The Terrorist Down the Street

Monday, May 18, 2020

Courtesy of Isa Coty

The Terrorist Down the Street
By Isa Coty

Ahmaud Arbery. My tongue struggles to speak the syllables of his beautiful name. For me, it has always been easier to hear someone say their own name, rather than worrying if the stranger I heard it from has been pronouncing it wrong all along. Now, he cannot say his own name, which is why I repeat it despite never having heard him say it.

Ahmaud Arbery. People all around the country, including myself and my sister, are preparing to run 2.23 miles in his honor. I double-check this number. In the future, when I go outside and walk my dog, because running is not my thing, I will always think of Ahmaud. Ahmaud, who spent most of his childhood outside running around his neighborhood like me, but who unlike me continued to run in high school. His best friend Akeem says he was a linebacker on the Brunswick High School Pirates, and that Ahmaud was the funniest guy on the bus. 

And, Ahmaud continued to run past high school. During his time attending South Georgia Technical College to be an electrician, he went on daily runs because he liked to box in his free time. A technical college like the one my white neighbor goes to, but unlike him, Ahmaud will never get to graduate because he was shot down in a Georgia suburb similar to mine during a daily run. 

It is raining by the time I finish finals, but my sister and I still walk. I hate the rain and I am bundled up in a bright blue raincoat, while my sister walks with no jacket, and her hair begins to come out of her braids. We walk and I have thoughts that my white neighbors, even the ones that my sister and I classify as non-racist, could kill me for existing in my neighborhood. I glance at the house with the old white man who never waves, not even to my sister, Gabriela, because even she is too dark. We’ve seen him wave at white people. 

We walk because now Ahmaud can’t, and it’s a shame, because he actually liked to. He even liked to run, and I definitely do not. I walk in my white neighborhood and I worry with a new paranoia because now even walking is unsafe. I worry for myself even though I am a 5’5” Black woman who waves and grins at everyone, so my “resting bitch face” doesn’t make me the “angry” Black woman white people are scared of.

This makes me worry that I may one day need a gun. I should laugh at the thought of this, because if you know me you know that I wish for the endless supply of guns in the US to disappear. But, then again, I am a Black woman in America. I worry that I need this weapon of destruction so that if two white supremacists come barreling down the street to kill me or my sister, even if false stories still make us look like the bad guys, at least we will not be not dead, because I can’t rely on the police and Ahmaud could not either. The murderers are already claiming they thought he was a burglar. The New York Times accepts their claim and reports on an irrelevant old shoplifting charge to make people doubt Ahmaud’s innocence, which is why, if I’m in danger, I definitely can’t knock on a random person’s door for help. But even an ugly weapon does not guarantee survival, so I stop thinking about that.

If my white neighbors who live here were to claim that we looked like we wanted to rob them, would the public believe this? If this is the reason they said they needed to kill us, would my white neighbors be praised for their ‘bravery’? Because I’m too scary. My sister’s too scary. Ahmaud’s too scary. 

I should instead be yelling, “What are my white neighbors doing here?” But I’m out of breath now and the walk is almost over. 

It was my white neighbors’ ancestors who came here and ruined everything for those who didn’t look like them. It was their ancestors who brought half of my ancestors over in chains because they had already worked the other half’s to death.

As I finish a walk for Ahmaud Arbery with my sister, in a white neighborhood I’ve called home since I was a year old, those same neighbors glance outside, “scared,” because I can’t possibly belong here.

Isa Coty (pictured above) at five years old in her hometown in Atlanta, GA. Courtesy of Coty.

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