The death penalty is racist. There are no two ways about it. People of color are singled out for prosecution far more often than whites under similar circumstances. A quarter of all African-American death row inmates were sentenced by all white juries, including, in Tennessee, three men in Shelby County which is nearly half black. Even more insidiously, the capital punishment system functions under the assumption that the life of a white person is more valuable than that of a person of color. How? A person accused of murdering a white person is four times as likely to be sentenced to death than a person accused of murdering an African-American person. While whites represent less than half of all murder victims nationally, over 80% of death row inmates were convicted of the murder of a white person.
With all this in mind, forging meaningful and trusting relationships with organizations representing people of color and working hard to truly become an anti-oppressive and anti-racist organization is absolutely essential for us, if our struggle to end an immoral public policy is to succeed. And that is why I am so thrilled that I have been invited to speak at the NAACP state-wide convention tomorrow! The leadership of the NAACP, both the state-wide organization and the Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, and Carroll County branches that I have been privileged to meet with, is made up of wonderful people, committed to social justice, who view the death penalty as a human rights issue and recognize that it must be stopped! I’m looking forward to continuing to deepen our cooperation as we move toward a state-wide moratorium in the next legislature. Together, we can all do it!
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