I am not Troy Davis
There are days however, where I admit, that this is difficult for me. Earlier this week, I listened- sadly - to Democracy Now's livestream outside of the Georgia prison where Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia. I called every number I could find to once again express my belief that there was simply too much doubt in this case for them to proceed with the execution. I followed along on twitter streams. And when finally, the Supreme Court said they were reviewing the case, I felt a glimmer of hope. Sadly it disappeared when just a few hours later Troy Davis was dead.
I still am in a little bit of shock that in a case where witnesses have stepped forward to say their testimonies were given under duress, and where several people are willing to testify that another man admitted guilt, that anyone would rush ahead with the execution. Even if you support the death penalty, maybe you can agree it should be used only in cases where guilt is 100% certain. This was not one of those cases.
In his farewell letter, Troy wrote: “….this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.”
Many people have rallied behind a cry of, “we are all Troy Davis.” That type of solidarity makes sense. People want to feel like they can stand with Troy's spirit, his family, his struggle. But, at the same time I am hesitant to join that cry.
The thing is, I am not Troy Davis. And I probably will never be.
I do not know what it is like to spend 20 years behind bars, all the time maintaining my innocence, only to be put to death. In fact, I imagine that if I were to find myself facing any type of court case that my economic and educational privilege would work in my favor.
I do not know what it is like to navigate a supposedly 'fair' system, that time and again has been shown to treat people of color, and especially Black men differently. Case in point, today, Colorlines published some telling info-graphics about racial disparities on death row and in sentencing.
I will never know what it means to be a Black person, living under the shadows of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism in the Deep South. As a white person, even one committed to anti-racism, I am still shielded from the day to day racism that persists in our country. And I benefit, whether I want to or not, from centuries of policies and cultural practices that have negatively impacted people of color.
I am not you Troy Davis. But that makes me even more committed to work for justice in your name.
Earlier this week, I felt hopeless. But last night at the 2011 Ellas, I realized I could not accept my own hopelessness. That would let Troy and others like him down. Our actions may not feel as if they are making the changes we desire in the world. We may feel like the problems are too big to ever truly fix. It may seem like the systems and corporations and people with power and money are "too big too fail." And it is true that I may not see a world of justice and peace in my lifetime. But none of that can let us off the hook from continuing to act. Continuing to care. And continuing to dream.
Therefore here are a few actions in honor of Troy Davis's final letter which calls on us to "Never stop fighting for Justice:"
- Take part in Color of Change's many actions to address injustice in our justice system.
- Join the Campaign to End the Death Penalty- they have chapters and events all over the country.
- Read The New Jim Crow, a powerful book by Michelle Alexander that illustrates how our prison system recreates the racial caste system of the Jim Crow era.
- Pledge Not in my Name and think of what your commitment to end the Death Penalty will be.
- Stand with Books Not Bars. The racial disparities and injustice of the adult prison system begin in our youth prisons. Denounce the abuse that happens in California youth prisons.
- Support the Hunger Strikers who are resuming their strike this Monday.
- Please share your other suggestions in the comments on this blog for how to turn sadness and hopelessness into action and a renewed commitment for justice.
Rest in peace. Rest in power.