The Moral Arc of the Universe Does Bend toward Justice

By Carla Kelly

This isn’t my usual blog. Well, maybe it is. When I think of what has influenced me as a writer, or a journalist or a novelist, Georgia comes to mind. My husband has had some serious health issues and a major surgery that took my attention elsewhere, too. He’s better now. The turkey is in the oven, pies made, etc., so I have a moment to write this from my heart.

I’ve been thinking about the Ahmaud Arbery verdict in Brunswick, Georgia, where justice was finally served, despite foot dragging for 75 days before the men were arrested. The then-DA has been indicted by a grand jury for misinformation and stalling – I don’t know the correct legal terms, obviously. The cops didn’t want to arrest anyone. Neither did the DAs in two counties. It took public outrage and a brave attorney in the department to push things along, finally. 

There were a number of charges, but essentially, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan will be spending a long, long time in prison, and probably in solitary. The gen pop would eat them alive, with good cause.

I’ve had my eyes on Georgia since we moved there in 1958. Dad got orders to NAS Glynco, which then was a base for dirigibles. It was located not far from Brunswick. We lived on nearby St. Simons Island. 

About a year later, the house we were renting had some plumbing issues which required a plumber. Two men showed up, one an older white guy, and the other one a Black man. They conferred, and the Black man was left to do the work, which involved digging up a portion of the backyard. I don’t recall that I ever saw the white guy again. 

I’ve always been interested in stuff, so I went out now and then to chat with the Black man. One day I asked him if he was the plumber. I think I was 11 at the time, but I never forgot his answer: “Honey, in the state of Georgia I will never be a plumber.” I didn’t understand. He was doing the work. 

Georgia was also my introduction to Whites Only drinking fountains and public restrooms. We took a bus to school. I never saw any Black kids on the bus, and I wondered where they went to school. And this: chain gangs worked on the roads. Again, no white prisoners. 

I never forgot Georgia. After that, Dad was assigned to Norfolk, Virginia, where some of this same stuff was repeated. Georgia was the education I never forgot. It did something to me. I’m glad. 

Sixty-three years have passed since my question to that Black man. I imagine he’s probably gone by now. I thought of him yesterday at that verdict. I hope he knows I thought of him. He’s been on my mind for years. 

I think today I’ll reread one of my first short stories, “A Season for Heroes,” which involves a Buffalo Soldier – 9th or 10th Cavalry – and his captain. I won my first Spur Award for that story, but believe me, I won much more. 

Thanks, Georgia, for change that makes me hopeful.