Tookie Williams Must Live On

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).

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

7 thoughts on “Tookie Williams Must Live On

  1. “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).”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    ——–

    Ah, truth is a wonderful thing…… 🙂

    THANKS!

    –TSB

  2. Contrary to your statement, Tookie has NEVER apologized for the murders of Albert Owens and the Yang family. He instead apologized for crimes against black people—not crimes he didn’t do (as you stated), but crimes he was not charged for (i.e., he didn’t get caught).

    Tookie was a savage animal who killed four people with the shotgun that was legally registered to him. In prison, he has attacked guards, his fellow inmates and didn’t get his act in jail together until 1990—a decade after he was sentenced.

    Regardless of how ‘good’ Tookie is today, vengeance and justice demand his execution. If Tookie is really interested in keeping youth out of gangs, what better way than to show gangbangers that life in a gang can result in your execution.

    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t pay the price.

    Tookie must die!

  3. To TSB and your other comments, check your facts and statements. Public schools are NOT 90% black in this country. You might be able to find a few high schools in heavily black areas of Detroit or Atlanta that have a high black student population, but public schools reflect the population of the area. My public school was 88% white, 12% black and 0% hispanic, because that was the makeup of the county. My wife’s high school was 45% Armenian, 25% latino, 20% white and 10% other.

    As for “the ruling elite” and the military, there are a few Senators and Congressmen with children in the military—one is a Marine Captain as I recall. The Congress itself is comprised of many, many veterans, several of whom served this country proudly going back as far as World War II. As a Marine veteran myself, the majority of the military is white, not members of America’s minorities.

  4. Lastly, regarding your comments re Governor Ryan’s commutation of Illinois death sentences, you stated “many of them were completely innocent (yes completely innocent), he acted on his conscience and pardoned all 167 inmates.”

    A TOTAL of FOUR (not 167) inmates were pardoned! All but three of the commutations reduced the inmates’ sentences to LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE and 3 other had their sentences reduced to 40 years to life. A TOTAL of THIRTEEN inmates were exonerated (not “many of them”) and had their death sentences removed. Several of the inmates are still in jail for their convictions for UNRELATED CRIMES!

    So many people who hate our military, who hate our nation and who hate the death penalty just quote others whole cloth without checking facts or statistics.

    See ya (and Tookie must die (Monday))!

  5. RIGHT ON DAVID!! If those guys were so INNOCENT why were they not released from prison instead of having their sentences simply reduced. If I were innocent I would be screaming at the gates forever, not simply content that I was not going to get the death penalty. Where are the activists now who got these guys off of death row? Why haven’t we heard a WORD from them since Ryan (pathetically) dropped their death sentences? I would expect to have heard them on the news, protesting at the state capital—something—but we don’t hear anything because the activists don’t care if they are guilty or not, they are so opposed to the death penalty that getting them off of death row is the only goal. They really could care less if they raped and murdered their way to the death chamber so long as they don’t get the needle.

    If they really cared, they would not only get them OUT of prison, they would let them move in with them or NEAR them—Mike Farrell and Susan Sarandon and the rest of the wacky left don’t really care and would never let them move down the block from them.

    I hope they kill Tookie (and Kevin Cooper too for that matter).

  6. The state executed a worthless piece of crap this morning. Tookie was not Ghandi, not King, not Mandela—he was nothing more than a murdering gangbanger.

    His books were SO influencial, that Tookie’s OWN SON is in prison for murder and another son was being sought in November for raping a child. (Sidebar: how many kids did he create w/o fathering—mothers w/o marrying?). BTW, the books were created as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Tookie’s handlers fooled a whole bunch of leftist wingnuts (including white kids trying to grow dreads, wearing patchouli, playing hacky-sack in their hemp clothes, etc.) who continue to be brainwashed by liberal college professors (among others).

    Tookie was the poster child for the death penalty if there every was one!

    Redemption is for people who have a shot at parole, not death row inmates. For me personally, the death penalty is about revenge and justice, not rehabilitation or redemption. Tookie was BEYOND being redeemable.

  7. Well I guess both David and Miguel are white guys….if not it is surprising and not a good surprise.
    Tookie Williams was murdered by a system democratically elected by less than 25% of the country’s population. He had asked for forgiveness for the crimes he admitted to have committed and had turned his life around and given back to the society more than most law abiding citizens have (including David and Miguel I am sure). Correction facilities are meant for repentance and becoming a good citizen and Williams was a blazing example of that. And when it came to the matter of life and death don’t you think he would have accepted the alleged crime of killing four men, since that is what Governor Schwarzenegger wanted in order to grant him clemency? If the four men had not been white, Williams would have had some chance of getting clemency……..just a thought. His defiance to admit to the alleged crime till the end proves that he was wrongly convicted. Conscientious citizens and young people around the world will suffer his loss.
    Capital punishment, a.k.a. state sponsored murder, seems so fair when people in designer suits and professional attire decide that someone needs to be killed, it’s so class. Then we have well dressed people being witnesses to an execution and coming on live TV to express their feelings about an unfortunate yet just event. And then we have those people who enjoy the twisted vicarious pleasure of murdering people, who worship capital punishment.
    Most poeple in the civilized world, the ones with the resources to live life as planned by the system have the liberty to judge others, who are less fortunate, for the crimes they do (or allegedly commit). Such people do not once take into consideration the prevailing conditions, sustained by the socio-politico-economic system of a given country, which foster youths to join gangs, do drugs, or commit so called crimes. If anyone is to be blamed for most of the crimes it is the system; a system that is unable to provide its youth the resources, opportunities, and hope in abundance to ensure they become responsible and productive individuals.
    And please don’t talk about Gandhi, King and Mandela…it does not suit guys who are in favor of capital punishment to use icons of peace to prove their despicable view points. And moreover no one is born great, prevailing conditions trigger the passion of some people to do things extraordinarily and then some gain the support of the masses in order to be revered as great.
    Despite the fact that US has the largest prison system and highest number of inmates (mostly people of color), it still has a competitive crime rate compared to any other country. David and Miguel like people can best explain this situation I guess…….and I will not be surprised again if one reason they might give is the increase in the number of minorities and poor people in the country.
    It is not always about ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’, because most often even if one does the time and turn his/her life around, one has a minimal chances of living a normal life if he/she is not white, rich and politically ignorant/right.
    When we read history and call people in the bygone ears barbaric for the way they treated the culprits or fought war. Hopefully things will change for better in the next 200 or so years and our forthcoming generations will learn what opinions guys like David and Miguel held regarding capital punishment. Oh! Won’t they be proud of you guys?
    For the rest of us who are experiencing the loss of Williams and likes will have little parts of us executed for the rest of our lives until things don’t change for better, socially, politically, and economically.

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