By Guest Contributor Theresa Runstedtler, cross-posted from her blog
In reflecting on his tumultuous life and storied career, boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard recently told Guardian reporter Donald McRae, “I went through real darkness but the ring was my light. That was the one place I felt safe. I could control what happened in the ring. My heart turned icy” (my emphasis added). In his new autobiography, The Big Fight: My Story, Leonard reveals a painful past hidden behind the headlines of his historic ring victories–one of sexual abuse, a sense of rejection, and struggles with substance abuse.
What does it mean that Sugar Ray had to find safety in the violent confines of the boxing ring? What does it mean that he could only really feel empowered and free when fighting other men? McRae notes that back in the 1980s British boxing writer Hugh McIlvanney “spoke vividly of the hard chip of ice that Leonard stored in his fighting heart.” It seemed as if “Sugar Ray must have endured terrible darkness to fight with such chilling brilliance.” The turmoil of Leonard’s life outside the ring made his career in the ring a matter of financial and spiritual survival.
Yet Sugar Ray’s autobiographyis much more than just a personal, singular story. His haunting revelations expose much about the racist society he lived in, and how little that society valued young black men like him in any other setting than the squared circle.
If there was one positive to come out of Wednesday night, it was the sight of all the people rallying on behalf of Troy Davis – not just in Georgia, but at the White House and the Supreme Court; in Europe; and online, where it became just a bit suspicious to some that Twitter seemingly did not recognize the #TroyDavis and #occupywallstreet hashtags. (One explanation I read Wednesday evening was, because there actually is a Troy Davis username on the service, it could not be a trending topic. No word yet on #occupywallstreet.)
But, as Joel mentioned above, the question for many going forward is, what now? Continue reading →
Just two weeks ago, the live audience at the Republican presidential candidate debate cheered in gleeful support of the death penalty. At the time, sensible Americans, secure in their own polite disapproval, bookmarked the incident as another harrowing YouTube amusement, and returned to normalcy the next day. The climate has changed, and there will be no such return to normalcy after Troy Davis’s death. We cannot make up for the blood spilled while the death penalty languished as mere speck on our political radar, but we can and will work to eradicate it.
Desperate for redemption in this dark hour, we have to believe that history will reveal the Davis execution as the spark that eventually incinerated the death penalty in the United States. I worry, though, that the worthy goal of eradicating capital punishment, even if achieved, will distort and erase the tormenting racial subtext of this incident. The very possibility of even characterizing the racial meaning baked into this case as “subtext,” speaks to the suppression of the truth about racism in the United States. Continue reading →
… That it was unanimous, was maybe the worst touch of what Amnesty USA’s Larry Cox called a “grotesque spectacle.” The Supreme Court of the United States of America made a man stay in a gurney for three hours while they decided whether he could keep living. And then they said no.
All of them said no. Without a published dissent, that’s how the record will read, reports of the Court not being “necessarily unanimous” be damned.
The system failed Troy Davis. It failed us all. My heart goes out to him, and to his family. And my thanks to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now for their excellent job covering this tragedy.
Consider this thread a safe space to talk about … about what we just witnessed, all of us. And how we can make sense of it.
Barring a last-minute change, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST for the murder of a Savannah police officer, despite reports that another person had confessed to the shooting, and seven of the nine witnesses in the original case recanting their testimony. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, prison officials denied a request Wednesday morning by Davis’ attorneys to allow him to take a polygraph test. An appeal has also been filed in Butts County, Ga., where the state’s death row is located, seeking a stay of execution, saying new evidence “exposes key elements of the state’s case against Mr. Davis at trial to be egregiously false and misleading.”
Davis’ case has attracted support from around the world, with #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt hashtags becoming trending topics in various U.S. cities, and protests planned not only in the U.S., but in Europe. Supporters are still being urged to contact Chatham County Judge Penny Freeseman, the only person who can stop Davis’ execution.
The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath. Georgia is prepared to snuff out the life of an innocent man. – Troy Davis, The Nation
A decision is expected today on the fate of Troy Davis, the Georgia man seeking to avoid the death penalty for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail.
Davis is currently scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. But even as Davis’ past attempts to clear his name have been rejected in the court system, seven of nine witnesses in his case have recanted their prior statements, with many of them saying their testimony was tainted by police pressure.
One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his story, Sylvester “Red” Coles, has been implicated in the crime by the other seven in subsequent affadavits. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World