UPDATE (9/23/08): The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the execution of
less than two hours before his scheduled death
less than two hours before his scheduled death
[Update: As Cara at Feministe points out, you can still take action for Troy Davis.]
As a white American, I regret not saying something earlier on this blog about the imminent execution of Troy Davis. He's an African American man sentenced to die on September 23, on the basis of little if any evidence, and on largely recanted testimony. I'll explain below what I consider significant about how Davis' race is different from mine. I'll also ask you, dear readers, what anyone can still do for Troy Davis, given that his most recent effort in the appeals process was just denied two days ago.
Davis was convicted for the 1989 murder of a white police officer in Georgia. Amnesty International provides this summary of his case:
Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. But the Georgia Supreme Court denied Mr. Davis’ motion for a new trial and now he faces execution on September 23. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.
As Time magazine points out, in one of the few nods of attention to Davis's case by the corporate media, "two of the jurors who sentenced Davis to death signed sworn affidavits saying that based on recanted testimony, he should not be executed. 'In light of this new evidence,' wrote one juror, 'I have genuine concerns about the fairness of Mr. Davis' death sentence.'"
Davis himself writes,
Because of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, [and] the blatant racism and bias in the U.S. Court System, I remain on death row in spite of a compelling case of my innocence. I have a private law firm trying to help save my life in the court system, but it is like no one wants to admit the system made another grave mistake. Am I to be made an example of to save face? Does anyone care about my family who has been victimized by this death sentence for over 16 years? Does anyone care that my family has the fate of knowing the time and manner by which I may be killed by the state of Georgia?
I truly understand a life has been lost and I have prayed for that family just as I pray for mine, but I am Innocent and all I ask for is a True Day in a Just Court. If I am so guilty why do the courts deny me that? The truth is that they have no real case; the truth is I am Innocent.
Where is the Justice for me?
I wish there was more of that justice in me, Mr. Davis. But I'm a white American, so if there's much of any sense of justice in me for you, it's mostly there because I've worked against my white training to put it there. To the extent that I've been trained against empathizing with you because of our racial differences, and to the extent that I've been trained to trust that the justice system works, I'm that much more discouraged by my culture and upbringing from trying to save your life.
I'm pointing out that I'm white and Davis is black in order to emphasize how my becoming white has trained me to be morally lazy in such cases.
I usually think that I'm using my particular skills and talents in writing this blog in order to take action--anti-racist action. My general intent has been to encourage other white people to untrain themselves from their instilled racist tendencies, and then to act in whatever particular non-racist or anti-racist ways they can in their own lives.
However, I could write more posts here that encourage specific, direct action, and I didn't do so soon enough in this case. I did individually sign a petition, make phone calls, and send a letter (PDF) for a man convicted by the white supremacist "justice" system. This is a system that I've come to feel responsible for acting against because it unjustly enhances my white life while it degrades and destroys non-white lives.
But I have a voice and something of an audience here, however limited, and I didn't use that voice soon enough. American men in general aren't supposed to admit to feeling ashamed, but I'll certainly admit to it in this case.
A lot of people also took their bodies out in public and protested for Davis' life. Even in Europe. But I didn't. Did you?
The most the recent activism for Davis has been aimed at the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Appeals. However, they decided two days ago to deny Davis' latest appeal. The next step, as I understand it, would be a review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court, but that court
In the case of Troy Davis, a young black man facing imminent execution after an absurdly unfair trial, white people have a stronger responsibility to fight for his life. That's because the same white supremacist judicial system that makes their lives easier, just because they're white, also makes it more likely that black men like Davis will have their lives destroyed. Destroyed for crimes they didn't commit, or for crimes that are grossly outweighed by the penalties handed down for them.
If the American judicial system succeeds in killing Davis, millions of people around the world will rightly consider it another example of the disregard that white Americans in general have for black Americans.
I think all Americans who know about Davis's situation and are able to take action should have done so by now. However, if we're white, this has been a chance to take direct action against an institutionally entrenched form of the ongoing white supremacy that unfairly enriches our lives, while tearing down and destroying the lives of others.
So where do we go from here? What can we do for Troy Davis now?
If you know of ways people can act in this case, please let us know in a comment.
In the meantime, you can also watch these action-oriented sites for updates: