlet News4Jax. The TV station quoted Demetris Frazier as saying Arbery’s death was not “about race,” an opinion that was the polar opposite of popular sentiment surrounding the deadly episode that was recorded on video in February in Brunswick, Georgia.
Frazier contacted NewsOne to say that he was “grossly misquoted.” He said News4Jax published “inaccurate comments and this case is very important to exposing systemic inequalities of our justice system and the murder of my childhood friend Ahmaud Arbery.”
However, as of Saturday morning, News4Jax’s story remained intact including the quotes attributed to Frazier. A video purportedly of Frazier making the comments attributed to him has also been making the rounds on social media.
As the country tries to contextualize the shooting death a young Black man who was jogging when he was killed by two suspected white supremacists purportedly trying to make an unjustified citizen’s arrest, the victim’s best friend has come forward to offer his take. Yes, Ahmaud Arbery‘s death was not immediately prosecuted or even investigated, thanks to the Good Old Boy network in Brunswick, Georgia, but Demetris Frazier said the shooting in cold blood isn’t about anyone’s skin color.
“It’s not about one race. We are all a community and we see this as a tragedy to the community,” Frazier, who is Black, told local news outlet News4Jax. “It’s not about black, it’s not about white. We can’t make this about race. It’s about what’s right and wrong and what happened.”
Frazier’s rosy, altruistic approach seemed to be the only one with that perspective as Arbery’s killing has seemingly been decried as a “lynching” by everyone from casual observers to the civil rights attorney representing the 25-year-old jogger’s family. The NAACP released a statement citing the “modern-day lynching of Mr. Arbery is yet another reminder of the vile and wicked racism that persists in parts of our country.”
The truth is that despite Frazier’s opinion about not making Arbery’s killing “about race,” that’s precisely what happened when Gregory and Travis McMichael — the father and son who were arrested Thursday more than two months after the shooting — saw a Black man running through their neighborhood. They immediately criminalized him based on the color of his skin, convinced themselves he was a burglar, got their guns, hopped in their pickup truck, chased him down, trapped him, confronted him and shot him to death.
In more plain terms, they racially profiled him, which is the very definition of it being “about black about white” and why it is “about race” in more ways than it is not.
Chances are that if the McMichaels saw a white man running through their neighborhood, they probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.
Not to mention, the entire scenario that led up to Arbery being killed is way too reminiscent of other encounters with white people that have left innocent and unarmed Black people dead. From driving while Black to walking while Black to holding a wallet while Black to sitting in your home eating ice cream and watching TV while Black to to many other “while Black” examples, the fact of the matter is white people rarely if ever are killed while doing the aforementioned activities.
Frazier is understandably grieving the death of his best friend and probably wants to diffuse any racial tensions where he lives, but downplaying Arbery’s death as simply being “about what’s right and wrong” undersells the true gravity of the situation that flew under the radar until the New York Times reported on it late last month. If the roles were reversed, history has repeatedly shown that a Black man would have been arrested and charged with murdering white people immediately instead of delaying it by nearly three full months. The treatment of the McMichaels up until their arrest is simply white privilege, which — again — makes the shooting completely “about race.”
There is also the fact that just because the McMichaels were arrested — a result of national pressure being placed on the rural town and not because local authorities wanted to pursue justice — doesn’t mean they will be found guilty. They have maintained their innocence and cited the state’s law for making a citizen’s arrest. If the McMichaels somehow beat these murder charges or avoid prison, it’ll be interesting to hear what Frazier says then.