Troy Anthony Davis was executed at 11:08 PM EST, and at 11:09 PM EST I cracked open a beer, and put some leftovers in the microwave. I didn’t shed a tear. I wasn’t sick to my stomach. I wasn’t furious, nor confused. Like many others, I kept hitting refresh on my Twitter feed in order to observe the immediate visceral reactions of the people whom I’ve chosen to follow. And then I tried, unsuccessfully, to keep my own dissenting opinions from gracing the interwebs. In the midst of it all, though, I managed to see a tweet from @fivefifths that included the link to “They Reminisce Over You~The Execution of Troy Davis.” What follows is my response.
Troy Anthony Davis was convicted in 1991 of assaulting a homeless man, shooting another man in the face, and killing an off-duty police officer. As it has been widely acknowledged, the recanted testimonies, and lack of physical evidence [beyond anything purely circumstantial] was enough for many lawyers, politicians, and citizens to proclaim that there was “#TooMuchDoubt” in order to proceed with the execution of Troy Davis.
Even if the entire set of evidence stacked against Troy Davis was merely a house of cards, at a minimum he was guilty of keeping poor company, and making a series of poor decisions on the night that Mark MacPhail was murdered. I’m not interested in exploring or debating Troy Davis’ innocence, for it is too late for justice to be properly administered. I am also not interested in entertaining the legitimacy of capital punishment, for I am incontrovertibly against it. What I am interested in exploring, however, is what type of action this will spark amongst all Americans, particularly my peers.
Before I put forward my thoughts on how we should focus our efforts, I’ll give you a quote.
How do you arrive at that point? You gotta also look at that…You gotta to look at the environments and the places we live in, and how things are set up, and how things are structured. ~Jay-Z
I, like many of you, have been mesmerized for the last couple of days as I watched, talked about, and participated in the events that lead to the flash point of the Troy Davis case, and his life. But like a movie with an inverted plot, I’d like to focus your attention on the beginning, last; now that you’ve watched the ending, first.
Troy Davis’ parents divorced when Troy was a young boy. He was the eldest of four siblings (one of which was quite ill), and according to neighbors Troy “had to be the man of the house” at an early age. If that wasn’t enough, Troy was also subject to the nickname “RAH” which was short for “Rough As Hell.” Troy was a high school dropout–though he later gained an equivalency diploma–and at the age of 20 he pleaded guilty to a concealed weapon charge. While I don’t have the requisite qualifications to retroactively psychoanalyze Troy Davis, I think it’s safe to say he had a rough childhood.
Now we reach the nexus of my argument: what if the time, effort, and resources to remove Troy Davis from death row were invested into the early years of his life, rather than the later years? What if strangers across the world supported him and conspired to his success as a youth in Savannah, GA? Is it too crass to consider the difference in the return on that investment?
I’ll give you some numbers to contextualize this discussion. Since the Supreme Court of the United States resumed capital punishment in 1976, 1,270 executions have taken place in the U.S. In that same time period, almost 675,000 murders have happened across the U.S. Currently there are approximately 3,260 inmates on death row; we all have more at-risk kids in our hometowns than that. What I’m suggesting here is that we be prudent and economic with the time and energy we invest into the future of our families, our communities, and our country.
Admittedly, I have never been much concerned with the rights of criminals (color me insensitive). I just don’t have much tolerance or sympathy for people who have elected to break the law. The title of this response was originally “I Am NOT Troy Davis” which was meant to be a provocative declaration of my lack of empathy for the Troy Davis experience. I didn’t drop out of high school, I have never carried a gun, and thus I have never fired a bullet at anyone. Explanation: I wrongfully assumed Troy Davis was guilty of at least shooting a man in the face earlier that night. However, after some thorough reading of the facts and evidence presented, I soon realized that the same piss-poor evidence was used to convict him of both shootings.
Nonetheless, what now? The problem-solver, and pragmatist in me says that we should attack the root of the problem. Hence, I will not fall prisoner to the moment (no pun intended, really) and focus much, if any, time or effort on fighting the death penalty (don’t get me wrong, I’d vote against it, given the opportunity). My time on this earth is limited and old folks always tell me “choose your battles wisely.” My contributions will be focused on developing young men and leaders and serving as a role model for the youth in my community. I’m not trying to undercut the value of judicial reform. I’m not trying to be a contrarian. And I’m certainly not trying to mock or disrespect the dead. I was proud of the people who took part in real activism today. I was proud of my generation for actually taking a stance on something. I’m just offering my own take on how we can best influence change and sustain progress moving forward. Let’s keep the conversation going!
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.