Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Justice in a Post-Racial Society


A recent post from Kevin Powell on Facebook remined me of the story of George Junious Stinney Jr. I watched the movie about this case when I was young. At the age of 14 he's the youngest person to ever be executed in the U.S. He was convicted of killing 2 white girls with a railroad spike he was likely to too small to yield. With no eyewitness and only word from a deputy that he confessed, he was sentenced to electric chair. I hadn't been able synthesize my many emotions into one coherent written reaction to the execution of Troy Davis until now.

A few years ago during Memorial Day weekend on Miami Beach, aka Urban Beach Week two friends were shouting outside of a club. One had just gotten into a verbal altercation inside the club--let's call him Stanley-- and the other was urging him to calm down and let it go. The police quickly came to separate them, though Stanley was still pretty heated. During questioning one police officer began to tase Stanley and in quick response the other police officer tased the other man, repeatedly. The officers filed an elaborate report stating that Stanley struck the police officer and in response his friend leaped screaming "get off my homeboy" and struck the other officer. Both were charged with felony battery against a police officer. The other young man in this case was a recent college grad who majored in computer engineering. He would NEVER attack a police officer and I don't really know people who would remember to say 'homeboy' in a crisis. The other guy was my younger brother.

If his big sister did not have lawyer friends, if he didn't have two parents who were working professionals who could come up with bail money... If he and his friend shared the same background: a criminal history with only a high school diploma... where would he be? (Hell, where would his friend be? Lucky for him they tried them together) If a gun had gone off and killed someone?  I imagine that my brother could have been Troy Davis and cry. Like right now. Troy Davis was someone's brother too.

My brother struggled with that case, the only proof they had was that he was Black and present. Oh and the false report from the police. This is all that's needed for a conviction. Sure, society has gotten better. Before it was only necessary to be Black. Hooray for a Post-Racial Society! I know it really broke him on the inside. Imagine if it would have taken his life.

I stand firm in my belief that we shouldn't reduce the Troy Davis story to a matter of race, no man should be executed with that much doubt. Though I find it to be a curious case that, our President in light of an obvious human rights issue did not speak out against the execution of Troy Davis so as to not look like he sympathizes with his own race. I find it curious that despite the smell of rotting flesh in the trunk of her car, Casey Anthony is somewhere in a baseball cap getting a mani-pedi and Troy Davis is dead. Lastly, it is curious that my response to my brother's trauma of being shot several times with a stun gun, jailed and facing a felony was to scold him for forgetting even for one second... that he was a Black man and this is indeed still America.
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