They Reminisce Over You~The Execution of Troy Davis
I write this with sorrow in my heart. A sorrow that was unexpected and connected to the plight of a man who i have never met and who was first sentenced to death when I was only a baby. It is a sense of sadness, not only for Troy himself, but for his family and for the family of Officer MacPhail, who I truly hope manage to find the measure of closure that they wanted so badly. I am sad for all of those who got involved in this, whether through my own efforts to inform, or through others, because I have seen and experienced with them a growing personal connection to the case and plight of Troy Davis. Mostly, I am sorrowful and angry and frustrated at the justice system, which has in my opinion sacrificed the life of a man for political and legal expediency and a hollow sense of justice based on revenge. I am let down and somewhat disenchanted, as I felt that we as a country could be more than this. Instead we cling to a blind and unfair standard of justice that is more similar to Hammurabai’s code or the law in modern Iran than the paragon of freedom and equal protection that the Constitution claims we are.
Troy Davis was executed today around 11:00. After a painfully delayed injection waiting for the ultimately futile (and unanimous) Supreme Court decision to not stay his execution, here we are. As the breath leaves from his lungs, so does the collective hope of millions of supporters, from ordinary people like us, to Presidents and Nobel Peace Prize winners and even the Pope, who thought that our efforts could bring about fairness or a sense of peace. A gambit on the truth was made by the justice system, but the wager on that gambit was a man’s life. We believe there was too much doubt and that Davis should have at least been given a new trial, but now the man lies dead, even as 7 of 9 witnesses whose testimony composed the bulk of the case against him were recanted under suspicions of coercion.
This is a referendum on us as a people and a nation. Regardless of Davis’s innocence or guilt, it is clear to me that he was not given the full efforts of the law that would have been awarded a rich man, or a white man of similar means, or a Senator, or a businessman. In a system where the chance of receiving the death penalty, even under similar cases, is directly correlated with income and skin color, how can we claim the fairness that the Constitution guarantees? How can we abide by the pledge that we teach our children to recite from their hearts that promises “liberty and justice for all,” when we have clear evidence that minorities, poor, and the mentally disadvantaged will be much more likely to die than white men simply because of these characteristics? I think this case was a litmus test on many that have happened and will happen like it. Without action, we will continue to execute those for whom there is considerable doubt and lack of due process, and the disparities will continue. Until we abolish the death penalty as an archaic and stupid punishment as some states have done, what else is there to do?
One thing did inspire me. You. The protesters. The people who stoked the flames of a wildfire of passion around the case. Very rarely in this age have we mobilized for a real cause, especially so quickly, but here we are. As I look at the pictures of hundreds of marches and vigils around the globe I am inspired for the course of political and social action by our generation. We are a generation of temporary anger based on whatever is trending, but I saw today that we turned tweets and blogs into real action, and literally redefined and broke systems on Twitter that seemed to be specifically set to not allow Troy Davis’s case to become well known. Since Friday, we defined our circumstances in the world, if only for a little while, and spread the word all over the world. We served as the breaking news sources, well in front of the sluggish mass media outlets, and were already on the ground marching before the New York Times and Wall St Journal even reported on the case. The NAACP seemed revitalized, and as dozens of buses of students poured into Jackson, GA, I knew that that was what people felt like in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This was vintage, but also uniquely modern.
For the first time in my experience I am hopeful that perhaps we can turn this temporary momentum into something sustained. We found a recipe for mass informing and surprised everyone with what we were able to do. This was a sort of flash protest, amorphous and led from the bottom, that could be even more effective should we choose to continue to speak out. I believe I have experienced for the first time, the true taste of activism, and I’m not quite sure I’m ready to let how I feel today simply fade away into more disappointment and resignment. We can continue to fight for, as Troy Davis said in his touching letter from prison, the “all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me” out there. Not just for those on death row unfairly, but for those who encounter any injustice simply because they don’t have access to the two things that can exonerate almost any man in this country, the right skin color and enough money.
That’s where I hope we can go with 40 Acres. We will continue to poke fun at the inequalities here, because how else can you really synthesize it without going crazy? But we will also continue in the vein of real discussion and exposing real events. Racism and inequality are alive, and we will try and make them known and expose them. We’re not advocates or activists, merely bloggers, but I know we have a space for some duty here. I’ll try, because until I can walk comfortably without fear or unease as a Black man in America, I will never be able to simply joke away the sense of injustice and hurt. On the same night as the execution of another man for the dragging death of a black man in hate crime, I will always be uneasy, and will always remember that I run the risk of being mistreated or even killed just because of my skin color and I will always know that justice can only be achieved by fairness in treatment and opportunity, not by taking an eye for an eye. I will remember because I will always remember today. I am Troy Davis, and I always will be. We remain forever changed and impacted, no matter how slightly.
Rest in Peace Mr Davis and peace to your family. We won’t forget.
Troy Davis is all of us.
We are all Troy Davis.