All we keep hearing is the Tiananmen Square.
Only yesterday, a North Carolina man has become the 1,000th person to be executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court upheld states’ rights to order the death penalty in 1976.
1000 people killed by the States through hurling capital punishment alone in less than 30 years! What a shame…!
What’s always underscored is a system’s failure to contain crimes and often the system’s vulnerabilities leading to crimes. That, the crime is a social phenomenon is well known, what is not brought to discourse, is that crime is led by events, not by a mentality. Even if someone ascribes a mentality, there is ample evidence to prove that just like an alcoholic addict can get rid of the habit, a once-been “criminal” can get rid of the temptations, through proper rehabilitation.
Moreover, it has also been seen that in most cases, the people on death row have actually been innocent. Just the way recently Illinois Governor George Ryan found out what he should do to decide the fate of 167 death row inmates. When he found out in a very short period of time that many of them were completely innocent (yes completely innocent), he acted on his conscience and pardoned all 167 inmates.
The question is whether such an astonishingly flawed criminal justice system should be for most parts pardoned yet. What exactly leads to certain cops, and certain judges to act the way they do. We have studies enough about what leads to a person committing a crime. It’s also time to understand what leads judges to order injections to kill a person who almost always have realized his/her flaws and has apologized through the realizations.
If we keep pardoning the judicial system for ordering execution of so many innocent men in just one of the fifty states, and it becomes such a shame that even a Republican Governor uses his discretionary power to pardon, one can only expect that the capital punishment clause be revisited.
Not only that the crime is a social problem that can be cured, and that the legal system is equally flawed, but also to be considered is the case of the individuals who are executed versus individuals who are either let go or awarded less harsh punishment. Almost always the overwhelming majority of prison population has been black, whereas blacks constitute a significant minority in the country. Apart from the race, other traits include illiteracy, ignorance, poor socioeconomic backgrounds. If these are the majority traits, then surely enough, there is more to the crime than being just an individual. After all someone having access to most of the things in the world can say, ‘hello I am John, just an average guy, you know’ and someone who does not have the privilege is like: ‘how’s life been treating you my man, I am Kwazi, and as you can see I am black, unemployed, looking to live that guy there in the nearby street—yeah right there. Look at that BMW, man. Yeah man, yeah that’s what I want.’
However the disparity between the wants of the poor people and the well-to-do people can only be understood in contexts. It’s easier to say, even by the enlightened masses from the Black community, that anyone can lead a comfortable life if s/he gives it a try. Its far more difficult to appreciate several other factors: someone’s social condition (of isolation or integration) at a given time, the family crisis (coherence between members), the history of incarceration (past trysts of any family member to the police station), the lack of education (owing to geographical reason) or good motivating educators (considering the peanuts that teachers receive in community colleges), the unofficial segregation of education (the public schools are almost always black—more than 90%, leading students to realize of course they must be different from the whites).
As long as a system does not enforce (yes, even if it works much to the anger of some liberal white folks who crib about individual liberties) equal conditions of living (even if that irks all the conservative folks who don’t want to let go of their goddamned unjustified properties), crime will continue to prevail. Because its not a matter of ethics, where we find that some people are just so unethical, but it’s a matter of compulsion, where we find that some people are just so in want of basic standards of decent living (the decent living that keeps appearing on every tv show and the hip hop song manufactured by the white video makers for the black audience).
Tookie Williams has apologized long back (even for crimes he has not committed). He has even written inspiring books about it. He has been telling people to concentrate on their education, knowledge of politics and improve skills to harness technology. A movie about his life has been screened internationally at several film festivals. His redemption has led to his nomination for Nobel Peace Prize. Yes he used to be a co-founder of a street gang, but those were radically different days. And these are different days. During then, most minority youths did not have access to education, even to discover who they were apart from being born in a family of slaves. These days, after years of struggle, they have snatched their rights to education where they can know that the greatest of all human cultures prevailed in Africa first, their ancestral birthplace, and that the world needs no longer learn from every European white figureheads on print, but from cultural activists like DuBois and Robeson (who were, those days, dismissed as communist and anti-American, leading the youths to hardly know about their own heritage). These days, America is observing Black History Month (even if it’s a token) and pays homage to civil rights leaders.
As the times have been forced to change quite a bit by the struggling people, the political leaders, judiciary and corporate houses have been forced to accept the new realities—they have been forced to realize the historical flaws they always had, and they have almost amended the blind belief in their own so-called superiorities. Now the country just needs to apologize (like recently it apologized for lynching or respected Rosa Parks in such grand manner). So we need to give the United States of America yet another chance to rehabilitate itself.
And in times like these, Tookie has also realized that street violence is not the way to achieve any goal. Now that we can read, we must educate ourselves and our children to be empowered. Now that we can access technology, we must work to utilize it well. The blind belief that the Blacks had in their so-called inferiority has almost been reversed now. And now the prisoners need to apologize and move on to improve everyone’s lot (like many black people have grown up to become fine educators, excellent sports persons, outstanding musicians—all from a scratch, and brought glory to the US). So we need to give Tookie Williams another chance to rehabilitate himself.
We must realize that it’s always a system giving birth to an individual crime, and not an individual crime that leads to a system. Just the way, it was not that American people (as they are always blamed) were any more interested in Iraq war as they were in sending their children to good schools. It was a war mongering system that declared the war. And the war that’s causing havoc in the US (with thousands of its promising youths—none of them a child of a ruling class elite–dead on the field) or Iraq (with scores of thousands of their completely innocent civilians murdered by the war), is so because of the system that prevails, not because of an individual wish. We need to stop blaming Bush and figure out what kind of system gives birth to leaders such as him. Only by changing that reality (of the grander socio-economic, cultural, political nature) can we understand the complications and change the country for good. We achieved that partially in the 60’s, and it works even till now. We can do it again, as well and achieve the goal fully.
In other words, there is no country that will afford to be racist or classist for all the time, just as there is no person who will be a criminal or a violator all lifetime. By all possible means, just like several presidents have apologized to their people for sins and crimes, we already have Tookie declaring his apology, and in the process of course teaching us so many beautiful thing about our human lives—words of his has soothed children on how to lead better lives, have critically forced adults to examine the realities perpetuated through our professed indifferences, and shall certainly question God if s/he is around to know that its so ironic and unjust that the system is going to take Tookie’s life on December 13th this year.
Stop his execution. If it’s a real democracy, people should be able to stop it, by appealing. If its not, people must change the phony system.
(Thanks, Malik Russell, for sending me a link to the political poster).