‘AM Joy’ Panel Blames NRA, the ‘Rise of Trumpism’ for Ahmaud Arbery Murder

Gun Rights

The panel on Saturday’s edition of AM Joy wasted no time blaming the NRA as well as President Trump for the tragic shooting of unarmed African-American Glynn County, Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery. Throughout the segment, host Joy Reid and the panel painted police officers as racists and repeatedly trashed those protesting the stay-at-home orders.

At the beginning of the segment, Reid delivered a monologue describing the “anti-lockdown protesters” as “angry, spittle-flecked, mostly men, mostly white, spewing respiratory droplets and indignation.” She also discussed the “necropolitics of the pandemic, the freedom to decide who gets to live and who has to die for me to get mine.”

According to Reid, “necropolitics” requires “a disproportionately black and brown labor force to return to work, get back on the wheel and risk death in order to serve” a “certain cohort of white guys” who believe they possess the “God-given right to get their roots done and order a steak at the restaurant and hit the golf course and the bar.”

After she finished dismissing the concerns of stay-at-home protesters, Reid brought in her panel to discuss the topic at hand: the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. Reid implied that police officers were racist because they were “quite casual” about “white protesters literally screaming in the faces of officers” at the stay-at-home order protests; complaining that “they’re not afraid of them, but they’re afraid of any black motorist.”

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One of the panelists, Vanderbilt University Professor Jonathan Metzl blamed “all the rhetoric coming out of the NRA,” “stand Your ground” laws, and “what I write about in my book, The Castle Doctrine, these ideas that basically of the white body…the white home as a particular castle” for Arbery’s death.

According to Metzl, “all of that rhetoric has been kind of deployed…to give the idea that basically white Americans can use their weapons…to defend themselves.” Metzl also called guns “symbols of…white privilege” and “white authority.”

Towards the end of the conversation, NBC’s Kurt Bardella picked up a broad brush, arguing that “white people feel like it’s okay” to “hop in the back of your pickup truck and hunt another human being down and execute him and film it for reasons that are beyond understanding.”

Bardella proceeded to claim that the shooting of Arbery was “fueled by the rise of Trumpism and fueled by the fact that the most powerful person in the world views minorities and people of color as second-class citizens and every policy that he has supported…and imposed on the American people…is designed to elevate white people…and keep people of color down, you know, somewhere else.”

Reid ended the segment by promoting The New York Times’s 1619 Project; which aimed to “reframe American history” by painting the existence of slavery as “the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” Considering the tone of the segment, which portrayed America as an institutionally racist dystopia, Reid could not have come up with a more appropriate conclusion.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Saturday’s edition of AM Joy is below. Click “expand” to read more.

AM Joy


11:01 AM

JOY REID: Welcome back to AM Joy. Well, there is so much that is alarming and disturbing about the anti-lockdown protesters who are rallying against stay-at-home orders in their states. They wave confederate flags, they are sometimes heavily armed; looking like a gun-toting militia. They don’t wear masks and they scream with their unmasked faces into the faces of police officers, who are also often not wearing masks; which seems risky. These angry, spittle-flecked, mostly men, mostly white, spewing respiratory droplets and indignation are becoming a thing.

And it’s a thing that begs the question: what would the outcome and the widespread reaction be if black people protested this way? I mean, just think about the absolute freakout by the right when black NFL players simply kneeled to call on police to please stop killing us. There is a vibe about these astroturf protests that look not like down and out, out-of-work people clamoring to get back into the shop. Assault weapons aren’t exactly cheap. But rather, like something else. These signs deploying revolutionary wartime rhetoric, a kind of “give me liberty and give me COVID-19 and let me give it to others, too, it’s my right.”

It’s just the latest example of the asterisk we so often see next to the word freedom; freedom being a privilege apparently reserved only to some people in America. Jamelle Bouie makes this case in his latest piece for The New York Times, linking the protesters’ conception of freedom to their racial identity, writing “freedom from domination and control is one aspect of the meaning of whiteness. The other aspect…is the right to control the presence and the lives of nonwhites.” It’s this notion of every man a king that propelled European men across the Atlantic with the idea that their individual kingdoms liberated from the king came with the God-given right to seize indigenous land, to kidnap and enslave African people, and to deny even their own wives and daughters the vote.

It’s this notion that later served as the…as the justification to round up and imprison Japanese Americans in internment camps, and to enact the kind of race-based immigration laws that Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and others of their ilk would love to bring back because every man a king has never meant every man. And so here we are again, with conservatism, at least among a certain cohort of white guys now rooting itself in the idea that even during a pandemic, these screaming men and women have the God-given right to get their roots done and order a steak at the restaurant and hit the golf course and the bar, and that those rights, which they claim were conferred upon them by God require a disproportionately black and brown labor force to return to work, get back on the wheel and risk death in order to serve them and return them to their comfortable lives.

As we talked about last week with Brittney Cooper, it is the necropolitics of the pandemic, the freedom to decide who gets to live and who has to die for me to get mine. This very week, we were reminded of another consequence of this “freedom for some,” that some take as giving them the literal power of life and death over any black person anywhere anytime. And it comes courtesy of a video that just surfaced this week showing the last minutes of the short 25-year life of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, who in February, almost to the day it happened to Trayvon Martin eight years ago, was chased down by white men in pickup trucks, and shot and killed on a residential street in Georgia.

According to the police report, the suspects say they thought he was a burglary suspect and that they acted in self-defense, but Ahmaud Arbery was simply out jogging, according to his family. His murder has been described by many who have seen the video, including his parents and their attorneys, as a modern-day lynching. Now, we’re going to play that video one more time now, and a warning again, it is graphic and disturbing. So, if you need to turn away and not look at it again, now would be the time to do that. Okay.




REID: What you just saw is oppression. Having to wear a face mask so you don’t die of coronavirus or give it to someone else is not.


11:13:25 AM

REID: Jonathan, you…you have in this same sort of news cycle the Shawn Reed case, which I think the Ahmaud Arbery case has taken over so much of the mind space of people that I…I don’t want people to forget that Shawn Reed is the guy who was livestreaming as he’s being pursued by police, and livestreams right through…through his death; and then, The New York Times reports and others that afterwards you can hear on the video, one of the officers who, in this case, I believe is black, saying “well, I guess it’s going to be a closed casket, homie,” like this sort of discarding of black life even when the officer is black…like the idea that law enforcement is viewing black people in this way that is almost, you know, is almost not the way you’d view a person, right? It’s just viewing…I don’t know, it’s a weird thing because you contrast that with the way that you’re seeing these white protesters literally screaming in the faces of officers, some of them armed to the teeth like they’re going to a war, in the faces of officers and officers are just quite casual about that, not…they don’t seem afraid of that. They’re not afraid of them, but they’re afraid of any black motorist. I don’t know if you have…have anything to add to…to why that would be.

JONATHAN METZL: Well, I, I, I agree completely. I mean, I think that…that Nikole and…and other panelists are exactly right, that there are so many larger contexts that are important for these kinds of stories. One context, as we just heard, is the…is the, the history of…the recent history of guns in the United States and the ways in which all the rhetoric coming out of the NRA and the…and the GOP has created terminology like Stand Your Ground, or what I write about in my book, The Castle Doctrine, these ideas that basically of the white body, the white…the white home is a particular castle, and look…and just look at the ways that…that all of that rhetoric has been kind of deployed to the…to the…to give the idea that basically white Americans can use their weapons to defend…to defend themselves, and even if they’re out there looking for trouble, as we see here. Now, I think it’s important to also note that there are many gun owners who don’t…don’t fire their guns.

And these are the stories that we…that we don’t hear about, but I would say that the bigger context here, about the ways in which guns have been constructed as symbols of…of white, kind of, white privilege in a way, the ways in which guns, particularly carrying guns in public like this, has been constructed as a…as a way of kind of showing a particular form of white authority, I think provides a lot of the context for a lot of these shootings that we’re…that we’re seeing, and particularly the…the, the Arbery shooting. And I, and I think that really…I think you’re exactly right, that there are all these histories that play out that we need, that we need to think about, but also, this is a moment where there…there just are a lot of guns in society, and…and President Trump on down is giving the message that the regular rules don’t apply. So, I fear that this is, this is, this is the one shooting we caught on tape, but I think there’s a lot of other things happening in the country right now.

REID: Yeah, and Kurt, you know, I mean, listen, I, I, I can tell you the, the, the last time the NRA was for gun control was when the Black Panthers were carrying guns, right? You know, then they were like, oh, wait a minute, yeah…we need gun control.

So, Kurt, you know, you have people who think it is a good idea to go in public shopping with a Klan hood on. I don’t know what message this person thought they were sending. Let’s put that picture up; trying to…I don’t know what the message is they think they were sending by doing this, and then you have…and then you have the fact that…you know, I was on a call, or not a call, a…a Zoom sort of town hall with Define American this week, talking about the fact that for a lot of Asian Americans, they are now coming to this point where they have gone from being sort of singled out as sort of the model minority to finding out what black people’s lives are like in terms of the harassment, in terms of the pain that’s being inflected on them, in terms of being blamed for the pandemic, and facing a lot of harassment and even, sort of, violence. And I think to the fact that it isn’t actually new, I mean, this country interned Japanese-Americans, not Japanese people from Japan, Japanese-Americans in this country, perfectly and legally rounded them up, put them in lockdown. So, it isn’t new, but it is coming back as a thing.

KURT BARDELLA: Yeah, it is, Joy, and…and I think, you know, I think every time I’ve done your program, particularly since, you know, when I…when I left working with Breitbart and Bannon, and…and made that transition of becoming a Democrat, how often I get directed at me from angry white men, sending me threats, using racial language, and we’ve seen in this time, particularly in Corona, when Trump began using the term Chinese virus, China virus, and even his “blame China” rhetoric that he’s embracing right now, how that has turned and inspired his legion of white followers to start attacking Asian-Americans in broad daylight when they’re on the subways, when they’re at the at the grocery store, when they’re just walking down the street, the things that are directed at them.

And again, it’s like this…this odd pathology that, that, that white people feel like it’s okay to say these things to, to other human beings; that it’s okay to hop in the back of your pickup truck and hunt another human being down and execute him and film it for reasons that are beyond understanding. And I think you and I both know that if the situation were reversed, if a group of black people hopped in their…in their SUVs and trucks and shot a white guy, I don’t think there would be people recusing themselves from that case in Georgia, I don’t think there would be a, a, a, a wait for two months before a video surfaced before they took any kind of action. And so, we see this double standard play out. And all of it though is…is fueled by the rise of Trumpism, and fueled by the fact that the most powerful person in the world views minorities and people of color as second-class citizens. And every policy that he has supported and…and imposed on the American people…

REID: Yeah.

BARDELLA: …is designed to elevate white people and, and, and keep people of color down, you know, somewhere else.

REID: Yeah. And I…I will note that even some people love to pretend that the Black Panthers were some boogeyman and pretend that they were attacking people voting because that was a thing too. We are out of time, unfortunately. I wish we had more time. We’re up against a potential Cuomo press…press conference coming up soon, but one more time, I just want to hold up this. The New York Times magazine piece, “The 1619 Project.” Everyone should read it.

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