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I am not Troy Davis May 14, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage.
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Over the next few days, you’re going to start seeing a lot of things around the web and Facebook that say “I am Troy Davis.”

If you don’t know anything about Troy Davis, the fact you haven’t heard of him probably says something about how we value this man’s life.  He’s a black man on Georgia’s death row, convicted of killing a white cop.  His stay of execution is set to expire tomorrow.

I’m not going to claim to know his innocence or guilt, because that’s not important to me.  I don’t support state-sanctioned executions.  Ever.  But I’m also not about to join the chorus of “I am Troy Davis.”   Much like the chants of  “I am Sean Bell” last year, I don’t feel I can make that statement of unity with a black man who is gunned down by New York City police or executed by the state of Georgia.

For me to say “I am Troy Davis” would ignore the fact that, as a white woman, I’m just not likely to be put to death by the state.  People of color are not only more likely to be arrested and accused of a crime, but they’re much more likely to face the possibility of the death penalty.   In fact, since prosecutors are also far more likely to seek the death penalty in the case of a white victim, I’m a risk to every person of color who might happen to be near me, in the wrong place at the wrong time, if I were killed.

When a white person is killed, especially a police officer, some one, it hardly matters who, must pay with their own life.  When a person of color is accused, even when their life is on the line, procedures and rules are given priority over justice.   So, my life matters more than his; even proper procedure matters more than his life, according to the appellate court.

No, I am definitely not Troy Davis.  I wouldn’t have been arrested and convicted without physical evidence or a murder weapon.  I am not Troy Davis.  I would not have faced the death penalty based solely on eyewitness accounts that all sides agree were unreliable.  I am not Troy Davis.  I do not sit on death row, my appeal unheard, my evidence unexamined, my name unknown to most of America, because the justice system and the media and juries expect a cop killer to look more like Troy Davis than like me.

It’s not that I don’t agree with the “I am Troy Davis” crowd in spirit; it’s simply that I must acknowledge my own personal responsibility for the mortal danger he’s in right now.  Our country has made clear they believe my life matters more than his and if the state of Georgia proceeds to murder Troy Davis, I can only try to make sure my life really does matter, to work to correct this broken system, to prevent the next Troy Davis from being killed.

As a white person, I expect our cops and our laws and our courts to protect me.  The awful truth is, I am not Troy Davis, I am a part of the system that wants to kill him.