“Had Clotel escaped from oppression in any other land, in the disguise in which she fled from the Mississippi to Richmond, and reached the United States, no honour within the gift of the America people would have been too good to have been heaped upon the heroic woman. But she was a slave, and therefore out of the pale of their sympathy. They have tears to shed over Greece and Poland; they have an abundance of sympathy for ‘poor Ireland;’ they can furnish a ship of war to convey the Hungarian refugees from a Turkish prison to the ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’ They boast that America is the ‘cradle of liberty;’ if it is, I fear they have rocked the child to death.” – Clotel by William Wells Brown
William Wells Brown wrote these words in Clotel, a novel written in 1853 and widely recognized as the first novel published by an African-American. These words were written in reference to Clotel, the protagonist who is a mulatto slave and the fictional daughter of President Thomas Jefferson. After a spontaneous escape from a slave prison, Clotel finds herself surrounded by slaver hunters. She opts to jump off a bridge into the Potomac River in hopes of freedom and peace through death. Upon her death, the author points out that anywhere else in the world, Clotel’s heroic behavior would have been acknowledge and honored…but not in America…because Clotel was a slave. While exceedingly concerned with the mistreatment citizens of foreign countries receive, America seems to completely ignore the mistreatment of her own citizens—especially those deemed underprivileged, disadvantaged, needy, destitute and deprived.
As I read this passage, I found myself giggling out loud at the irony. It appears that not much has changed with America’s conscience in the past 150 years. Today, politicians in D.C. seem much more concerned with the injustices occurring in the Middle East than the one’s occurring on America’s soil. And average American citizens don’t take the time to intervene in injustices because they’re “too busy” or “it doesn’t affect my life.”
I’m not sure if America pretends her injustices do not exist in order to preserve a squeaky clean image of herself in her own eyes or in order to protect her own selfish interest while taking advantage of her most vulnerable. Either way it’s imperative that we, citizens with a voice and a platform, speak loudly for brothers and sisters who are being silenced. We have to force America to look at, see, and deal with the ugly injustices that are taking place on her own soil.
Enter Troy Davis. It’s not necessary to debate his guilt, innocence, or the sins of his past. But it is necessary to address the massive doubt present in this case. Use your voice to let the Georgia judicial system know that we will not sit by passively and allow them to execute our brother while so much doubt clouds his conviction. Speak. Tweet. Write. Call. Talk. Scream. And most importantly, PRAY!!! Use your platform to change the world we live in.
And no matter what happens in this Troy Davis case, please, Please, PLEASE remember to stay involved socially and politically in your community. Let’s not just stand up when crap hits the fan. Let’s stay involved and try to prevent the crap from hitting the fan. It’s our responsibility to create the world we want to live in. In creating that world, let’s be sure it is one that we are proud to live in.