Anderson Critiques Long Pattern of Demonizing Black Victims like Arbery for ‘CNN’

Dr. Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and Associated Faculty in the History Department, was recently quoted in a CNN article chronicling the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery. Titled “Demonizing Black victims is an old racist trope that didn’t work for defense attorneys this time,” the piece discusses how attorneys in the trial sought to demonize, dehumanize, and criminalize Arbery. Anderson offers historical context about this rhetorical strategy and violent practice across centuries of U.S. history. Read an excerpt below along with the full piece here.

From assertions that Black pastors might frighten jurors to a remark about Arbery’s “long, dirty toenails,” the defense’s strategy was rife with rhetoric that sought to dehumanize and devalue Black Americans.
“What I saw was the defense preying on White fears,” said Carol Anderson, a historian and the chair of African American studies at Emory University. “The ‘long, dirty toenails’ — that is an old trope of the ‘Black Beast.’ That is the stuff coming out of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.”