This column was originally written for VOXatl.com.
Dayonn Davis was 15 when he committed a crime that would get him tried in court as an adult. A Facebook sale of a pair of Oreo Nikes, priced at around $100, went sour when the Columbus, Georgia teen attempted to steal them. Without the knowledge of Davis, a friend pulled out a pistol and everybody ran. Reluctantly, Davis finally gave up the name of his armed friend, but the victim could not pick him out of a lineup. For that 2016 crime, Davis was sentenced in May to five years jail time and 10 years probation. Prosecutor Sadhana Dailey told the Associated Press Davis was tried as an adult because a handgun was used in the robbery.
Dayonn Davis made a stupid choice and he should serve some form of punishment but his excessive sentencing is a slap in the face to every black teen in America when white teens like Brock Turner, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, received only a three-month incarceration for rape. In the eyes of prosecutors and the judicial system, a black teen is demonized to a point where they are no longer a child. This sentencing shows that America has no interest in rehabilitating black youth, and redemption is not an option for young black men.
Davis’ attorney argued that Dayonn has been extremely remorseful. He was an honor student before he got caught up in the case. Dayonn Davis had a bright future. Shaun King, a black activist and columnist, compared this to “The New Jim Crow,” and to a certain extent, l would have to agree.
Black teens get tried as adults more than any other race. According to the WYNC “Kids in Prisons” special report, a 2016 study in New Jersey, state Administrative Court records show that out of 1,251 kids that were tried as adults, 849 of them were black and 247 were Hispanic.
What message does that send to me as a 15-year-old black girl? It’s a message I already knew — the court system will never be my friend, and my actions weigh more than my white counterpart. I have no room to be reckless because my recklessness can cost me my freedom, whereas for a white person, it could just be a slap on the wrist.
Here is my message to the court that sentenced Dayonn Davis:
You are the reason that black children are denied a right to their adolescence. The message you sent by charging him as an adult is already far too familiar. You see black kids as threats to your white America for no other reason than their skin color. You stripped a young black man with honors from a future. You are the system that grew up racist and to this day is still geared against black people.
Dayonn Davis and every other black man sitting in prison for a minor crime are living proof that even as a child, side effects of being black include incarceration, oversentencing and sometimes even death.
Isley Chapman, 15, attends Peachtree Ridge High School and likes to cover culture and politics.