I Am Troy Davis
I am fivefifths. I am a writer on a blog which quickly became more than what I expected it to be (thanks to you all we just reached 50,00 views!). I am a student and a teacher. I am an employee with a job I love and hate. I have friends, and I have great family. I am a black man just trying to make it as far as the strength my ancestors gave me. I am a person, and I am a citizen of the great country of the United States, whose very Supreme Court building promises “Equal Justice Under Law” for all, but whose very existence is predicated on the fact that equal justice is a myth. I love it, and I hate it, and at the end of the day I am just a man trying to find my way in a land that I want so badly to want me and my people, perhaps in vain.
But most importantly, I am Troy Davis.
If you haven’t heard the details of his case, the good folks at Amnesty International can do a much better job than I can. Essentially, Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer in 1991, and has been on death row since. The case rested on witness testimonies of the incident, which were inconsistent (even at the time of the trial), and all but two of those testimonies have since been directly recanted or contradicted. There are more details as described in Amnesty USA’s brief, but through multiple appeals, calls for clemency, and gaining the support of THE leaders in Civil Rights in the world: Amnesty, the NAACP, Jimmy Carter, Bishop Desmond Tutu, etc., we sit now at the precipice of his third execution date, September 21st.
I’m not here to argue whether Troy Davis is innocent or guilty. Despite the fact that my conscience leans one way on the issue, as it does with most cases, I generally respect the courts in their decisions in trials executed properly (I even somewhat supported Casey Anthony here not too far back). But in cases such as this, when the justice system clearly does not work the way it should, how do we respond? There are accounts of witness coercion, witnesses who directly said that they lied under oath, and the presence of the one consistent witness against Davis, Sylvester Coles…who also happened to be a primary suspect and boasted at parties of committing the murder. I don’t really know the legal specifics, and I know that some of these facts matter not in the court of law, but I also know that had Troy Davis been a young blonde-haired nice kid from Malibu under the same circumstances, people would move heaven and earth to get him at least a fair trial. They would have changed laws and brought about statutes just to stop it from happening. All just to protect the ideal that it is better to let ten guilty men free than to convict one innocent man. All to protect the blindfold of equal justice and the authority of law as applied to all persons in this country.
This isn’t just a race issue (although I think race is a factor). It’s a human issue, and it tests the very fabric that the American society is ostensibly made of. What is our national character? Do we stick to a system where cases like this, where minorities and the disadvantaged are continually offered only shades of due process, in the imaginary ideal of some, “great society,” or do we recognize the inconsistencies and chinks in the armor and reform it? Do we wave our hands and say, “his fate is sealed,” or do we go out and battle for a new trial for him up until the very second of his execution? Do we shake our heads at how regrettable the situation is and forget about it within the month, or do we allow it to actually stir our spirit and incite the voice within us that knows that something is wrong?
I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m a blogger. I started this blog to express my angst at a few small things and it quickly became a window into all of our writing staff’s souls, about how we synthesized with humor the daily injustices and slight inequalities of simply being born a different skin color. At the end of the day, at our lightest I hope we offer simple humanity, and at our heaviest we wish to critique and evaluate the nature of this country, and perhaps this world. It’s ambitious, but I think for any blog of this type it becomes a necessary extension. This is a different post for me, but I know that I had to say something or do something. Where else to go than to the people that have so supported this endeavor and who I have learned so much about expression and the human condition from? It’s you guys, the readers. And if the very least I can do is publicize this issue to just one of you, then I believe that the ~1000 words written here all count.
So what can we do? Today is the official advocacy day for him, and at the very least we can get out and spread the word. Facebook it. Tweet about it. Follow me and the good folks at the NAACP and RT if you wish. Talk about it at work and in class. Let people know. At the very least if Mr. Davis is executed, let’s not allow the world to ignore it. If you’re in Atlanta, like I know many people who frequent this blog are, go to the march that starts today at 6 PM at Woodruff Park at the corner of Edgewood and Auburn. If you can spend that time pregaming for a party, I hope that you can spend it on a cause such as this. We spend so much time longing for and romanticizing the days of mass activism…well here’s our chance to show the world and the history books that our generation isn’t just a paralyzed bunch of tech-addled complainers. We can show that we care. Do something.
At the end of the day, this is an issue that is part of an ongoing referendum on the national character of this country. Who are we? Well I say that at its core, it’s a debate about people, about human beings. It’s about all of us, and as one who knows very well what it’s like to have those copper scales tipped against me from birth, I know that it’s just as much about me. So I am Troy Davis.
We all are.