“And a part of me wants to blame your daddy, because some fathers are like God: you never see them, but you know they exist. And some little girls rather die before letting their deadbeat dads come and save their lives.”—Jasmine Nicole Mans x ‘Little Girl’
1. Of the nine witnesses who appeared at Davis’s 1991 trial who said they had seen Davis beating up a homeless man in a dispute over a bottle of beer and then shooting to death a police officer, Mark MacPhail, who was acting as a good samaritan, seven have since recanted their evidence.
2. One of those who recanted, Antoine Williams, subsequently revealed they had no idea who shot the officer and that they were illiterate – meaning they could not read the police statements that they had signed at the time of the murder in 1989. Others said they had falsely testified that they had overheard Davis confess to the murder.
3. Many of those who retracted their evidence said that they had been cajoled by police into testifying against Davis. Some said they had been threatened with being put on trial themselves if they did not co-operate.
4. Of the two of the nine key witnesses who have not changed their story publicly, one has kept silent for the past 20 years and refuses to talk, and the other is Sylvester Coles. Coles was the man who first came forward to police and implicated Davis as the killer. But over the past 20 years evidence has grown that Coles himself may be the gunman and that he was fingering Davis to save his own skin.
5. In total, nine people have come forward with evidence that implicates Coles. Most recently, on Monday the George Board of Pardons and Paroles heard from Quiana Glover who told the panel that in June 2009 she had heard Coles, who had been drinking heavily, confess to the murder of MacPhail.
6. Apart from the witness evidence, most of which has since been cast into doubt, there was no forensic evidence gathered that links Davis to the killing.
7. In particular, there is no DNA evidence of any sort. The human rightsgroup the Constitution Project points out that three-quarters of those prisoners who have been exonerated and declared innocent in the US were convicted at least in part on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony.
8. No gun was ever found connected to the murder. Coles later admitted that he owned the same type of .38-calibre gun that had delivered the fatal bullets, but that he had given it away to another man earlier on the night of the shooting.
9. Higher courts in the US have repeatedly refused to grant Davis a retrial on the grounds that he had failed to “prove his innocence”. His supporters counter that where the ultimate penalty is at stake, it should be for the courts to be beyond any reasonable doubt of his guilt.
10. Even if you set aside the issue of Davis’s innocence or guilt, the manner of his execution tonight is cruel and unnatural. If the execution goes ahead as expected, it would be the fourth scheduled execution date for this prisoner. In 2008 he was given a stay just 90 minutes before he was set to die. Experts in death row say such multiple experiences with imminent death is tantamount to torture.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.”—
Martin Luther King, Jr (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)
“Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”— Haruki Murakami (via fabula)
you know i’ve always looked on history—the history of my people in this country—with a certain pride and disdain. the pride stems from the inhuman perseverance of my progenitors; the disdain, a response to the evil “my country” perpetrated against them.
tonight, i sit at my desk an older, younger person; a little more wise; a little more intelligent; and utterly ashamed of my country. i’ve always heard this sentiment before, and i never understood why someone would express such despondency; but tonight i can—begrudgingly—say right now, i am ashamed of this country.
no one walking this earth reserves the right to kill another. state-sponsored murder is just that!
when innocent citizens are convicted and killed, how can i not view it as tantamount to the same intransigent indifference which has claimed the lives of so many of my ancestors? which claims the lives of so many today?
this evening, in my human communications class, our professor began the lecture by bringing in the role language plays in—well… human communication. he asked us to declare which phrases were sexist or racist. one phrase, i commented on as being sexist—or at least one that i could see as being construed sexist—was:
"I know a male nurse and a female pilot."
i opined that i could observe the sexist subtext of that sentence. the implication of that phrase is that to know a, “male nurse and a female pilot,” is to know two individuals who somehow buck a norm—a norm, i feel, that pigeonholes either sex. it’s a norm that has been constructed as a result of patriarchy and paternalism; thus to know, “a male nurse and a female pilot,” means you know of two people who are out of place—a man has no business nursing, and a woman, none flying planes. that is sexist i think. why should a profession be valued and/or judged according to gender? why can’t a woman be a proficient pilot? is she limited by her gender? no! how could she be? she can think, she can learn the profession, and she can fly. bessie coleman and amelia earhart did so brilliantly. likewise, why can’t a man be a successful nurse? is it his gender that precludes him from pursuing the profession? walt whitman, the prolific writer, poet served as nurse. joe hogan, an african-american nurse, is partly responsible for pushing the awareness that men can be nurses; and that they ought not be discouraged from doing so.
of course we all have our opinions. a few students rejected my assertion. they didn’t see the sexism at the warp & woof of this statement. their argument: it isn’t sexist because statistically, numerically women dominate the nursing field and men aviation. the implication there is, then, it isn’t sexist, but an aberration of sorts. by the numbers, women are nurses, men are pilots, therefore to know, “a male nurse and a female pilot,” is simply to know an outlier. maybe so.
here’s my critique of that counterpoint. yes, statistically these propositions are true. however, why are they true? what informs the status quo here we confront? fundamentally operating from the “statistics” standpoint, denies the history that bears upon that status quo. women have been marginalized for much of world history. they have been denied the right to vote, to pursue a career in certain professions, to pursue education even. this history absolutely helps mold the statistics my interlocutors cite. the statistics, then, inform a collective conscience that pigeonholes one—and all like that one—into certain categorically “constructed norms;” in this case it’s the women, not the men, who ought to be nurses; it’s the men, not the women, who ought to be pilots. certain occupations or vocations are prescribed gender-spefcific. just because the stats exist as they do, does not mean that a man must be this or a woman must be that—nor the obverse. this statistic argument aids the constructed norms, and comes across as just a matter of, “well… it is what it is.” thing is, it’s not.
the irony—the contradicting of culturally-constructed normative arrangements—that permeates this sentence, however subtle or nuanced, is real, and to me, is telling of sexism; in what ever form. subtle or egregious, sexism is sexism; just as racism is racism.
in the end, i suppose i did glean from our polite disputation, the real layered and nuanced dimension of language and thereby human communication. communication is at once extremely delicate, ambiguous, dynamic and almost mystified at times. its intricate nature was definitely on display this evening.
check out these links. they lead to sites that highlight the great women and men of aviation and nursing respectively.
I think America knows its history. I believe America is proud and ashamed. Of that which it is proud, it inflates; it boasts with comfort in its own “humanity.” Of that which it is ashamed, America denies, revises and sanitizes; these things it cannot face because of fear.
this course, as presented today, is going to be a challenge for me. here’s why: though I discern my peers to be of the mind and worldview, that race isn’t what makes the woman, I find the taboo—the long-standing, deep-seated embargo on race talk in this country—to be a hindrance internally.
today we viewed a clip excerpted from an early 90s film entitled THE COLOR OF FEAR. in it, a group of men, each of different races, discuss what it means to be an American. the group of men included two African-American men, two Asian men, two White or Caucasian men, and two Latino men. the men, each, expounded their various views on the issue at hand. inevitably, race permeated the conversation, and it took on an “airing of grievances” feel.
the men party to the minority groups sought to instruct one of the white men who especially took issue with their construction of the minority perspective. in short, at the end of our excerpt, one African-American, who had remained noticeably reticent throughout the talk, erupted in a searing declamation addressing this especial white American. the rage, the anger, the raw pain which animated his oratory was evident. it solicited an aroused response from the class - one filled with laughter. and as funny as it seemed, it was a very real, deep, and obviously latent, visceral well of anguish that found voice in this man’s message. and that is what I fear may be bubbling, pullulating within me and others.
so the challenge is how to express that same truth with a calmly articulated message; how to listen, learn and contribute to the collective understanding and insight of a class so diverse in its cultural representation, dealing with such a powerfully sensitive issue. i look forward to it.
The latest offering from Rap powerhouses Jay-Z and Kanye West, Watch The Throne (WTT), is a study in the tension between excess, decadent materialism and conscious, social awareness; though I’d be willing to say the tension may be skewed toward the former. One track finds the duo waxing intellectual, mulling over Socrates’ question of piety, and conjuring a certain dark expression of religious imagery. The next they are in Paris stunting like only those in their tax-bracket can. On one track the pair speaks to unborn sons, a la Tupac’s letter to his unborn child, solemnly reflecting on an eventuality not yet come to pass. Contrast that with a track, misogynistic and patriarchal, exclaiming the women about which they speak: “That’s my bitch.” Even so, they can speak about social issues, such as the much-decried “black on black” violence within urban spaces, on “Murder to Excellence,” and then narcissitically erect a musical monument to themselves to the sampled tune of the soul legend Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”
At once, I find WTT to be a creative, challenging album, and one which is a gilded packaging of the worst themes and conceits which have obdurately plagued critiques of Rap/Hip-Hop from all corners. The album’s production is brilliant, the artistic ambition is noteworthy, but the content is entrenched in flux between the better sensibilities of thinking people, and the base parasitic notions which seem to pervade even the “living legends” iterations of the “new hotness”.
WTT’s tandem, Ye and Hova, have the sway and influence to really challenge the prevailing misrepresentations of the artform, but on this album they patently rejected using that “power” to speak to issues they seem to touch on, but never really finish completing. The cursory focus on issues of import and substance, then the bathing in gold and diamonds arranges a dichotomy that evinces the former as ostensibly affected. It’s a tense album.
In the end, it has been, and will be, heralded as an amazing accomplishment I believe. Most fans accept the album’s ideas as fact. Life is tough and materialism offers an escape. The throne which Jay and Ye construct is one which revels in it’s own ascendancy and views the issues of society with a certain detached disposition. That is simultaneously its triumph and failure.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”—Steve Jobs (via ambitiousceo)
You know I’ve had the opportunity to talk with my peers -I’m speaking of the males who are often times African-American- about the issue of the Selective Service and the prospect, or specter, of a draft. The issue at center is of course the possibility that a draft would, by law, mandate that we report for duty to be trained as soldiers to defend the country against the enemy - foreign or domestic. But what I’ve found in those talks is a blatant, almost pompous, reluctance to even conceive of assenting to the idea. Many of the guys I’ve conversed with, speak of the myriad methods they’d employ to circumvent the actions required of them should a draft betide. Of course they’d just lay low or flee the country, escaping to Canada or down south to Mexico. They’d use their guile to circumvent the law.
But this observation, the recognition of an ostensibly outright contempt for defending the nation, seems antithetical to the notion of being patriotic, and to the many freedoms we enjoy in America. Now to be sure, America is not perfect. We are a gargantuan jumble of corruption, greed, hypocrisy and indifference. Make no mistake about it. Many of our systems are broken, our politicians’ predilection for posturing and grandiloquence as opposed to real, commonsense, no nonsense governing is pathetic at best. But with all of that, we are still who we are. Our ideals, however misinterpreted and perverted, are founded upon the purest of them all I believe. And just because we are the self-ascribed “greatest nation on the Earth,” does not exonerate us of our own serious challenges. So in essence, we have to take the good with the bad. That’s life.
However, I find that argument wanting when proffered by those friends of mine with whom I’ve talked; it smacks of the “easy way out” assertions put forth by 1st and 2nd graders. It’s almost that “straw man” - almost to say, “I will shirk the repsonsibility incident to my freedom and liberty because I want my cake, and I’ll eat it too.” Everyone knows it can’t be that way. Greed, hedonism, gluttony says it can, but it can’t. It’s either a misreading of what it means to be an American, or it’s a deliberate dismissal of the same. Or it is the voicing of a very non-sublimated, primitive instinct: self-preservation. “No one wants to go to war, especially not of their own volition due to a draft, because of all the evils in life which threaten the longevity I desire, war is definitely one of the worst banes of that aspiration.”
This is true. War is ugly. It is the worst manifestation of human evil. And the unimaginably harrowing acts of evil which then lead to soul-wrenching suffering will turn off just about anyone to the idea of being party to such bloodshed. I agree. And I am not writing this to evince my own matchless bravery in the face of all that - because vis-a-vis that aforementioned evil, I am humbled and I shrink just like the next man. We are all human. We all want life abundant. However, what I am saying is, we cannot choose where we are born. If one is born in the US, there are great opportunities here - notwithstanding the ‘glass ceilings’, racism, sexism and other impediments to the “promise.” But if one is born here, we must accept and learn that there are certain responsibilities that attend citizenship in America. Laws that must be adhered; however ludicrous, even being called for duty to defend the country against our own wishes. It may suck. It does. It does because everyone recognizes the capacity of war to kill so many. But if you choose to live here after your birth, after you’ve enjoyed whatever freedoms and privileges you’ve enjoyed, then you ought to face up to the fact that there are not-so-pretty obligations on the other side of that same coin.
Of course if one really wanted to eschew those obligations, in this case possible conscription, you are always, “free to move about the world,” to edit Southwest Airlines’ little phrase. Simply put - leave! America doesn’t force anyone to live here. If you really hate it that bad, if you really deign to think that you could be drafted, leave. It’s a reality we don’t like to think about and would like to be a chimera in some crazy nightmare. But it’s life. It sucks. But recognize that citizenship here or anywhere carries with it certain contingencies. Let us pray that those contingencies are never realized.