October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011
When the announcement came through last night that the U.S. Supreme Court would not grant a stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis I was inconsolable. I cried and fought against my feelings of anger and hopelessness and when I woke up this morning it was the first thing that came to mind.
It makes NO sense to me that with the preponderance of doubt in this case that the justice system proceeded, mercilessly and inexorably, while a potentially innocent man was led to his death. If a case where 7 of 9 eyewitnesses recanted partial, or in some cases, complete reversal of their original testimonies, doesn’t deserve a retrial – what does?
You must ask yourself what kind of system is at work that in the face of such glaring discrepancies would allow the harshest possible punishment and call it JUSTICE. I have asked and do not like the answer. When the innocent are executed in the name of capital justice we should call it what it is – murder. It is a stain upon our nation that should be eradicated. America has enough blood to bear.
Consider just how many prominent people and organizations expressed their outrage to no avail: Pope Benedict XVI; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; President Jimmy Carter; Harry Belafonte; NAACP; Amnesty International, to name a few. Yet, it did nothing to turn the tide of what was viewed by hundreds of thousands as a miscarriage of justice. Do our voices not carry weight?
African-Americans, of course, feel that this is yet another statement about the social injustices that are in integral part of our history, stretching back endlessly. We know that in the minds of many a Black man’s life holds no weight when shored up against a White police officer. The system has shown repeatedly that such offenders, regardless of circumstance, evidence or public outcry are not innocent until proven guilty which is a constitutional outrage.
It broke my heart reading the Tweets by people of all races who were similarly enraged and disgusted but I was completely unmanned by the articulation of feelings by Black folks which underscored our implied worthlessness, hopelessness and dehumanization. The overwhelming outcry “Still it continues…” Troy Davis is one of too many to face a similar fate and this is one more tragic example. It is evident that because African-Americans are jailed at a disproportionately higher rate that they are more likely to be affected by capital punishment so our feelings are not unfounded.
“African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 42 percent of prisoners on death row. In Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Maryland, and in the U.S. military and federal system, more than 60 percent of those on death row are Black; Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio all have death rows where more than 50 percent are African American. Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black.
Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person.
According to Amnesty International, more than 20 percent of Black defendants executed since 1976 were convicted by all-white juries.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death penalty laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional, in part because capital punishment was rife with racial disparities.”
Campaign To End The Death Penalty www.nodeathpenalty.org
The world isn’t fair and many injustices roll out on a daily basis and some will argue that this is just one more example being played out, regrettable, disturbing but unavoidable. But this was not a natural disaster or some fickle happenstance event – it was done at the hands of men and is preventable.
I can’t, now or ever, stand behind the death penalty as a means of punishment because it is senseless to tell people it is wrong to kill and then use the same methods to punish them. There is no such thing as a humane death and we are kidding ourselves if we believe otherwise. In my heart, I believe that the death penalty is inhumane and dangerous in the hands of a system that is all too often ineffective, inaccurate and mired in institutional racism.
I have made jokes about being an armchair activist but this has motivated me beyond words and in my conscience will not stand. I hope that enough people will take this for a wake up call and do something more than rant and rave. I am incredibly weary of being screwed over by the systems we put in place to protect us. In the grander scale, this is a human issue which should be important to all people of conscience.
Rashad Robinson of The Huffington Post put it beautifully, “There is no better way to honor Troy’s memory than to keep fighting for justice.”
There are myriad resources on-line to raise your voice and join the fight – exercise your rights as a citizen and do something with your outrage. Check out Campaign Against The Death Penalty. Today, has been declared a day against outrage and there will be events held nationally.