Guest Editorial: What Does Justice Mean To Me? by Linell Jackson
I woke up this morning and my heart was still heavy with thoughts of Troy Davis. I continue to ponder the word justice. My mind has not settled on a definite viewpoint but the thought process has led me to a few areas of focus. We have to be involved in our political process. We have to teach our young people how it is supposed to function but more importantly how it actually works. The Troy Davis story highlighted so many things, one being the political process.
This was a state issue which means we have some influence. As voters and as citizens we must know who is running for our local and state offices and we must vote. We have to make an effort to learn as much as we can about their platforms and beliefs.
Know who is running for your local judge positions and vote. Know who is running for governor and vote. Learn and vote for everyone down to the school board. Moreover, we must teach our children and believe ourselves that voting at the national level is important and it does matter. Every vote matters! The president and his administration nominate Supreme Court justices and our Congressional process approves them. Know who is running for your congressional seats. Do they really support the people or only their political aspirations? This is critical!!
Yes, I believe voting for president is important. But what happens at your state and local level has a more immediate impact on us a lot of times. Get involved. Get on the PTA. Be a room parent and get into the classroom so we can be the voice and advocate for our children and those who don't have active parents. I personally think there was a racial element in this case but I also believe it was about having access to the right resources. We have to do whatever it takes to raise our children in such a way that exposes them to more than we have and gives them experiences we did not have. This increases their exposure and access to resources.
I am horrified to think that anyone of our children can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up on death row. We MUST teach them the value of respecting authority, knowing the law and their own rights as citizens and the horrific fact that our justice system has flaws, serious enough to land them in a place we do not want them to be in an instant. One decision... one act... can lead to an outcome that saddens my heart beyond words. I know the justice system needs to be fixed in some cases but the one thing WE can do to help reduce the high percentage of our people (our children) ending up on death row, is to help them avoid the very mechanisms that are used to proliferate this travesty.
I have also learned from this situation that even witnesses can hold the life of our fellow citizens in their own hands. I was happy that some witnesses decided to speak out. This is a life lesson. We have to use our voices, even if like in this case they fall on deaf ears. It starts from an early age where we instill in our children that it is the right thing to stand up, snitches don't always get stitches, and you always want to be able to sleep at night.
If we hold ourselves accountable, then we have the right to hold others accountable.
With that said… I ask the powers that be... what do you suppose we tell our children? How do we explain to them that the system that is to protect them, the system we raise them to abide by and respect; the system we ensure they understand so they can be law abiding, participating citizens may not do the right thing because of their skin, their income, their gender, etc.
People say things start at home and I am the biggest advocate of that, but at some point we have to understand where the accountability leaves the home and transfers to those we empower on behalf of the people. If I do my part, I hold YOU accountable to do yours. I don't want special treatment, I want you to do what you are being empowered to do... DO THE RIGHT THING... in this case if there is no physical evidence and questionable witness testimony, then take pause!
I understand the legal process and whether I agree with it or not is not the question, but the fact of the matter is, if we are going to be a nation that continues to exercise the death penalty, we must be absolutely sure. There must be NO DOUBT. The only way to instill trust in the system and in the people we entrust to run the system, you have to prove you are doing due diligence, you are leaving no stone unturned. The fact that we now know and have proven that some innocent people have lost their lives, it means we are not being diligent, we are not using the technology we have at our disposal in ALL cases, just a few. That in itself is shameful. I firmly believe that in all capital cases, both the prosecutor and the defense must be diligent. It is not just about adding a win, it is about justice. It is about precedence, it is about the future. Again... what do we tell our children???
When I think about Troy Davis now, it makes me think about justice, but it also makes me think about what I can do and how can I take action? For starters, I sat my 18 yr old down and encouraged him to use this tragic event as motivation to be a change agent in his environment whether big or small. I want him to continue to be a law abiding citizen and be proud of that. He must continue to grounded by his faith, always show compassion and find forgiveness for those that need it. Most importantly don't do anything to land his butt in jail!!! Momma won't be happy :-).