With Malice Aforethought

The strange, familiar case of white violence and Black bodies

stephen matlock
4 min readMay 9, 2020


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

“The McMichaels did not intend to kill Mr. Arbery that day. All they intended to do was to stop him, question him, and hold him and wait for the police to arrive.”

You’ll start hearing this defense, if you haven’t already. It seems so understandable, so smooth, so compassionate.



Imagine you’re going to “get out of the house.” Just go for a drive. It’s May, and it’s a beautiful day.

“I’m not going bowling,” you say. “I know that bowling is bad for me. I get mad when I can’t get 300 and I mess up the place.”

But you take your bowling bag with your bowling ball & shoes to the car. You put on your favorite bowling shirt, with your team name on the back and your own name embroidered in beautiful, colorful script above the pocket on the front. Your glove is right there on the seat along with the bag.

And while you can drive any route through town, you happen to make the turns that take you to Harmony Lanes (or whatever), where you go inside “just for a snack and a smoke” because hey, a man gets thirsty.

The lanes are open. You got a $20 bill in your pocket. What’s the harm?

Thirty minutes later you’re smashing the scoring device, pulling down the racks, tossing chairs, and threatening people because . . . well, you didn’t get that 300 you’ve been dreaming of.

“They knew I can’t handle it. They should have done something about it. It’s not my fault.”


You set yourself up to commit a riot. You laid out your tools & brought them with you. You got to the place where you wanted to riot. You did everything you could to set yourself up for an outburst.

And you struck out because you could not strike out.

This is what the McMichaels did. They ginned themselves up to be “angry” about break-ins and robberies in the neighborhood. The police records show no such things from anyone for the previous two months¹ — except that the elder McMichaels left his truck unlocked and a gun on the front seat, and that got lifted, per his own…



stephen matlock

Writer; observer; sometimes doer. Fiat justitia ruat cælum. More at stephenmatlock.com Mostly off Medium now & writing elsewhere