So I was listening to NPR* on my way home from the office on Friday, and they were talking about the whole botched execution** in Oklahoma story that just won’t die. I really had very little intention of ever commenting on the story, certainly not before all the facts came out, but I learned that our esteemed President showed no such restraint..
I was ticked. How dare he even weigh in on this? And not only did he insert himself where he doesn’t belong, but he connected it to the inherent racism in the system? You know, as if the violent death of an innocent white girl wasn’t important. So he’s going to have his chief gun-runner, Eric Holder, investigate the racial bias in the prison system. How dare he?!
Except, that’s not what happened. He didn’t insert himself into the story. He was asked to comment during a press conference. And he didn’t say the death penalty wasn’t warranted and in fact acknowledged that the crimes were indeed heinous.
Obama said at a news conference Friday that he believes the death penalty is merited in some cases and that Lockett’s crimes were heinous. But he says the penalty’s application in the U.S. has problems, including racial bias and the eventual exoneration of some death row inmates.
I can’t really disagree, particularly with the last point. I agree that the death penalty is merited in some cases, but we have to be VERY careful in the application. I am continuing to lose faith that we have a system capable of justly handing down death sentences.
There is a disproportionately large number of black men in prison. Whether that is due to racism inherent in the system or a culture that lifts up criminals while deriding those trying to make better lives for themselves as “acting white” would be a worthwhile investigation and discussion. Are all black men criminals just because black men are over-represented in the prison population? Absolutely not. Do they have to overcome pressure from within their community and their peers to be better than the thugs the rappers venerate? For far too many, I believe the answer is yes.
Being a fine, upstanding member of society doesn’t have a color. Neither does being a thug. My own lily white nephew is a thug because he grew up in a community that celebrated the thug lifestyle. Now he’s in prison where he will more than likely stay for the foreseeable future. Besides, facial prison tattoos make for interesting job interviews. As for me, I will continue to judge people by who they are and not the color of their skin.
We cannot be a just society and accept that sometimes we execute the innocent. Whether that be lethal injection, swat team, or drone strike. Collateral damage in war is one thing, the calculated killing of an individual is another. That’s not a mistake you can correct after the fact.
*Yes, I know. There’s my problem. It’s my regular pressure test of the old circulatory system. As if rush hour traffic couldn’t do it.
**Dude certainly qualifies under my definition of Needed killin’ and wound up dead. I’m shedding no tears. Yes, it was ugly, and we should do better. Not for his sake, but for the sake of our own humanity. He deserved to be beaten, shot, and buried alive just like his victim, but we should not become the animal to punish the animal. We gave him better than he deserved because we are better.