Enter San Man: Young adults hold key to ending racial injustice

I’m a young American, and I am pissed off.

I’m pissed off because in my young adulthood, I’ve seen this country withstand skyrocketing unemployment, a recession, a housing crisis, an oil spill, various dips in the stock markets—not to mention the ongoing threat of terrorism, both in the United States and abroad—without batting an eyelash.

I stayed confident in our country’s ability to rise up and overcome any obstacle that came its way, as it has time after time throughout history. With child-like naïveté, I wondered when Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison—even, at times, Jim Morrison—would ride into Washington on a white horse and save the day. With each hit my country took, I waited for it to brush itself off and make things well again.

Unfortunately, the Sept. 21 execution of Troy Davis seems to have landed a haymaker that sent America all the way back to Reconstruction era.

Last week, Davis was denied a stay of execution by the United States Supreme Court and was put to death after spending 19 years on death row for the 1989 murder of Georgia police officer Mark McPhail—even though no physical evidence connected Davis to the murder, no murder weapon was ever recovered, and key witnesses recanted their stories and cited that they were threatened into testifying against Davis with prosecution.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Davis was among the 255 black men put to death in the last three decades for the murders of white men. Unfortunately, it seems all too obvious that Davis was executed because he was a black man who was accused of killing a white police officer in a southern state. Whether he was actually guilty was but a small detail. I understood that justice isn’t blind—she’s more like a puppet on strings. News flash: she’s also white.

So forget the debt ceiling, bailouts and the rapidly-shrinking middle class. Forget the campaign promises that President Obama has struggled to keep while in office. Forget the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and the stock market’s instability. Forget the war. Forget gay marriage. Forget health care.

I’m pissed off because we have bigger problems on our hands—problems that are well within our control as young Americans to solve.

My first instinct, upon hearing of Davis’ execution, was to turn to Twitter, and see what others had to say about.
the execution. Twitter has become this generation’s standard protocol for protesting of any kind. Forty years ago, when college kids demonstrated on their campuses, they did so with picket signs and Neil Young songs. These days, we do it in 140 characters—from our computers.

The night of the execution, I typed Davis’ name into the search bar and was greeted with a slew of angry messages, not at the many people who could have found the truth and worked to reverse the ruling, but at Clarence Thomas, an African American justice on the Supreme Court—for allowing a fellow African American to suffer the death penalty. They were also directed at President Obama—who had publicly called for a stay of execution—for similar reasons.

A few messages took on defeated tones, that we cannot change southern racial sentiment because it’s existed for as long as there’s been
a “south.” A few were just upset that a man most considered innocent wasn’t allowed one last appeal before America took his life away.

The next night, however, when I typed Davis’ name again the next day, I saw the same messages as the previous night.
Too few had been sent after I initially checked. It was as if the news cycle on the story had already run its course, and we were talking about the next big injustice going on in the world.

When we got angry, our voice became scattered. We were outraged, but each for different reasons. We took to Twitter and other social media Web sites to attach our faces to our feelings, but as a collective generation of angry young adults, became even less coherent than the static emanating from a dead television station. When too many people scream in a room, you can’t truly hear anybody.

For this, we did an even greater injustice to Davis than Georgia law enforcement, U.S. prosecutors and the judges who hear their arguments.
I’m pissed off because we accepted that answer, rather than demand a better one. We should have asked, “How could this have happened?”

Since the Civil War ended nearly 160 years ago and the Jim Crow laws of segregation were repealed nearly 50 years ago, how could an African American citizen’s life carelessly slip through the hands of so many people who could have done something about it—people we ourselves elected to represent us?
We owe that to Troy Davis and Mark McPhail—so that we avoid such atrocities.

If we are to change the world, it will not be through legislation and elections alone. We, collectively, as young men and women of every race and creed,
must be better people than those that came before us. We must learn from the triumphs and failures of our predecessors—Republican or Democrat, red state or blue state—and we must remain vigilant in eliminating injustices, of any kind.

If justice truly is blind, it is up to us to make sure she stays that way.