All the way up until the announcement that the state of Georgia had indeed killed Troy Davis, I prayed and hoped against hope for a miracle. That miracle being that the United States of America would prove itself to be everything she has ever claimed to be in the name of justice and humanity. I had scanty logical reasons fueling my hope. After all, our Country has paid major lip service to being the home of the free and the brave; yet all too often our actions just don’t measure up. Yet I am human, and with my humanity comes an inherent hope for the good and righteous to prevail.
The following post is merely my first and most base reaction to the tragedy that has befallen us all.
Let me state upfront how impossibly catastrophic it is that a human being lost his life simply doing his job as Mark Allen MacPhail did in 1989. My heart hurts for his wife and children who never got to rush into his arms when he returned home that fateful night.
While we know Troy Davis was the man convicted for taking Officer MacPhail’s life, I don’t purport to know Troy Davis’ full history. Admittedly, from my limited familiarity with this case dating back only three years ago, it may appear his alleged activities and personal choices on that monumental day of August 19, 1989 put him in a place that ultimately may have been the determining factor in his fate. This is all debatable, and really neither here nor there when getting to the heart of the matter.
And where does the heart lie in this matter? Well, all over the place actually.
First, it is in the fact that the most industrialized country in the western hemisphere, a land that proclaims to be a republic for the people by the people; and with the might and money to rule the entire world, citizens are legally murdered at the hands of their own government. It is a practice borne centuries ago for us, one as inhumane as any atrocity we can imagine on distant shores.
As much as we like to pretty up history, conveniently ignoring the deep scars on our historical psyche, the truth is America has reigned supreme in executing the calculated and deliberate murder against its own citizens. In fact it has been given a very strident name, “capitol punishment,” surviving variations of its delivery methods throughout history, the practice that had first been used by law-enforcers as punishment soon became widely used by extremists for revenge and as domestic terror.
There was a time, that children growing up in post Civil War America through our Civil Rights victories in the 1960s had at the least a very valid fear or even greater an intimate understanding of a loved one or neighbor accused of a crime (real or imagined; just or exaggerated) taken from their homes to be found dead later, body swaying from a tree with toes, fingers, genitalia or ears missing. Sometimes a faint wind would blow the stench of burnt flesh that gave away the scene of the crime.
Alleged victims and their families ceremoniously gathered along with those seeking blood for sport and overall disdain for Blacks (those who were overwhelmingly on the other end of the rope) watched the lynching and celebrated.
It’s no secret or great historical find. It is common knowledge. In fact, my shero, Ida B. Wells, dedicated her life to advocating around the globe to bring attention and an end to that particular brand of barbaric insanity heartily adopted here.
But this is where I find myself choking back tears at the insanity. Where I have to put the laptop down and walk into my kitchen to wash a lone dish, or drink a glass of water attempting to drown reality. No matter the strides Ida B. Wells made along with others like Walter White and the NAACP; Leonidas Dyer; and press outlets like the Chicago Defender, the system always finds a way to mock what is right and just…to shake a stick at our presumption of freedom.
Never did I expect that my children would be witness to the same sadistic blood hunt reminiscent of the terror which prompted the second wave of the great migration from the south. Today, sitting “up north,” none of us can escape the ugly embarassment that our moral compass remains stuck in the woods of hate as more than half of these United States still uphold capitol punishment….modern day lynching. It finds a way to add satire to our view of patriotic pride.
Because, after this latest tragic misstep, we must ask ourselves are we really free? Are you truly proud to be an American?
Secondly, the real painful heart wrenching reality is that I have to take a deep breath and despondently answer those questions with a sheepish no. No, I am not free when I walk everyday in the recognition that my husband can be stopped by a police officer for mistaken identity, accused of an unspeakable crime, then taken to prison- and in our current economic station, not afforded a fair and just trial. Same is true for my son at just 13 years of age.
My space as a Black mother provides the inherent understanding that I have to arm my CHILD with tools that will help navigate away from unsolicited contact with the police, lest be wary of wrongful charges and subsequent conviction. That more than likely his expereince with law enforcement will not yeild a favorable interaction. That justice in this country will elude him most of the time.
There is not enough bandwidth to list ALL the names of the wrongfully convicted held captive in the penal systems of this country. An overwhelming majority of them are there simply because of a lack of good counsel and a fair trial. The sadder fact is that so many layers of state law and federal meanderings and policies and damn near any convoluted sentence structure can be used as justification to deny justice.
So what is the point of all this. I don’t know where I’m going. It is hard to see through the tears. Even harder to think through the rage and mourning. Trying to add weight to the emptiness I feel. But make no mistake, what I do know is Troy Anthony Davis was yet another victim of our justified killing system. They lay him down strapped to a gurney, shot toxic chemicals in his body that took away his living breath. In my mind, they may as well have hung him from a tree, sent him to a guillotine, or placed him in a building with suicide bombers. It all paints the same savage picture, and America still has the blood on its hands.
I’ll be posting more thoughts on how a mother explains the unexplainable; the death penalty; acting out activism; and what happens when you don’t know Poli-ish or Poli-Sci.
For mow, please continuing fighting in Troy Davis’ name.
Join your local chapter of NAACP
Support independent media like Democracy Now (who has covered this case and others like it extensively for years)
Learn more about Innocence Project and wrongful convictions
Register AND vote in all elections