January 09, 2006

Death Penalty Protest in CA and Race

I read an article in the San Francisco Gate today titled
For a white man's execution, where are black protesters?
Outcry on behalf of Tookie might be viewed as race-based
but I guess I'm wondering - so what if it was? What this article does not address is that while Clarence Ray Allen is blind, deaf and in a wheelchair, he is also white, and has different life chances based on his race than Tookie Williams.

Now, I personally think it's important that we work to end the death penalty, but blaming the black activists who supported Tookie Williams for not coming out in full force this time seems ridiculous if we are not going to blame every single person who is not doing everything they possibly can to stop the death penalty (read: blame almost everyone - certainly everyone taking time out of their day to read this blog rather than work on death penalty stuff). So, why blame these activists particularly?

In what almost looks like an allegation of "reverse-racism", as if the difference in focus of these organizations on certain death row inmates radically or systemically alters the life-chances of white people more generally, this article's author writes as if activist groups do not have to choose where to disperse their limitted resources and energies. Even she acknowledges that:

Granted, Allen hasn't written any children's books, been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or had a Hollywood actor play him in a film, but that doesn't mean his life isn't worth saving.
All of these things are relevant if we are looking for a sort of poster-child for death penalty activsim. So the ultimate question becomes, do we need some kind of poster-child like person to look at? My only fear of answering "no" to this question is that sometimes we all need to be reminded over and over again of the horrific examples of who the governments that we invest ourselves into are screwing over.

All that said, let's all try to write a letter or an email to a friend and let them know about Allen's upcoming death or to write a letter to CA governor Schwartzeneiger about it. I know I will.


Jersey Slugger said...

I think that Stanley Williams (he renounced the nickname "Tookie") was about as good of a person as we could get for this. Despite the accolades and who was at his rallies and funeral, he was someone who made a complete 180 turn in his life. This is difficult enough to do on your own in "free" society but he did this entirely on death row in one of the toughest prisons in the nation in the midst of constant psychological and physical torment. Hearing him talk about his gangbanging days and hearing him speak in one of his last interviews with Tavis Smiley (http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200511/20051129.html#) is evidence to the drastic change that he's undergone while incarcerated.

You're right in that everyone should be doing more. It doesn't take Harvard connections or a law degree to get people like Clarence Allen out of prison and therefore off of death row (even though people can name streets in their states that kill more people than their local prisons' death row...I can). All it takes is the public (or the outraged segement of the public) standing up and going over there to fight to get him out. The same could have been done for Mr.Williams. Sadly, people just aren't that pissed. Docility and a pervading sense of our collective inability to do anything pervades far too many minds. Most people will not want to fight for a greater tomorrow at the expense of an OK today.

I should be going but yeah, down with the death penalty. The U.S. government plays a major role in killing of its citizens everyday through war, lax tobacco laws, and the support of high-blood pressure foods. This more blatant form of state execution is just one of the ways this happens.

wannatakethisoutside said...

I agree with you on all counts. And definitely thought that that radio piece was amazing when someone emailed it to me a while ago.

(My bad on the name mistake).

And you are totally right about the death penalty being basically just a poster-child type thing for state induced killing, in the sense that there are so many other ways that the state endorses killing. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the war on drugs.