It wasn't racial solidarity but racial vulnerability that made him so important to African Americans.
The state of Georgia killed Troy Davis last night. Usually such acts are routine in America. Last year 45 Americans were legally executed, about one a week, with time out for vacations and holidays. But a confluence of circumstances and organizations turned Davis' cause into a global phenomenon, with pleas for mercy from such disparate voices as the pope, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Amnesty International.
It's not surprising that the outpouring of concern for Troy Davis, who was believed by many to be innocent of the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail 22 years ago, annoyed people like conservative columnist Ann Coulter. "He is as innocent as every other executed man since at least 1950, which is to say, guilty as hell," she wrote Wednesday.
You have to admire her certainty. People like Coulter have convinced themselves that we live in a flawless society, where bias, vanity, arrogance and incompetence don't exist, and prosecutors don't lie, cheat or make mistakes. It's the kind of blind faith in America that few African Americans can afford.
Our uneasiness about fairness in America helps explain why Troy Davis became such an obsession in the African-American community, to the bewilderment, if not outright annoyance, of some of our nonblack neighbors. As the hours ticked down, it seemed that all of black America was glued to their televisions, computers, mobile phones and iPads, as if watching a perverse 2011 version of a Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling bout.
But in this case we were not waiting for our black champion to knock out the German and prove our worth to America. We wanted reassurance that the fundamental precept of reasonable doubt would apply to Troy Davis, a black man, and, by extension, to the rest of us.
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